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Military Readiness: Congress Needs Better Tools for Effective Oversight (Testimony, 03/18/98, GAO/T-NSIAD-98-124).

GAO discussed the Department of Defense's (DOD) process for assessing
and reporting on military readiness, focusing on: (1) what corrective
action DOD has taken to improve its readiness assessment system; (2)
whether military readiness reports provided quarterly to Congress
effectively support congressional oversight; and (3) whether further
improvements are needed to DOD's process.

GAO noted that: (1) over the last few years, DOD has taken action to
improve readiness assessment; (2) DOD has made technical enhancements to
the Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS)--the automated
system it uses to assess readiness at the unit level; (3) DOD also has
established two forums--the Joint Monthly Readiness Review and the
Senior Readiness Oversight Council--for evaluating readiness from a
joint and strategic perspective; (4) however, SORTS remains the basic
building block for readiness assessment, and inherent limitations to
this system, such as its inability to signal impending changes in
readiness and its imprecise ratings for unit resources and training, may
be reflected in reviews at the joint and strategic levels; (5) DOD's
quarterly reports to Congress, which are based on information provided
to the Senior Readiness Oversight Council, provide only a vague
description of readiness deficiencies and planned remedial actions;
consequently, in their present form they are not as effective as they
could be as a congressional oversight tool; (6) DOD is required to
expand on these reports beginning in October 1998 by adding indicators
mandated by Congress; (7) GAO has concerns about DOD's current plans for
implementing this expanded reporting requirement; (8) for example,
current plans do not present a clear picture of how the additional
readiness will be incorporated into the quarterly report; (9) GAO's work
has identified two areas in which DOD can improve its readiness
reporting to Congress; (10) DOD should provide more specific
descriptions and supporting information for the key readiness
deficiencies and planned remedial actions identified in its quarterly
report; and (11) DOD can make improvements to its current plans for
adding readiness indicators to the quarterly report.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  T-NSIAD-98-124
     TITLE:  Military Readiness: Congress Needs Better Tools for 
             Effective Oversight
      DATE:  03/18/98
   SUBJECT:  Evaluation methods
             Combat readiness
             Defense contingency planning
             Personnel evaluation systems
             Management information systems
             Reporting requirements
             Defense capabilities
             Military forces
             Training utilization
             Military training
IDENTIFIER:  DOD Status of Resources and Training System
             
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Cover
================================================================ COVER


Before the Subcommittee on Military Readiness, Committee on National
Security, House of Representatives

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
3 p.m., EDT
Wednesday,
March 18, 1998

MILITARY READINESS - CONGRESS
NEEDS BETTER TOOLS FOR EFFECTIVE
OVERSIGHT

Statement of Mark E.  Gebicke, Director, Military Operations and
Capabilities Issues, National Security and International Affairs
Division

GAO/T-NSIAD-98-124

GAO/NSIAD-98-124T

Military Readiness

(703234)


Abbreviations
=============================================================== ABBREV

  DOD - Department of Defense
  LMI - Logistics Management Institute
  GSORTS - Global Status of Resources and Training System
  OPTEMPO - operations tempo
  SORTS - Status of Resources and Training System

============================================================ Chapter 0

Mr.  Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to discuss the Department of Defense's
(DOD) process for assessing and reporting on military readiness. 

Questions about the validity and thoroughness of this process have
been raised for some time now.  Various audit and oversight
organizations, including our office, have periodically reported on
limitations to official unit readiness reports.  Congress has
expressed concern regarding apparent inconsistencies between official
readiness reports and the actual readiness of units in the field.  In
addition, Congress has expressed concern about DOD's lack of progress
in integrating additional readiness indicators into official
readiness reports and recently passed legislation requiring DOD to
include the indicators in its reports to Congress. 

With this history in mind, I would like to frame my comments today
around three questions: 

  -- What corrective actions has DOD taken to improve its readiness
     assessment system? 

  -- Do military readiness reports provided quarterly to Congress
     effectively support congressional oversight? 

  -- Are further improvements to DOD's reporting process needed? 

Before I answer these questions, some background on DOD's readiness
assessment system may be helpful.  DOD assesses military readiness at
three levels--(1) the individual unit level; (2) the joint force
level; and (3) the aggregate, or strategic, level.  "Unit readiness"
refers to the ability of units, such as Army divisions, Navy ships,
and Air Force wings, to provide capabilities required of the
combatant commands and is derived from the ability of each unit to
deliver the outputs for which it was designed.  "Joint readiness" is
the combatant commands' ability to integrate and synchronize units
from one or more services to execute missions.  "Strategic readiness"
is a synthesis of unit and joint readiness and concerns the ability
of the armed forces as a whole, including the services, the combatant
commands, and the combat support agencies, to fight and meet the
demands of the national security strategy. 


   SUMMARY
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:1

Over the last few years, DOD has taken action to improve readiness
assessment.  DOD has made technical enhancements to the Status of
Resources and Training System (SORTS)--the automated system it uses
to assess readiness at the unit level.\1 DOD also has established two
forums--the Joint Monthly Readiness Review and the Senior Readiness
Oversight Council--for evaluating readiness from a joint and
strategic perspective.  We believe these changes represent progress. 
However, SORTS remains the basic building block for readiness
assessment, and inherent limitations to this system, such as its
inability to signal impending changes in readiness and its imprecise
ratings for unit resources and training, may be reflected in reviews
at the joint and strategic levels. 

DOD's quarterly reports to Congress, which are based on information
provided to the Senior Readiness Oversight Council, provide only a
vague description of readiness deficiencies and planned remedial
actions; consequently, in their present form they are not as
effective as they could be as a congressional oversight tool.  DOD is
required to expand on these reports beginning October 1998 by adding
indicators mandated by Congress.  We have concerns about DOD's
current plans for implementing this expanded reporting requirement. 
For example, current plans do not present a clear picture of how the
additional readiness indicators will be incorporated into the
quarterly report. 

Our work has identified two areas in which DOD can improve its
readiness reporting to Congress.  First, DOD should provide more
specific descriptions and supporting information for the key
readiness deficiencies and planned remedial actions identified in its
quarterly report.  Second, DOD can make improvements to its current
plans for adding readiness indicators to the quarterly report. 

Let me address these issues in more detail. 


--------------------
\1 SORTS officially evolved into the Global Status of Resources and
Training System (GSORTS) with the advent of the Global Command and
Control System.  We use the term SORTS throughout this statement
because it is more familiar and continues to be commonly used. 


   WHAT CORRECTIVE ACTIONS HAS DOD
   TAKEN TO IMPROVE ITS READINESS
   ASSESSMENT SYSTEM? 
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:2

Any discussion of readiness measurement must start with SORTS.  This
automated system, which functions as the central listing for more
than 9,000 military units, is the foundation of DOD's unit readiness
assessment process and is a primary source of information used for
reviews at the joint and strategic levels.  The system's database
indicates, at a selected point in time, the extent to which these
units possess the required resources and training to undertake their
wartime missions.  Units regularly report this information using a
rating system that comprises various indicators on the status of
personnel, equipment, supplies, and training.  SORTS is intended to
enable the Joint Staff, the combatant commands, and the military
services to, among other things, prepare lists of readily available
units, assist in identifying or confirming major constraints on the
employment of units, and confirm shortfalls and distribution problems
with unit resources. 

Until the early 1990s, DOD defined "readiness" narrowly in terms of
the ability of units to accomplish the missions for which they were
designed, and SORTS was the only nonservice-specific system DOD had
to measure readiness.  Even today, SORTS remains an important
component of readiness assessment in that data from the system is
used extensively by the services to formulate a big-picture view of
readiness.  However, limitations to SORTS have been well documented
for many years by various audit and oversight organizations.  For
example, prior reviews by our office and others have found: 

  -- SORTS represents a snapshot in time and does not signal
     impending changes in readiness. 

  -- SORTS relies on military judgment for certain ratings, including
     the commanders' overall rating of unit readiness.  In some
     cases, SORTS ratings reflect a higher or lower rating than the
     reported analytical measures support.  However, DOD officials
     view subjectivity in SORTS reports as a strength because the
     commanders' judgments provide professional military assessments
     of unit readiness.  The officials also note that much of the
     information in the SORTS reports is objective and quantitative. 

  -- The broad measurements that comprise SORTS ratings for resource
     availability may mislead managers because they are imprecise and
     therefore may mask underlying problems.  For example, SORTS
     allows units to report the same capability rating for personnel
     strength even though their personnel strength may differ by 10
     percent. 

  -- SORTS data is maintained in multiple databases located at
     combatant commands, major commands, and service headquarters and
     is not synchronized across the databases. 

  -- SORTS data may be out-of-date or nonexistent for some units
     registered in the database because reporting requirements are
     not enforced. 

  -- Army SORTS procedures that require review of unit reports
     through the chain of command significantly delay the submission
     of SORTS data to the Joint Staff. 

DOD is taking actions to address some of these limitations.  The
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was directed last year--in the
Defense Planning Guidance--to develop a plan for improving DOD's
readiness assessment system.  Although it has yet to be approved, the
Joint Staff plan calls for a phased improvement to the readiness
assessment system, starting with upgrades to SORTS.  During the first
phase of the plan, the Joint Staff is addressing technical
limitations of SORTS.  One of the objectives, for instance, is to
ensure that the data is synchronized DOD-wide across multiple
databases.  Future phases of the Joint Staff plan would link SORTS
with other databases in a common computer environment to make
readiness information more readily accessible to decisionmakers.  In
addition, the Joint Staff plan calls for upgrades to SORTS that will
make the system easier to use.  Separate from the Joint Staff plan,
the services are developing or implementing software to automate the
process of entering SORTS data at the unit level. 

These technical upgrades are aimed at improving the timeliness and
accuracy of the SORTS database and, therefore, are positive steps. 
They, however, will not address some of the inherent limitations to
the system.  For instance, the upgrades will not address the
inability of the system to signal impending changes in readiness.  In
addition, the upgrades will not address the lack of precision in
reporting unit resources and training. 

Another step DOD has taken to improve its readiness assessment
capability is to institute a process known as the Joint Monthly
Readiness Review.  The joint review was initiated toward the end of
1994 and has matured over the last year or so.  It represents DOD's
attempt to look beyond the traditional unit perspective provided by
SORTS--although SORTS data continues to play an important role--and
to introduce a joint component to readiness assessment. 

We believe the joint review process has several notable features. 
First, it brings together readiness assessments from a broad range of
DOD organizations and elevates readiness concerns to senior military
officials, including the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
Second, the joint review emphasizes current and near-term readiness
and incorporates wartime scenarios based on actual war plans and
existing resources.  Third, it adds a joint perspective by
incorporating readiness assessments from the combatant commands.  The
services and combat support agencies also conduct readiness
assessments for the joint review.  Fourth, the joint review is
conducted on a recurring cycle--four times a year--that has helped to
institutionalize the process of readiness assessment within DOD.\2
Finally, the joint review includes procedures for tracking and
addressing reported deficiencies. 

I would like to note, however, that the DOD components participating
in the review are accorded flexibility in how they conduct their
assessments.  The 11 combatant commands, for instance, assess
readiness in eight separate functional areas, such as mobility,
infrastructure, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance,
and to do this each command has been allowed to independently develop
its own measures.  In addition, the process depends heavily on the
judgment of military commanders to formulate their assessment. 
Officials involved with the joint review view this subjectivity as a
strength, not a weakness, of the process.  They said readiness
assessment is influenced by many factors, not all of which are
readily measured by objective indicators.  One consequence, however,
is that the joint review cannot be used to make direct comparisons
among the commands in the eight functional areas.  We should also
point out that the services, in conducting their portion of the joint
review, depend extensively on SORTS data.  As I mentioned earlier,
SORTS has certain inherent limitations. 


--------------------
\2 The other months of the joint review cycle are devoted to working
and providing feedback on reported deficiencies. 


   DO MILITARY READINESS REPORTS
   PROVIDED TO CONGRESS
   EFFECTIVELY SUPPORT
   CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT? 
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:3

DOD is required under 10 U.S.C.  482 to prepare a quarterly readiness
report to Congress.  Under this law, DOD must specifically describe
(1) each readiness problem and deficiency identified, (2) planned
remedial actions, and (3) the key indicators and other relevant
information related to each identified problem and deficiency.  In
mandating the report, Congress hoped to enhance its oversight of
military readiness.  The first report was submitted to Congress in
May 1996. 

DOD bases its quarterly reports on briefings to the Senior Readiness
Oversight Council.  The Council, comprising senior civilian and
military leaders, meets monthly and is chaired by the Deputy
Secretary of Defense.  The briefings to the Council are summaries
from the Joint Monthly Readiness Review.  In addition, the Deputy
Secretary of Defense periodically tasks the Joint Staff and the
services to brief the Council on various readiness topics.  From
these briefings, the Joint Staff drafts the quarterly report.  It is
then reviewed within DOD before it is submitted to Congress. 

We recently reviewed several quarterly reports to determine whether
they (1) accurately reflect readiness information briefed to the
Council and (2) provide information needed for congressional
oversight.  Because minutes of the Council's meetings are not
maintained, we do not know what was actually discussed.  Lacking such
records, we traced information in the quarterly readiness reports to
the briefing documents prepared for the Council.  Our analysis showed
that the quarterly reports accurately reflected information from
these briefings.  In fact, the quarterly reports often described the
issues using the same wording contained in the briefings to the
Council.  The briefings, as well as the quarterly reports, presented
a highly aggregated view of readiness, focusing on generalized
strategic concerns.  They were not intended to and did not highlight
problems at the individual combatant command or unit level.  DOD
officials offered this as an explanation for why visits to individual
units may yield impressions of readiness that are not consistent with
the quarterly reports. 

Our review also showed that the quarterly reports did not fulfill the
legislative reporting requirements under 10 U.S.C.  482 because they
lacked the specific detail on deficiencies and planned remedial
actions needed for congressional oversight.  Lacking such detail, the
quarterly reports provided Congress with only a vague picture of
DOD's readiness problems.  For example, one report stated that Army
personnel readiness was a problem, but it did not provide data on the
numbers of personnel or units involved.  Further, the report did not
discuss how the deficiency affected the overall readiness of the
units involved.  Also, the quarterly reports we reviewed did not
specifically describe planned remedial actions.  Rather, they
discussed remedial actions only in general terms, with few specific
details, and provided little insight into how DOD planned to correct
the problems. 

Congress has taken steps recently to expand the quarterly reporting
requirements in 10 U.S.C.  482.  Beginning in October 1998, DOD will
be required to incorporate 19 additional readiness indicators in the
quarterly reports. 

To understand the rationale for these additional indicators, it may
be helpful to review their history.  In 1994, we told this
Subcommittee that SORTS did not provide all the information that
military officials believed was needed for a comprehensive assessment
of readiness.  We reported on 26 indicators that were not in SORTS
but that military commanders said were important for a comprehensive
assessment of readiness.  We recommended that the Secretary of
Defense direct his office to determine which indicators were most
relevant to building a comprehensive readiness system, develop
criteria to evaluate the selected indicators, prescribe how often the
indicators should be reported to supplement SORTS data, and ensure
that comparable data be maintained by the services to facilitate
trend analysis.\3

DOD contracted the Logistics Management Institute (LMI) to study the
indicators discussed in our report, and LMI found that 19 of them
could be of high or medium value for monitoring critical aspects of
readiness.\4 The LMI study, issued in 1994, recommended that DOD (1)
identify and assess other potential indicators of readiness, (2)
determine the availability of data to monitor indicators selected,
and (3) estimate benchmarks to assess the indicators.  Although our
study and the LMI study concluded that a broader range of readiness
indicators was needed, both left open how DOD could best integrate
additional measures into its readiness reporting.  The
19 indicators that Congress is requiring DOD to include in its
quarterly reports are very similar to those assessed in the LMI
study.  (See app.  1 for a list of the 19 indicators DOD is to
include in the quarterly reports.)

Last month, DOD provided Congress with an implementation plan for
meeting the expanded reporting requirements for the quarterly report. 
We were asked to comment on this plan today.  Of course, a thorough
assessment of the additional readiness indicators will have to wait
until DOD begins to incorporate them into the quarterly reports in
October 1998.  However, on the basis of our review of the
implementation plan, we have several observations to make. 

Overall, the implementation plan could be enhanced if it identified
the specific information to be provided and the analysis to be
included.  The plan appears to take a step backward from previous
efforts to identify useful readiness indicators.  In particular, the
LMI study and subsequent efforts by the Office of the Secretary of
Defense were more ambitious attempts to identify potentially useful
readiness indicators for understanding, forecasting, and preventing
readiness shortfalls.  The current implementation plan, in contrast,
was developed under the explicit assumption that existing data
sources would be used and that no new reporting requirements would be
created for personnel in the field.  Further, the plan states that
DOD will not provide data for 7 of the
19 indicators because either the data is already provided to Congress
through other documents or there is no reasonable or accepted
measurement.  DOD officials, however, acknowledged that their plans
will continue to evolve and said they will continue to work with this
Subcommittee to ensure the quarterly report supports congressional
oversight needs.  Lastly, the plan does not present a clear picture
of how the additional indicators will be incorporated into the
quarterly report.  For example, the plan is mostly silent on the
nature and extent of analysis to be included and on the format for
displaying the additional indicators. 

We also have concerns about how DOD plans to report specific
indicators.  For example: 

  -- According to the plan, SORTS will be the source of data for 4 of
     the
     19 indicators--personnel status, equipment availability, unit
     training and proficiency, and prepositioned equipment.  By
     relying on SORTS, DOD may miss opportunities to provide a more
     comprehensive picture of readiness.  For example, the LMI study
     points out that SORTS captures data only on major weapon systems
     and other critical equipment.  That study found value in
     monitoring the availability of equipment not reported through
     SORTS.  In all, the LMI study identified more than 100 potential
     data sources outside SORTS for 3 of these 4
     indicators--personnel status, equipment availability, and unit
     training and proficiency.  (The LMI study did not include
     prepositioned equipment as a separate indicator.)

  -- DOD states in its implementation plan that 2 of the 19
     indicators--
     operations tempo (OPTEMPO) and training funding--are not
     relevant indicators of readiness.  DOD states further it will
     not include the data in its quarterly readiness reports because
     this data is provided to Congress in budget documents,. 
     However, the LMI study rated these two indicators as having a
     high value for monitoring readiness.  The study stated, for
     instance, that "programmed OPTEMPO is a primary means of
     influencing multiple aspects of mid-term readiness" and that "a
     system for tracking the programming, budgeting, and execution of
     OPTEMPO would be a valuable management tool that may help to
     relate resources to readiness."

  -- For the indicator showing equipment that is non-mission capable,
     the plan states that the percentage of equipment reported as
     non-mission capable for maintenance and non-mission capable for
     supply will provide insights into how parts availability,
     maintenance shortfalls, or funding shortfalls may be affecting
     equipment readiness.  According to the plan, this data will be
     evaluated by examining current non-mission capable levels versus
     the unit standards.  While this type of analysis could indicate
     a potential readiness problem if non-mission capable rates are
     increasing, it will not show why these rates are increasing. 
     Thus, insights into equipment readiness will be limited. 


--------------------
\3 Military Readiness:  DOD Needs to Develop a More Comprehensive
Measurement System (GAO/NSIAD-95-29, Oct.  27, 1994). 

\4 An Initial Assessment of GAO Collected Readiness Indicators: 
Their Value in Monitoring Mid-Term Readiness and Avoiding Hollowness,
Logistics Management Institute (Oct.  1994). 


   ARE FURTHER IMPROVEMENTS TO
   DOD'S REPORTING PROCESS NEEDED? 
---------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4

Mr.  Chairman, there are two areas where we think DOD has an
opportunity to take further actions to improve its readiness
reporting.  The first area concerns the level of detail included in
the quarterly readiness reports to Congress.  In a draft report we
will issue later this month, we have recommended that the Secretary
of Defense take steps to better fulfill the legislative reporting
requirements under 10 U.S.C.  482 by providing (1) supporting data on
key readiness deficiencies and (2) specific information on planned
remedial actions in its quarterly readiness reports.  As we discussed
earlier, the quarterly reports we reviewed gave Congress only a vague
picture of readiness.  Adding more specific detail should enhance the
effectiveness of the reports as a congressional oversight tool.  DOD
has concurred with our recommendation. 

The second area where DOD can improve its readiness reporting
concerns DOD's plan to include additional readiness indicators in the
quarterly report.  The plan would benefit from the following changes: 

  -- Include all 19 required indicators in the report. 

  -- Make the report a stand-alone document by including data for all
     the indicators rather than referring to previously reported
     data. 

  -- Further investigate sources of data outside SORTS, such as those
     reviewed in the LMI report, that could provide insight into the
     19 readiness indicators. 

  -- Develop a sample format showing how the 19 indicators will be
     displayed in the quarterly report. 

  -- Provide further information on the nature and extent of analysis
     to be included with the indicators. 

DOD recognizes in its plan that the type and quality of information
included in the quarterly reports may not meet congressional
expectations and will likely evolve over time.  In our view, it would
make sense for DOD to correct known shortcomings to the current
implementation plan and present an updated implementation plan to
Congress prior to October 1998. 


-------------------------------------------------------- Chapter 0:4.1

Mr.  Chairman, that concludes my prepared statement.  We would be
glad to respond to any questions you or other Members of the
Subcommittee may have. 


ADDITIONAL READINESS INDICATORS TO
BE INCLUDED IN THE QUARTERLY
READINESS REPORT TO CONGRESS
=========================================================== Appendix I

The following are the additional indicators the Department of Defense
is required, under 10 U.S.C.  482, to include in its quarterly
reports to Congress beginning in October 1998. 


   PERSONNEL STRENGTH
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:1

1.  Personnel status, including the extent to which members of the
armed forces are serving in positions outside of their military
occupational specialty, serving in grades other than the grades for
which they are qualified, or both. 

2.  Historical data and projected trends in personnel strength and
status. 


   PERSONNEL TURBULENCE
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:2

3.  Recruit quality. 

4.  Borrowed manpower. 

5.  Personnel stability. 


   OTHER PERSONNEL MATTERS
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:3

6.  Personnel morale. 

7.  Recruiting status. 


   TRAINING
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:4

8.  Training unit readiness and proficiency. 

9.  Operations tempo. 

10.  Training funding. 

11.  Training commitments and deployments. 


   LOGISTICS--EQUIPMENT FILL
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:5

12.  Deployed equipment. 

13.  Equipment availability. 

14.  Equipment that is not mission capable. 

15.  Age of equipment. 

16.  Condition of nonpacing items. 


   LOGISTICS--EQUIPMENT
   MAINTENANCE
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:6

17.  Maintenance backlog. 


   LOGISTICS--SUPPLY
--------------------------------------------------------- Appendix I:7

18.  Availability of ordnance and spares. 

19.  Status of prepositioned equipment. 

*** End of document. ***




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