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Highlights

What GAO Found

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Joint Staff, and the services have taken steps to integrate operational contract support into planning for contingency operations. For example, in April 2011, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, working with the Joint Staff, revised the Guidance for the Employment of the Force to require planning for operational contract support in all phases of military operations. Further, in December 2011, the Department of Defense (DOD) revised an instruction and issued corresponding regulations establishing policies and procedures for operational contract support. The Army issued service-specific guidance that describes roles, responsibilities, and requirements to help integrate operational contract support into its planning efforts for contingency operations. However, the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force have not issued similar comprehensive guidance for integrating operational contract support throughout each service. Instead, these services have taken actions such as developing training and other individual efforts to familiarize servicemembers with operational contract support. According to service officials, one reason that they have not issued comprehensive guidance similar to the Army's guidance is because the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force have not been the lead service for contracting in recent operations. However, these services combined spent over a billion dollars for contracted services in Afghanistan in fiscal year 2011. Without specific, service-wide guidance, the other services' future planning efforts may not reflect the full extent of the use of contract support and the attendant cost and need for oversight.

The combatant commands and their components have begun to incorporate operational contract support into their planning for contingencies, but they have not fully integrated operational contract support in all functional areas. We found that the combatant commands and components are not planning for the potential use of contractors in areas where they may be needed beyond logistics such as communications. Recognizing the problem, DOD, in October 2012, issued guidance that calls on functional planners beyond the logistics area to identify major support functions planned for commercial support sourcing. GAO also found that officials involved with logistics planning at the commands receive training from the Joint Staff and assistance from embedded operational contract support planners to help integrate operational contract support into logistics planning. However, officials involved in planning for other areas--such as intelligence--that have used contractors in past operations, do not receive such training. Further, the embedded operational contract support planners do not focus on areas beyond logistics. Moreover, while the combatant commands have embedded experts to assist with operational contract support planning, the military service components do not have such expertise. Without training for all planners, a broader focus beyond logistics for embedded planners, and expertise offered at the military service components, DOD risks being unprepared to plan and manage deployed contractor personnel and may not be able to provide the necessary oversight during future contingencies.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD has relied extensively on contractors for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. At the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the number of contractors exceeded the number of military personnel, and a similar situation is occurring in Afghanistan. In January 2011, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum noting the risk of DOD's level of dependency on contractors and outlined actions to institutionalize changes necessary to influence how the department plans for contracted support in contingency operations. The memorandum also called for leveraging the civilian expeditionary workforce to reduce DOD's reliance on contractors, but this workforce is not yet fully developed. GAO was asked to examine DOD's progress in planning for operational contract support. Our review determined how DOD is integrating operational contract support into its planning through efforts of the (1) OSD, Joint Staff, and military services, and (2) combatant commands and their components. To conduct its work, GAO evaluated DOD operational contract support guidance and documents and met with officials at various DOD offices.

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Recommendations

GAO recommends that the Navy , Marine Corps and Air Force provide guidance on planning for operational contract support; that the Joint Staff provide training for all planners; that the planners broaden their focus to include areas beyond logistics; and that expertise is offered to service components to further integrate operational contract support into plans. DOD generally agreed with the recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To further the integration of operational contract support into all of the services' planning, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Navy and Air Force to provide comprehensive service-wide guidance for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force that describes how each service should integrate operational contract support into its respective organization to include planning for contingency operations.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of November 2018, the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy have developed OCS guidance. In September 2016, the Marine Corps published Marine Corps Order 4200.34 on the manning, equipping and training of OCS capability. The Corps has established a new task list to define OCS as an essential wartime fighting capability, which provides units the foundation and ability to establish Mission Essential Tasks (METs) needed to effectively and efficiently measure and report OCS mission readiness. Marine Corps also developed and published an OCS career progression plan. The Air Force has taken steps to incorporate OCS into existing guidance, and the Secretary of the Air Force issued a memorandum in April 2016 providing guidance on integrating OCS into the total force. Additionally, Air Force issued AFI 64-105, Contingency Contracting Support, in August 2016. In November 2018, Navy issued OPNAVINST 3020.12, "Planning for Operational Contract Support," which prescribes policy, responsibilities, and requirements for supporting operational contract support (OCS) for joint and naval operations. Specifically, the guidance identifies an OCS annex as the primary mechanism for documenting OCS in operational plans. Additionally, the guidance states the integration of OCS into plans and analysis enhances operational flexibility and increases support force capability. These actions demonstrate that DOD has implemented this recommendation.
Department of Defense To further the integration of operational contract support into all areas of the operation planning process, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to focus its training about operational contract support, which is currently focused on the logistics planners, on training all planners at the combatant commands and components as necessary.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of June 2020, DOD has focused its operational contract support (OCS) training on all planners at combatant commands and component organizations, including those outside the logistics directorate. In December 2015, the Joint Staff J7 certified the Joint OCS Planning and Execution (JOPEC) course of instruction for Joint training. In March 2019, the Joint Staff J4 integrated functional OCS responsibilities into joint training doctrine. Additionally, in April 2020, two Joint OCS Planning and Execution Courses (JOPEC) for action officers and engineer operations added OCS instruction into their training curriculums. These actions demonstrate that DOD has implemented this recommendation.
Department of Defense To further enable all planners at the combatant commands to integrate operational contract support into plans across their functional areas, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to identify and implement actions by the combatant commanders needed to ensure that planners from the Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office supporting the combatant commands expand their focus to work with planners throughout all functional areas.
Closed - Implemented
DOD partially concurred with our recommendation. In June 2017, Joint Staff issued guidance on operational contract support (OCS) planning, as we recommended. Specifically, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Manual 4301.01, "Planning Operational Contract Support (OCS)" provides guidance for integrating OCS into established planning processes. The guidance directs OCS planners to coordinate with intelligence, communication, and operations planners in addition to logistics planners. Additionally, the guidance outlines broad concepts of OCS support to include non-logistics support requirements for linguists, intelligence, and communications.
Department of Defense To enable the integration of operational contract support into service component command-level planning efforts, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to work with the military services as necessary to improve the level of expertise in operational contract support for the combatant commands' components.
Closed - Implemented
U.S. Navy has issued operational contract support (OCS) guidance addressing service component command responsibilities, as we recommended in February 2013 in our report, "WARFIGHTER SUPPORT: DOD Needs Additional Steps to Fully Integrate Operational Contract Support (OCS) into Contingency Planning (GAO-13-212)." In that report, we found that while the combatant commands have embedded experts to assist with OCS planning, the military service components do not have such expertise. DOD concurred with our recommendation, and Army, Marine Corps and Air Force have previously issued OCS guidance. In November 2018, Navy issued OPNAVINST 3020.12, "Planning for Operational Contract Support," which prescribes policy, responsibilities, and requirements for supporting operational contract support (OCS) for joint and naval operations. Specifically, the guidance identifies supporting component commanders' as having a role in determining support requirements as part of OCS planning. Additionally, the guidance identifies the primary means by which combatant command staff, service component staff, and combat support agency planners document OCS in operational plans. DOD's formal response to our report, as well as actions taken as described above, demonstrate that DOD has met the intent of this recommendation.

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