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Marine Corps Asia Pacific Realignment: DOD Should Resolve Capability Deficiencies and Infrastructure Risks and Revise Cost Estimates

GAO-17-415 Published: Apr 05, 2017. Publicly Released: Apr 05, 2017.
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Highlights

What GAO Found

The Department of Defense (DOD) has coordinated the relocation of Marines from Okinawa to other locations in the Asia-Pacific region through developing a synchronization plan and organizing working groups. However, DOD has not resolved selected identified capability deficiencies related to the relocation of Marine units; training needs in the region; the reduction in runway length at the Futenma Replacement Facility in Okinawa; and challenges for operating in Australia. DOD guidance indicates that mission requirements—which would include the capabilities needed to fulfill the mission—largely determine land and facility support requirements. If DOD does not resolve the selected identified capability deficiencies in its infrastructure plans, DOD may be unable to maintain its capabilities or face much higher costs to do so.

DOD has taken steps to develop infrastructure plans and schedules for its relocation efforts, but it did not develop a reliable schedule for the Marine relocation to Guam and has not completed its risk planning for infrastructure in Guam. DOD developed plans that will support construction efforts in Guam and Japan, and developed some initial infrastructure plans for Hawaii and Australia. However, GAO found the Marines Corps' integrated master schedule for Guam did not fully meet the comprehensive, well-constructed, and credible characteristics for a reliable schedule. For example, the schedule does not include resources needed for nonconstruction activities, such as information technology and design activities. Additionally, the Marine Corps has not completed its risk-management plan for infrastructure construction in Guam. Specifically, the Marine Corps has not identified its strategy to address construction risks including labor shortages and endangered-species protection. If DOD does not have a reliable schedule or has not completed risk planning for Guam, it may not have complete information to identify and address risks that may result in cost overruns and schedule delays.

DOD has made progress in developing cost estimates for Guam, but its estimates partially met GAO best practices for reliable cost estimates for the relocations to Guam and Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia. For cost estimates related to Guam military construction activities, DOD included ground rules and assumptions, but did not include some elements of a reliable cost estimate, such as a risk analysis. Additionally, DOD developed cost estimates for nonmilitary construction activities that provide a high-level planning overview of the requirements, but they did not incorporate several other best practices, including a unifying Work Breakdown Structure that defines in detail the work necessary to accomplish a program's objectives. For Hawaii and Australia, the cost estimates are not considered reliable because they did not include all life-cycle costs or a Work Breakdown Structure. If DOD does not revise the cost estimates for these locations, decision makers in DOD and Congress will not have reliable cost information to inform funding decisions and to help them determine the viability of relocation of Marines to Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia.

Why GAO Did This Study

For two decades, DOD has planned to realign its presence in the Asia-Pacific region. The Marine Corps has plans to consolidate bases in Okinawa, relocating 4,100 Marines to Guam, 2,700 to Hawaii, 800 to the continental United States, and a rotational presence of 1,300 to Australia.

The Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, included a provision that GAO study the realignment initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region. This report assesses the extent to which DOD has (1) coordinated its efforts and resolved selected identified capability deficiencies related to the relocation of Marines, (2) developed infrastructure plans and schedules and completed risk planning for its infrastructure that will support the relocation, and (3) developed reliable cost estimates for infrastructure for the relocation of Marines to Guam and Hawaii and the rotational presence in Australia. GAO reviewed relevant policies and plans; analyzed cost documents; interviewed DOD officials; and visited U.S. military installations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Recommendations

GAO recommends that DOD resolve capability deficiencies in the four selected identified areas, update its schedule for Guam infrastructure, complete a risk-management plan for Guam infrastructure, and revise its three cost estimates. DOD concurred with two recommendations, partially concurred with six, and did not concur with one. GAO continues to believe its recommendations are valid, as discussed in this report.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in the movement of Marine Corps units by, for example, reconsidering when units should move to Guam to minimize leaving facilities vacant.
Open
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that the Marine Corps' plans for the movement of units from Okinawa to Guam has considered many factors, including, among others, the capabilities required to support Pacific Command and the logistical requirements associated with the movement of forces. In June 2021, DOD stated that the Marine Corps and Pacific Command have done extensive planning and analysis to determine how best to posture, move, and support distributed III Marine Expeditionary Force Marines. DOD also stated that this analysis continues through annual wargaming as new information becomes available and the threat environment evolves. However, DOD stated it had not yet decided which units should relocate first, and DOD has not provided documentation of its analysis. DOD further stated that it did not intend to take any additional action on this recommendation. As of May 2024, the department has not responded to our requests for an update on this recommendation. We believe this recommendation remains valid and we will continue to follow up with the department to assess any actions it may take.
Department of Defense To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in training needs in Iwakuni, Hawaii, and CNMI by, for example, identifying other suitable training areas.
Open
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation and stated that it has already conducted an extensive analysis of training needs. However, DOD has not provided any documentation of this analysis. In June 2021, DOD stated that it did not intend to take any additional action on this recommendation. As of May 2024, the department has not responded to our requests for an update on this recommendation. We believe this recommendation remains valid and we will continue to follow up with the department to assess any actions it may take.
Department of Defense To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in reduction in runway length at the Futenma Replacement Facility by, for example, selecting other runways that would support mission requirements.
Open
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. However, in June 2021, DOD stated that it did not intend to take any additional action on this recommendation. As of May 2024, the department has not responded to our requests for an update on this recommendation. We believe this recommendation remains valid and we will continue to follow up with the department to assess any actions it may take.
Department of Defense To improve the Department of Defense's ability to maintain its capability in the Asia-Pacific region, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to resolve selected identified capability deficiencies associated with the relocation in challenges in Australia regarding seasonal changes and biosecurity requirements that affect equipment downtime by, for example, deciding on a location for the wet season and identifying a solution for biosecurity requirements.
Closed – Implemented
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. As of July 2022, DOD took action to resolve the challenges related to the rotation of Marines to Australia. Specifically, beginning in 2022, I Marine Expeditionary Force took over command of Marine Rotational Force-Darwin from III Marine Expeditionary Force. As a result, units to Australia are no longer being sourced from Okinawa but rather from the United States. Thus, during the rainy season the units return to their home bases in the United States, removing the challenge of no longer having a location for them in Okinawa. Additionally, DOD decided to store equipment in Australia during the rainy season to bypass biosecurity requirements. In July 2022, Marine Corps officials told us that approximately 100 ground vehicles and equipment are stored in Darwin during the rainy season, with approximately 150 Marines remaining in Australia to maintain them. Officials added that medical equipment would also be added to the storage following the end of the 2022 rotation. By resolving the selected identified capability deficiencies, the Marine Corps is better prepared to conduct its mission.
Department of Defense To provide DOD with reliable information on potential sources of delays for the design and construction of infrastructure in Guam, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to update the Marine Corps' integrated master schedule for Guam so that it meets the comprehensive, well-constructed, and credible characteristics for a reliable schedule. For example, the update to the schedule should include resources for nonconstruction activities.
Closed – No Longer Valid
DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD stated that it updated the integrated master schedule for Guam in March 2021, conforming to the GAO Schedule Assessment Guide and accounting for the best practices of a reliable schedule. However, DOD never provided an updated integrated master schedule that conforms to the GAO Schedule Assessment Guide and accounting for the best practices of a reliable schedule. Since the time of the report's issuance, Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz in Guam was opened in January 2023. As such, the intent of the recommendation is no longer valid.
Department of Defense To provide DOD and Congress with sufficient information to mitigate risks for infrastructure construction and sustainment, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to complete a Risk Management Plan for Guam, and include, at a minimum, plans to address: (1) construction labor shortages, (2) explosive--ordnance detection, (3) cultural-artifact discovery and preservation, and (4) protection of endangered species.
Closed – Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. As of May 2020, DOD took actions on addressing risk in Guam for infrastructure construction and sustainment. For example: 1) To address risks related to construction labor shortages, DOD supported legislation (which was ultimately enacted) in the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to address foreign worker visas during the peak of the Guam Relocation construction period. Further, DOD has continued to track its labor status in Guam. 2) To address risks related to explosive-ordnance detection, in January 2020 the DOD Explosives Safety Board approved the Guam Munitions Response Explosives Safety Submission. The Submission identifies the risk management process for distributing soil known or suspected to contain munitions and explosives of concern on Guam. It also provides definitions of risks and how to address and mitigate those risks. According to DOD officials, the Submission is currently being actively implemented and is included in each of the contracts the Department enters into regarding construction on Guam. 3) To address risks related to cultural-artifact discovery and preservation, DOD officials stated that, in 2018, DOD provided $12 million for the construction of the Guam Cultural Repository. Officials added that the Marine Corps meets annually with stakeholders to review cultural resources issues. Additionally, the officials stated that the Marine Corps provides a professional archaeologist to help manage the workload at the Guam State Historic Preservation Office, and DOD created a position to serve as a key interlocutor between DOD and the Government of the Marianas Islands on cultural and environmental issues. 4) To address risks related to protection of endangered species, DOD officials stated they had consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2017 and 2018. Further, in May 2020, DOD concluded a separate Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of the Interior to maintain purpose and mission of the Guam National Wildlife Refuge Ritidian Unit. By taking actions to address risk in Guam for infrastructure construction and sustainment, DOD should be better positioned to address risks to the design and construction of its infrastructure and, in turn, reduce the potential for cost overruns and schedule delays.
Department of Defense To provide DOD and Congress with more-reliable information to inform funding decisions associated with the relocation of Marines to Guam, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to revise the cost estimates for Guam to address all best practices established by GAO's cost estimating guide. Specifically, the revisions to the cost estimates should include: a unifying Work Breakdown Structure, risk and sensitivity analyses, and an independent cost estimate.
Closed – No Longer Valid
DOD did not concur with his recommendation, and DOD did not take any action to implement it. Since the time of the report's issuance, Marine Corps Base Camp Blaz in Guam opened in January 2023. As such, the intent of the recommendation is no longer valid.
Department of Defense To provide DOD and Congress with more-reliable information to inform funding decisions associated with the relocation of Marines to Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia, the Secretary of Defense should direct the appropriate entities to revise the DOD cost estimates for Hawaii to address all best practices for the comprehensive characteristic established by the GAO cost estimating guide, specifically to capture entire life-cycle costs and develop a Work Breakdown Structure.
Closed – No Longer Valid
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation but did not take any action to implement it. Since the time of the report's issuance, the Marine Corps changed its posturing decisions and will no longer relocate Marines from Japan to Hawaii. We reported on this posture change in GAO-23-105783C. Because DOD will no longer be building new infrastructure in Hawaii, the cost estimate is no longer needed and the intent of the recommendation is no longer valid.
Department of Defense To provide DOD and Congress with more-reliable information to inform funding decisions associated with the relocation of Marines to Hawaii and the establishment of a rotational presence in Australia, the Secretary of Defense should revise the DOD cost estimates for Australia to address all best practices for the comprehensive characteristic established by the GAO cost estimating guide, specifically to capture entire life-cycle costs and develop a Work Breakdown Structure.
Closed – No Longer Valid
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation but did not take any action to implement it. Since the time of the report's issuance, the Marine Corps completed the development of its base in Darwin, Australia. We reported on this completion in GAO-23-105783C. As such, the intent of the recommendation is no longer valid.

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Topics

Base realignmentsCost analysisCost estimatesDefense capabilitiesDefense cost controlFederal facility relocationGovernment facility constructionMilitary facilitiesMilitary forcesRisk managementSchedule slippagesConsolidation