October 19, 2021

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Warfighter Support: Improved Joint Oversight and Reporting on DOD’s Prepositioning Programs May Increase Efficiencies

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<div>The Department of Defense (DOD) prepositions equipment to help ensure combat-ready forces receive equipment in days rather than the weeks it would take if it had to be moved from the United States to their location. Prepositioned stocks may also support activities including disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. As GAO's third report in response to Congress's annual reporting requirement, GAO assessed the extent to which DOD has (1) met the six reporting requirements in the annual report to Congress on its prepositioned stocks, and whether additional information may be needed related to those requirements; (2) developed effective departmentwide guidance on prepositioned stocks to achieve national military objectives; and (3) organized effectively to provide joint oversight over its prepositioning programs and achieve efficiencies. To meet these objectives, GAO reviewed relevant DOD reports, strategies, and policies, and met with DOD and service officials in the U.S., Kuwait, and Qatar.In its 2010 report to Congress, DOD generally responded to its six required reporting elements and GAO's prior recommendations, which resulted in a more informative report. However, DOD's report does not discuss the full range of prepositioned equipment, such as Army equipment required in excess of a military unit's authorization to meet specific combatant command planning requirements. The Army may spend at least $441 million to replenish this equipment, which is part of the $4.5 billion needed to fully reconstitute the Army's prepositioned stocks. Without this information, Congress may lack a complete picture of areas where potential efficiencies may be gained. In addition, DOD's report does not list any operation plan affected by shortfalls in prepositioned stocks, as required. Further, DOD's report does not include the specific risks of such shortfalls, the full range of mitigation factors, and the extent to which these factors reduce risk. Although not required, we believe that such information would help clarify DOD's assessment of the consequences of choosing among options and continuing evaluation of areas where the department can assume greater risk, as called for in its 2008 National Defense Strategy. DOD has limited departmentwide guidance that would help ensure that its prepositioning programs accurately reflect national military objectives, such as those included in the National Defense Strategy and the National Military Strategy. DOD has developed departmentwide guidance, referred to as Guidance for Development of the Force, but as of September 2010 this guidance contained little information related to prepositioned stocks even though DOD's 2008 instruction on prepositioned stocks specifically directed the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy to develop such guidance. Furthermore, the information the services use to determine their requirements for prepositioned stocks may not clearly state the full range of DOD's need for these stocks. DOD's challenges in identifying the full range of potential demands for prepositioned stocks highlight the importance of departmentwide guidance specifying planning and funding priorities associated with DOD's current and future needs in this area. DOD faces organizational challenges which may hinder its efforts to gain efficiencies in managing prepositioned assets across the department. Specifically, DOD has been unable to ensure that the working group established to address joint prepositioning issues achieves its objectives because the working group lacks clearly stated lines of authority and reporting to other components within DOD. As a result, the working group may not be able to effectively synchronize or integrate, as appropriate, the services' prepositioning programs and the results of its efforts may not go beyond the working group itself. According to joint and service officials, efficiencies or cost savings could be gained through improved joint program management across the services and leveraging components in DOD such as the Defense Logistics Agency, which may be able to provide efficiencies in delivering stocks during early stages of contingency operations. GAO is recommending that the Secretary of Defense take five actions to provide comprehensive information, develop overarching guidance, and enhance joint oversight to increase program efficiencies. DOD agreed with GAO's recommendations.</div>
Department of Defense To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Joint Staff and the Secretaries of the military services to provide, in addition to the six elements currently required in the annual report, a more comprehensive picture of the full scope of the services’ prepositioning programs, to include (1) a representative summary description including the dollar value and, as appropriate, level of fill and information on serviceability, of (a) Army Operational Projects and Army War Reserve Sustainment Stocks, (b) Air Force munitions, medical stocks, rations, and fuel elements of its War Reserve Materiel program, and (c) Marine Corps materiel prepositioned to support an entire deployed Marine Corps force, such as its capability sets; and (2) all sources of funding for the services’ prepositioned equipment and materiel, including working capital funds.

Closed – Implemented

While the Army has included some of this information in its fiscal year 2011 report to Congress, it, nor the other services, have included the full scope of the informaiton we recommended. — In March 2013, DOD issued their Annual Prepositioned Materiel Report for fiscal year (FY) 2012 to Congress. In response to GAO’s recommendations, we found the FY 2012 report includes (1) a representative summary description including the dollar value, level of fill, and serviceability of (a) Army Operations and Army War Reserve Sustainment Stocks, (b) Air Force munitions, medical stocks, rations, and fuel elements of its War Reserve Materiel program, and (c) Marine Corps prepositioned materiel used to support the deployed Marine force, such as capability sets; and (2) all sources of funding for the services? prepositioned equipment and materiel, including working capital funds. By implementing this recommendation, DOD has helped to ensure that Congressional defense committees are now more informed on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel.

Department of Defense To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Joint Staff operations and plans directorates to provide in DOD’s annual report to Congress, in addition to the information DOD already includes related to Integrated Priority Lists and capability gap assessments, information it reports as part of the Joint Force Readiness Review, including (1) a summary of all DOD’s plans the services have determined include requirements for prepositioned stocks, (2) a description of the extent to which the combatant commands assess that shortfalls in prepositioned stocks contribute to any specific execution risk in these plans, (3) the full range of measures in place to mitigate the risks of shortfalls in prepositioned stocks, and (4) an assessment of the extent to which the mitigation measures identified by the services reduce risk.

Closed – Implemented

As of July 2014, DOD has not fully implemented this recommendation. We have ongoing work in this area that will likely address areas for improvement. As of June 2015, DOD has initiated some action, but has not fully implemented this recommendation. We continue to have ongoing work in this area directed at the recommendation. DOD’s Prepositioning report for FY 2014, issued in February 2015 included most, if not quite all, of the information identified in the recommendation.

Department of Defense To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, in coordination with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to (1) assess the continued relevance of the Global Prepositioned Materiel Capabilities Working Group’s assigned tasks and membership as stated in DOD Instruction 3110.06 and the group’s charter and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the working group’s objectives align with its activities. These would include making the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy a core member, and clarifying lines of authority and reporting between the working group and other components within DOD, such as the Global Posture Executive Council, so as to instill accountability through appropriate oversight and management review.

Closed – Implemented

As of July 2014, DOD has not adjusted the charter for the working group. The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2014 currently requires DOD to develop and maintain a strategic policy for prepositioned materiel programs. As of July 2015, DOD said it has re-established the Global Prepositioned Materiel Capabilities Working Group, however, no official documentation of these changes has been provided. We have ongoing work that will address and document progress made in implementing this recommendation. In August 2015, DOD provided documentation that the working group was re-established, co-chaired, and has an extensive membership roster.

Department of Defense To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense, upon clarifying DOD’s joint oversight structure for prepositioned stocks, should direct the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy to leverage the expertise of the Global Prepositioned Materiel Capabilities Working Group members, the offices they represent, and the results of the multiple recent or ongoing prepositioning studies to develop appropriately detailed authoritative strategic guidance, such as Guidance for Development of the Force. The guidance would include planning and resource priorities linking the department’s current and future needs for prepositioned stocks, including desired responsiveness, to evolving national defense objectives.

Closed – Not Implemented

As of July 2014, DOD has not developed strategic guidance for its prepositioned programs. Section 321 of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2014 includes a requirement for DOD to develop and maintain a strategic policy for prepositioned materiel programs, and develop a plan for implementing the policy. In a letter to the defense committees dated April 24, 2014, DOD stated that it plans to submit a strategic policy and implementation plan for prepositioned stocks by the second quarter of 2015. As of July 2015, DOD has not provided its strategic policy or implementation plan. We continue to have ongoing work in this area directed at the recommendation.

Department of Defense To help ensure that DOD more fully informs the congressional defense committees on the status of prepositioned equipment and materiel through its annual report to Congress and to enhance joint oversight, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretaries of the military services to implement DOD’s authoritative strategic guidance on prepositioned stocks in such a way so as to integrate and synchronize at a DOD-wide level, as appropriate, the services’ prepositioning programs so that they include updated requirements and maximize efficiency in managing prepositioned assets across the department to reduce unnecessary duplication.

Closed – Not Implemented

As of July 2012, DOD has not developed strategic guidance on its prepositioning programs. We have a review currently under way that will likely address DOD’s continued weaknesses in this area. Update July, 2014: In GAO-13-790, GAO reported as a Matter for Congressional Consideration that Congress may wish to require the Secretary of Defense to develop overarching strategic guidance along with an implementation plan, to synchronize the services’ prepositioning programs department-wide. In the National Defens Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014, DOD is directed to develop a strategic policy and implementation plan. In letter dated April 24, 2014, DOD informed the defense committees it will provide a response by the end of the second quarter 2015. As of July 2015, DOD has not provided its strategic policy or implementation plan. We continue to have ongoing work in this area directed at the recommendation. As of August 31, 2015, the status has not changed.

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