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To ensure the future viability of U.S. air power, the Secretary of Defense
To be of most value, such assessments should be done on a continuing basis and should, at a minimum, (1) assess total joint warfighting requirements in each mission area; (2) inventory aggregate service capabilities, including the full range of assets available to carry out each mission; (3) compare aggregate capabilities to joint requirements to identify shortages or excesses, taking into consideration existing and projected capabilities of potential adversaries and the sufficiency of existing capabilities to meet joint requirements; (4) determine the most cost-effective means to satisfy any shortages; and (5) where excesses exist, assess the relative merits of retiring alternative assets, reducing procurement quantities, or canceling acquisition programs.
The assessments also need to examine the projected impact of investments, retirements, and cancellations on other mission areas, since some assets contribute to multiple missions. Because the Chairman is to advise the Secretary on joint military requirements and provide programmatic advice on how best to provide joint warfighting capabilities within projected resource levels, the assessment process needs to help the Chairman determine program priorities across mission lines. To enhance the effectiveness of the assessments, GAO also recommends that the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman decide how best to provide analytical support to the assessment teams, ensure staff continuity, and allow the teams the latitude to examine the full range of air power issues.
Agency Comments and GAO's Evaluation
In written comments (see app. IV) on a draft of this report, DOD partially concurred with Gao's recommendations. While DOD said it disagreed with many of Gao's findings, most of that disagreement centered on two principal points: (1) the Secretary of Defense is not receiving adequate advice, particularly from a joint perspective, to support decision-making
on combat air power programs, and (2) ongoing major combat aircraft acquisition programs lack sufficient analysis of needs and capabilities.
DOD said it has taken many steps in recent years to improve the extent and quality of joint military advice and cited the joint warfighting capability assessment process as an example. It said the Secretary and Deputy Secretary receive comprehensive advice on combat air power programs through Dod's planning, programming, and budgeting system and systems acquisition process. The Department's response noted that both the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff scrutinize major acquisition programs and that joint military force assessments and recommendations are provided. DOD acknowledged that the quality of analytical support can be improved but said that the extent of support available has not been insufficient for decision-making.
GAO acknowledges that steps have been taken to provide improved joint advice to the Secretary and that DoD decision support systems provide information for making decisions on major acquisition programs. Gao does not believe, however, the information is comprehensive enough to support resource allocation decisions across service and mission lines. Much of the information is developed by the individual services and is limited in scope. Only a very limited amount of information is available on joint requirements for performing missions, such as interdiction and close support, and on the aggregate capabilities available to meet those requirements. DOD's initiation of the deep attack weapons mix study and, more recently, a study to assess close support capabilities suggests that DOD is, in fact, beginning to seek more comprehensive information about cross-service needs and capabilities, as our recommendation suggests. While joint warfighting capability assessment teams have been established, DOD is not using these teams to identify unnecessary or overly redundant combat air power capabilities among the services. Moreover, DOD has not used the teams to help develop specific proposals or strategies to recapitalize U.S. air power forces, a major combat air power issue identified by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Information on issues such as recapitalization alternatives and redundancies in capabilities, developed from a joint warfighting perspective, could be invaluable to decisionmakers who must allocate defense resources among competing needs to achieve maximum force effectiveness.
GAO believes that the services conduct considerable analyses to identify mission needs and justify new weapons program proposals. These needs analyses, however, are not based on assessments of the aggregate
capabilities of the services to perform warfighting missions, and DOD does not routinely review service modernization proposals and programs from such a perspective. The Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces made similar observations. Typically, service analyses tend to justify specific modernization programs by showing the additional capabilities they could provide rather than assess the cost-effectiveness of alternative means of meeting an identified need. Additionally, under DOD's requirements generation process, only program proposals that meet DOD's major defense acquisition program criteria are reviewed and validated by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council. Many service modernization proposals and programs do not meet these criteria.