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Highlights

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense's (DOD) geographic combatant commands are improving efforts to collect operational contract support (OCS) issues from operations and exercises needed to develop lessons learned, but the military services are generally not collecting them. Currently, four of the six geographic combatant commands—U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Northern Command, and U.S. Southern Command—have identified OCS as a critical capability in their joint training plans and have incorporated it into planning, execution, and assessment of exercises, while U.S. European Command and U.S. Pacific Command continue to make progress doing so. However, with the exception of the Army, the military services and their component commands are not generally collecting OCS issues to develop lessons learned. Officials from the Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy stated that the lack of OCS awareness caused by not having (1) service-wide guidance on collecting OCS issues and (2) an OCS training requirement for senior leaders hinders their ability to develop lessons learned. Without guidance and a training requirement for senior leaders to improve OCS awareness, it will be difficult for DOD to ensure consistent collection of OCS issues and build on efficiencies that the services have identified to adequately plan for the use of contractor support.

DOD has made progress resolving some OCS issues, but does not have a focal point for integrating OCS issues identified through the Joint Lessons Learned Program (JLLP). The combatant commands and services are to use the JLLP to develop lessons learned related to joint capabilities from operations and exercises to improve areas such as doctrine and training. Currently, there are multiple organizations across DOD that are working on separate and sometimes disjointed OCS lessons-learned efforts. DOD has undertaken initial efforts to assign an OCS joint proponent with lessons-learned responsibilities. A joint proponent is an entity intended to lead collaborative development and integration of joint capability. However, DOD has not determined whether the joint proponent will be responsible for providing formal oversight and integration of OCS issues from the JLLP. As it develops the joint proponent, including such roles and responsibilities will help better position DOD to integrate all OCS issues from the JLLP, thereby addressing any gaps in its efforts.

DOD organizations do not consistently use the Joint Lessons Learned Information System (JLLIS) to share OCS issues and lessons learned due to the system's limited functionality. JLLIS is the JLLP's system of record and is to facilitate the DOD-wide collection and sharing of lessons learned. However, GAO found that geographic combatant commands and the Army use JLLIS to varying degrees. Further, DOD is generally not sharing OCS lessons learned in JLLIS because the system is not functional for users searching OCS issues due to, among other reasons, not having an OCS label and not having a designated location for sharing OCS lessons learned. JLLIS's limited functionality impedes information sharing department-wide. Until DOD improves the functionality of JLLIS, it will be difficult for users to search for OCS issues, and DOD runs the risk of not being able to systematically track and share OCS lessons learned department-wide, which could negatively affect joint force development and readiness.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOD has spent billions of dollars on contract support during operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 and anticipates continuing its heavy reliance on contractors in future operations. Generally, OCS is the process of planning for and obtaining needed supplies and services from commercial sources in support of joint operations. GAO has previously identified long-standing concerns with DOD's efforts to institutionalize OCS.

This report examines the extent to which (1) the geographic combatant commands and the services collect OCS issues to develop lessons learned, (2) DOD has a focal point for integrating OCS issues from the JLLP, and (3) DOD organizations use JLLIS to share OCS issues and lessons learned. GAO evaluated OCS and lessons-learned guidance and plans and met with DOD commands and offices responsible for OCS planning, integration, policy, and contractor-management functions.

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Recommendations

GAO recommends, among other things, that DOD and the services (1) issue service-wide OCS lessons-learned guidance; (2) establish an OCS training requirement for senior leaders; (3) ensure the planned OCS joint proponent's roles and responsibilities include integrating OCS issues from the JLLP; and (4) improve JLLIS's functionality. DOD concurred with three of these recommendations, but partially concurred with the third recommendation, stating the need to first evaluate its courses of action before establishing such a proponent. GAO believes this recommendation is still valid, as discussed in the report.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To help improve collection of OCS issues by the military services and service component commands, the Secretary of Defense should revise existing DOD guidance, such as DOD Instruction 3020.41, to specifically detail the roles and responsibilities of the services in collecting OCS issues.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. In June 2017, DOD published Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Manual (CJCSM) 4301.01, which provides guidance for integrating OCS into established planning processes during deliberate, crisis action, and theater campaign planning. Specifically, CJCSM 4301.01 requires each Service Component in conjunction with the Joint Task Force OCS Integration Cell to record OCS and contractor management observations, insights, lessons and lessons learned. The Manual further requires the Joint Staff to consolidate lessons learned from the service components and to submit them to the Joint Lessons Learned Information System and the contracting OCS communities of practice. By taking steps to identify the roles and responsibilities of the service components in collecting OCS issues, DOD is better positioned to plan for the use of contractor support, as recommended.
Department of Defense
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
To specifically identify and improve awareness of OCS roles and responsibilities and to collect OCS issues at the military services and the service component commands, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Navy and Air Force to include the services' roles and responsibilities to collect OCS issues in comprehensive service-specific guidance on how the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force should integrate OCS.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with our recommendation. Subsequently, on November 14, 2018, the Department of the Navy issued OPNAV Instruction 3020.12,'Planning for Operational Contract Support.' This instruction prescribes policy, responsibilities, and requirements for supporting OCS for joint and naval operations, and implements the Office of the Secretary of Defense OCS policy contained in DOD Directive 3020.49 and DOD Instruction 3020.41. By taking steps to identify OCS roles and responsibilities, the Navy is better positioned to plan for the use of contractor support, as GAO recommended. Additionally, the Marine Corps published Marine Corps Regulations Publication 4-11H and Marine Corps Order 4200.34, which outline OCS roles and responsibilities as well as expectations and methods of capturing OCS lessons learned. Specifically, Marine Corps Regulations Publication 4-11H, which was issued in February 2016, is a multi-Service publication that focuses on unit-level tactics related to OCS staff organization and capabilities. The Publication also contains an overview of Service unique theater support, external support and systems support contracting capabilities. Marine Corps Order 4200.34, which was issued in September 2016, contains instructions on personnel, operations, and logistics germane to the Marine Corps' Contingency Contracting Force Program. Finally, in August 2016, the Department of the Air Force published Air Force Instruction 64-105, which outlines OCS roles and responsibilities. The Instruction also lays out procedures for preserving OCS lessons learned and disseminating the information collected from after action reports to the component headquarters within the Air Force. By taking steps to identify OCS roles and responsibilities, the military services are better positioned to plan for the use of contractor support, as GAO recommended.
Department of Defense To help improve awareness of OCS roles and responsibilities and to collect OCS issues at the military services and the service component commands, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the military departments, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to establish an OCS training requirement for commanders and senior leaders.
Open
DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of June 2021, DOD has taken steps to focus OCS training to all planners, 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. The Joint Staff, per this training certification, is working with the Joint Deployment Training Center and the Joint Force Staff College to provide student administrative and course catalog support for future JOPEC training. In August 2020, OSD officials stated that they have secured funding for development of a new, online strategic-level OCS course, which they plan to develop, test, and field in 2021. Finally, OSD officials said that the updated OCS instruction, DODI 3020.41, will also address training for planners beyond the logistics directorate; officials stated in June 2021 that they are working to complete publication of the instruction but estimated that the latest target date for issuance is the end of the calendar year. As of August 2021, DOD had not yet published the revised OCS instruction. We will continue to monitor these efforts will update this recommendation upon publication of the DOD Instruction 3020.41.
Department of Defense To help improve DOD's management of OCS lessons learned, the Secretary of Defense should ensure that, as the department develops a concept for an OCS joint proponent, it include specific roles and responsibilities for a focal point responsible for integrating OCS issues from the Joint Lessons Learned Program.
Closed - Implemented
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. In April 2017, officials from the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Program Support reported the department decided against creating a 'joint proponent' for OCS issues. Rather, the course of action chosen was to designate the Joint Staff (J4) as the OCS focal point and the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) as the Principal Staff Advisor. Officials stated that the Joint Staff (J4) will serve as the focal point for integrating OCS issues from the Joint Lessons Learned Program and into DOD processes and procedures. In June 2017, DOD published the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Manual (CJCSM 4301.01), which provides guidance for integrating OCS into established planning processes during deliberate, crisis action, and theater campaign planning. More specifically, CJCSM 4301.01 delineated roles and responsibilities for the Joint Staff (J4) to include assisting combatant command staffs in resolving OCS problems and identifying critical joint OCS capability deficiencies. We believe these actions meet the intent of our recommendation.
Joint Chiefs of Staff To help improve the functionality of JLLIS for sharing OCS lessons learned, as DOD upgrades JLLIS, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should direct the Joint Staff (J-7) and Joint Staff (J-4) to implement an OCS label in JLLIS and designate a single community of practice for OCS in JLLIS.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. In November 2015, DOD reported that it had created an OCS community of practice in JLLIS as a central repository of OCS documents, announcements, observations, best practices, and issues. According to Joint Staff officials, the Joint Staff (J-7) and Joint Staff (J-4) established an OCS community of practice in JLLIS in late 2015. The OCS community of practice is intended to allow organizations or users with similar interests, responsibilities, issues, and concerns to readily communicate and share information. Equally important, the community of practice can be used to support sharing, collaboration, and the exchange of information to facilitate the lesson learned process. Furthermore, for its forthcoming Operational Contract Support: Joint OCS Lessons Learned Guide, the Joint Staff (J-4) established an OCS label in JLLIS by creating a standard format for observation titles in the system to enable rapid search and retrieval of the OCS data. By taking steps to improve the functionality of JLLIS for sharing OCS lessons learned, DOD is better positioned to systematically track and share OCS lessons learned department-wide, as GAO recommended in March 2015.

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