DOD has incomplete strategy for some equipment, GAO officials say

GAO report: Military readiness: DOD needs to reassess program strategy, finding priorities and risks for selected equipment

Defense Department officials need to rethink some of their program strategies, funding priorities and risks for certain equipment programs, according to officials from the General Accounting Office.

In a report released today, GAO officials say gaps exist in the strategies for sustaining, modernizing or replacing most of the 25 items reviewed in the report. The items reviewed were weapons or transportation platforms -- from the M1A2 Abrams tank top the F-16 fighter to the C5 Galaxy transport aircraft. Included in the report were the Army's new Stryker armored personnel carrier and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM).

JDAM, a joint Navy and Air Force program, is slated to receive $724 million in fiscal 2004. The Defense Department's Joint Direct Attack Munitions program was adjusted mid-procurement to match procurement reform principles. The result was $1 billion in savings and a technology that was widely deployed in efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Stryker is the Army's new 19-ton infantry carrier vehicle that will be equipped to handle six brigades. One Stryker brigade -- the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Wash. -- is now deployed in Iraq.

To address concerns, GAO officials looked at:

* The current condition of key military equipment items.

* Equipment items' ability to fulfill their wartime missions.

* Whether the services mapped out a long-range program strategy for sustaining, modernizing, or replacing items.

* Current and projected funding for these equipment items through fiscal year 2009, to see if those budgets are consistent with the services' program strategies.

"The department should highlight for the Congress risks involved in sustaining these equipment items and steps the department is taking to address those risks," the report read. "Although the military services are generally able to maintain military equipment to meet wartime requirements, the ability to do so over the next several years is questionable especially for legacy equipment items."

Of the 25 programs reviewed, both the Stryker and the JDAM received green scores for the condition of the equipment, program strategy and funding. Others, such as the CH-46E Sea Knight Helicopter, received a red for condition, yellow for program strategy and red for funding.

Defense officials did not concur with two recommendations that it should:

* Provide Congress with highlights of risks in sustaining equipment items if adequate funding support is not requested and the steps the department is taking to address those risks.

* Identify the equipment items that deserve the highest priority for sustainment, recapitalization, modernization or replacement.

"The annual Defense budget represents a balanced program, within the resources available," as a result of standard practice," DOD's response read. "It is important to note that a program manager's requirements are not always a valid requirement at the service level. If the requirement is validated, it is resolved at either the service or [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] level before the next budget is submitted."

Military officials also told GAO officials that the Defense Department prioritizes expenses for procurement and sustainment.

"Key equipment items that are vital to accomplishing the department's mission are allocated funding in order to meet the requirements of the most current defense strategy," the response read. "There is no need to restate these priorities with a list."

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