Special Operations Forces: DOD's Report to Congress Generally Addressed the Statutory Requirements but Lacks Detail
What GAO Found
GAO found that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) report to Congress on special operations forces (SOF) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) addressed or partially addressed each of the eight mandated reporting elements, but did not include additional details on the analysis that underpins the department’s conclusions on several reporting elements. Specifically:
- Reporting Element 1: The organizational structure of SOCOM and each subordinate component. The report partially addressed this by concluding that the organizational structure of SOCOM is adequate to meet current assigned roles and responsibilities. The report does not provide analysis to justify how the department reached that conclusion.
- Reporting Element 2: The policy and civilian oversight structures for SOF within DOD. The report partially addressed this by concluding that the oversight and statutory structures and responsibilities meets statutory and assigned oversight responsibilities. The report does not discuss the alignment of resources, including human capital, as it pertains to the offices with oversight responsibilities.
- Reporting Element 3: The roles and responsibilities of SOCOM and SOF under Title 10 of the U.S. Code. The report addressed this by concluding that SOCOM and SOF have sufficient statutory authorities to accomplish their roles and responsibilities under section 167 of title 10, United States Code.
- Reporting Element 4: The current and future special operations-peculiar requirements of the geographic combatant commands and the Theater Special Operations Commands.The report partially addressed this by concluding that current and future special-operations peculiar requirements can be met with current and planned resources. The report does not specify the GAO found that the Department of Defense’s (DOD) report to Congress on special operations forces (SOF) and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) addressed or partially addressed each of the eight mandated reporting elements, but did not include additional details on the analysis that underpins the department’s conclusions on several reporting elements.
- Reporting Element 5: The command relationships between SOCOM, its subordinate component commands, and the geographic combatant commands. The report partially addressed this by concluding that command relationships are adequate. The report includes information on the relationships between SOCOM, the geographic combatant commands, and the Theater Special Operations Commands, but does not discuss command relationships between SOCOM and its service component commands
- Reporting Element 6: The funding authorities, uses, acquisition processes, and civilian oversight mechanisms of Major Force Program-11. The report addressed this by concluding that these elements of Major Force Program-11 funding, which is used to organize, train, and equip forces to conduct special operations missions and acquire or modify service common systems for special operations when there is no broad conventional force need, are adequate and by including information on the budget development process and uses of Major Force Program-11 funding. The report also addressed the resolution of resourcing disputes between SOCOM and the services; DOD’s assessment of funding authorities and overseas contingency operations requirements; and civilian oversight mechanisms for Major Force Program-11 funding.
- Reporting Element 7: Changes to areas such as structure, authorities, and oversight mechanisms assumed in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review. The report partially addressed this by concluding that the structure, authorities, Major Force Program-11 funding, roles, and responsibilities are adequate. However, the report does not provide justification on how the department reached that conclusion.
- Reporting Element 8: Any other matters the Secretary of Defense determined appropriate to ensure a comprehensive review and assessment. The report addressed this by including information on suicide prevention, health, and family readiness programs, and on initiatives to enhance the professionalization of SOF.
Why GAO Did This Study
Since 2001, DOD has deployed SOF to conduct a range of military operations, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. To meet an increase in operational demands for SOF, DOD has increased SOCOM’s funding and SOF force levels. DOD strategic guidance indicates that SOF will continue to play a prominent role in support of the defense strategy. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 (the Act), Section 1086, required the Secretary of Defense to submit to the congressional defense committees a report on SOF organization, capabilities, structure, and oversight.
The Act further mandated GAO to submit to the congressional defense committees an evaluation of the DOD report no later than 60 days after the issuance of the DOD report. GAO examined the extent to which DOD’s report addressed the mandated reporting elements. To address this objective, GAO analyzed the Act to identify the reporting elements, assessed DOD’s report to determine whether each of the eight mandated reporting elements were addressed, and interviewed DOD officials.
GAO is making no recommendations. DOD generally agreed with the facts in the report.