Report: DOD weak on joint forces follow-up

The Defense Department's poor track record with applying recommendations on joint service experimentation from the Joint Forces Command raises questions about that command's role in shaping the military's overall transformation, according to a recently released General Accounting Office report.

The Joint Forces Command, which leads the development of joint service concepts and experimentation, has made progress in increasing joint participation in military exercises and experimentation, according to GAO.

For example, the command recently wrapped up the joint military experiment Millennium Challenge 2002 — the largest-ever experiment designed to see how well the critical systems of the individual services link with one another.

However, no recommendations from joint experimentation have ever been approved or implemented, according to the GAO report released Aug. 29, "Military Transformation: Actions Needed to Better Manage DOD's Joint Experimentation Program."

The Joint Forces Command issued three recommendations last year, but they were not approved by the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) because of confusion among the Joint Staff and the Joint Forces Command about a proposed change in guidance requiring additional cost and timeline data to be included in the submissions.

"As a result, it is not clear when these recommendations will contribute to military transformation," according to the GAO report.

The command plans to resubmit the recommendations this year, but according to the report, several DOD officials said that "the resource allocation process may be too slow to provide rapid and timely funding for the implementation of new concepts merging from joint experimentation."

The GAO report made four recommendations to aid the command:

* Approve and issue guidance that clearly defines the information required to accompany joint experimentation recommendations for JROC's review and approval.

* Require the commander in chief of the Joint Forces Command to develop strategic planning tools to use in managing and periodically assessing the progress of its joint experimentation program.

* Require that the Defense secretary develop quantitative and qualitative performance measures for joint experimentation in DOD's annual performance report to better assess the program's contribution to military transformation.

* Clarify the role of the Office of Force Transformation and its relationship to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Joint Forces Command and other key stakeholders.

Ray Bjorklund, vice president of consulting services at Federal Sources Inc., pointed out that despite the somewhat "inflammatory" tone of the report, the Joint Forces commanders work well with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"These people talk to each other... these guys work it out," Bjorklund said, adding that he thinks many of GAO's recommendations are likely already being addressed, albeit "not in as rigorous, disciplined and systematic a way as the GAO is suggesting it be done."

The report was not entirely critical. It found that the command has increased participation of key military and non-DOD stakeholders, such as civilian agencies, academia, industry and foreign allies in experimentation activities.

The report also noted that the command had embraced videoconferencing, e-mail and the Internet to obtain input and integrated the results of military operations, technology efforts and other DOD organizations' experiments into its activities.

To further improve communications and participation in joint experimentation planning, the Joint Forces Command will soon launch a virtual planning center on its intranet to provide DOD stakeholders with weekly updates on pertinent information.

In June, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's top military aide, Vice Adm. Edmund Giambastiani Jr., was nominated to head the Joint Forces Command, currently led by Army Gen. William Kernan. Giambastiani, a former submarine commander, is a staunch advocate of DOD transformation, Bjorklund said.

"The premise behind it is that [Giambastiani] could be a change agent to make Joint Forces Command a test bed for transformation concepts," Bjorklund said.

A Joint Forces Command spokeswoman said the agency was "thoroughly involved" with GAO as it prepared the report and concurred with the final version.

"Although it is true that only three 'formal' recommendations have been made to date [by the Joint Forces Command], the contributions made across the services and combatant commands through the 'informal' processes have proven to be invaluable and are a critical element of building our future joint forces," the spokeswoman said.

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