oversight

Military Readiness: Lingering Training and Equipment Issues Hamper Air Support of Ground Forces

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-05-02.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

             United States General Accounting Office

GAO          Report to the Ranking Minority
             Members, Subcommittees on Total
             Force and Readiness, Committee on
             Armed Services, House of
             Representatives
May 2003
             MILITARY
             READINESS
             Lingering Training and
             Equipment Issues
             Hamper Air Support of
             Ground Forces




GAO-03-505
                                               May 2003


                                               MILITARY READINESS

                                               Lingering Training and Equipment Issues
Highlights of GAO-03-505, a report to the      Hamper Air Support of Ground Forces
Ranking Minority Members of the
Subcommittees on Total Force and
Readiness, House Committee on Armed
Services




Recent operations in Afghanistan               The Department of Defense has had limited success in overcoming the
demonstrated the dangers of                    barriers that prevent troops from receiving the realistic, standardized close
providing air support close to                 air support training necessary to prepare them for joint operations. This is
troops on the ground. Such close               the result of four interrelated factors: (1) ground and air forces have limited
air support requires timely, well-             opportunities to train together in a joint environment; (2) home station
practiced procedures and
communication between ground
                                               training is often restricted and thus does not always provide realistic training
and air elements. While most close             to prepare troops to perform the mission; (3) the services use different
air support operations in                      training standards and certification requirements for personnel responsible
Afghanistan were successful,                   for coordinating close air support; and (4) within the individual services,
“friendly fire” incidents have                 joint close air support training is often a lower priority than other missions.
resulted from mistakes made while              While the department recognizes the need to improve the training for the
conducting the mission.                        mission, progress has been slow on many of the issues because the services
                                               have been unable to agree on joint solutions. In the interim, U.S. troops
At the request of the Ranking                  engaged in joint close air support missions are forced to conduct last-minute
Minority Members of the                        training or create ad hoc procedures on the battlefield.
Subcommittees on Total Force and
Readiness, House Committee on
Armed Services, GAO reviewed
                                               Efforts to enhance the capabilities of the equipment used to perform the
Department of Defense (DOD)                    joint close air support mission have not kept pace with precision weapons
efforts to provide adequate close              capabilities and as a result do not achieve DOD’s goals for interoperability
air support training, as well as               and cost-effectiveness. Advanced systems improve the accuracy of
efforts to enhance the equipment               battlefield information and can speed the transmission of information from
used to support this mission.                  the troops on the ground to attacking aircraft. However, the services have
                                               acquired equipment that is not able to communicate across the services, a
                                               key requirement in joint operations. Moreover, the services are procuring
                                               equipment independently to meet individual service needs, thereby missing
GAO is recommending several                    opportunities to achieve cost benefits from joint service purchases.
initiatives to provide the leadership
and accountability needed to
                                               Typical Steps Required in the Final Coordination of a Close Air Support Mission
resolve the lingering close air
support training shortfalls. GAO is
also recommending actions to
achieve greater equipment
interoperability among the
services.

In commenting on a draft of this
report, DOD concurred with the
report’s recommendations and is in
the process of establishing specific
completion dates for initiatives that
will address the lingering training
and equipment interoperability
shortfalls.
www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-505.

To view the full report, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Neal Curtin at
(757) 552-8100 or curtinn@gao.gov.
Contents


Letter                                                                                   1
               Results in Brief                                                          2
               Background                                                                4
               Despite DOD’s Efforts, Joint Close Air Support Training
                 Deficiencies Remain                                                     6
               Lack of Equipment Interoperability and Coordinated Purchases
                 Hampers Effectiveness of Close Air Support Mission Programs           19
               Conclusions                                                             25
               Recommendations for Executive Action                                    26
               Matters for Congressional Consideration                                 26
               Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                      27

Appendix I     Scope and Methodology                                                   28



Appendix II    Examples of DOD Aircraft That Perform Close Air
               Support                                                                 32



Appendix III   Joint Close Air Support Training and Friendly Fire
               Accidents                                                               34



Appendix IV    2001 Joint Close Air Support Action Plan                                35



Appendix V     Comments from the Department of Defense                                 36



Tables
               Table 1: Number of Practices Required Annually by Ground
                        Controllers to Maintain Currency                               15
               Table 2: Air Force and Marine Corps Acquisitions Programs for
                        Ground-Targeting Equipment                                     24
               Table 3: Units and Locations Included on This Assignment                29
               Table 4: Close Air Support Aircraft                                     32
               Table 4: Continued                                                      33



               Page i                                        GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
          Table 5: Training and Friendly Fire Incidents since the Persian Gulf
                   War                                                                              34
          Table 6: 2001 Action Items Status                                                         35


Figures
          Figure 1: Typical Steps Required in the Final Coordination of a
                   Close Air Support Mission                                                         5
          Figure 2: Percentage of Time That Close Air Support Operations
                   Met Ground Commander’s Intent at Army’s National
                   Training Center (Calendar Years1998-2000)                                        9
          Figure 3: Percentage of Correct Attack Decisions for Combined
                   Visual and Digital Systems, Digital Systems Alone, and
                   Visual and Voice Communication                                                   20
          Figure 4: Digital Transmission Capabilities between Ground
                   Controllers and Selected Aircraft                                                21
          Figure 5: Selected New Ground-Targeting Equipment
                   Procurements                                                                     23




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          Page ii                                                   GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   May 2, 2003

                                   The Honorable Vic Snyder
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Subcommittee on Total Force
                                   Committee on Armed Services
                                   House of Representatives

                                   The Honorable Solomon P. Ortiz
                                   Ranking Minority Member
                                   Subcommittee on Readiness
                                   Committee on Armed Services
                                   House of Representatives

                                   The success or failure of our military forces in combat is directly linked to
                                   the realism and thoroughness of their training beforehand. This axiom is
                                   especially true when aircraft are needed to deliver bombs on targets close
                                   to troops on the ground. Such close air support requires painstaking
                                   coordination between air and ground elements. Timely, well-practiced
                                   procedures and communication are essential because close air support on
                                   the battlefield often has to happen fast to achieve its objective. Failure to
                                   respond to a call for air support can leave troops exposed to enemy fire;
                                   however, mistakes in communications and targeting can result in fatalities
                                   among friendly forces. In Afghanistan, close air support became
                                   particularly critical because light forces were introduced into battle
                                   without artillery, leaving air power as their sole means of fire support.
                                   Though we completed our work before hostilities began in Iraq, this
                                   operation also showed the increased importance of integrating air power
                                   into the ground fight. While most recent close air support operations have
                                   been successful, “friendly fire” incidents tragically illustrated the dangers
                                   of the mission. Even before the war in Afghanistan, the Department of
                                   Defense (DOD) had begun looking for solutions to long-standing problems
                                   facing the close air support mission. Because joint close air support is—by
                                   its nature—a joint mission that transcends any single military service,
                                   DOD has formed steering groups and other interservice task forces to
                                   examine the mission area. The working groups have addressed a myriad of
                                   issues, but their primary focus has been on improving training and




                                   Page 1                                           GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                   equipment interoperability1 across the services in both the active and
                   reserve components.

                   Because of concerns about such unfortunate “friendly fire” occurrences,
                   you requested that we review close air support training and doctrine to
                   ensure that the U.S. military is prepared for future conflicts. You asked
                   that we recommend any actions that DOD and the services could take to
                   improve close air support effectiveness while simultaneously reducing risk
                   to friendly forces. Thus, our objectives were to assess efforts by DOD and
                   the military services to (1) provide adequate training for joint close air
                   support missions and (2) enhance the capabilities of the equipment used
                   to support this mission. A detailed description of our scope and
                   methodology is included in appendix I.


                   DOD has had limited success in overcoming the barriers that prevent
Results in Brief   troops from receiving the realistic, standardized training that is needed to
                   prepare them for joint operations. In discussions with military officials and
                   during our visits to training sites, we found that adequate realistic training2
                   is often not available because of four lingering problems: (1) Ground and
                   air forces have limited opportunities to train together in a joint
                   environment. When such joint training does occur, according to DOD
                   reports and unit officials, it is often ineffective. Data from national training
                   centers show that joint close air support training seldom meets the
                   expectations and needs of the ground commander. (2) Similarly, the
                   training that troops receive at their home stations is usually unrealistic
                   because of range restrictions; moreover, it lacks variety—for example,
                   pilots often receive rote, repetitive training because of limited air space
                   and other restrictions. (3) The services train their aircraft controllers, who
                   are the linchpin for close air support coordination, to different standards.
                   The lack of universal standards hampers the ability of these controllers to
                   perform in a joint operation. (4) Finally, within individual military services,
                   the training for close air support missions is often given a lower priority—
                   in doctrine, school curriculum, and training exercises—than other
                   missions. For example, the Air Force focuses more on deep strike and air-
                   to-air employment during large force exercises, while the Army places


                   1
                    Interoperability refers to the ability of one system to provide and accept information from
                   another system.
                   2
                    Joint Publication 3-09.3, Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Close Air
                   Support, December 1995 (currently being revised).




                   Page 2                                                     GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
more emphasis on training for artillery and the use of its own fire support.
While DOD has recognized the need to improve the effectiveness of
training the mission,3 the steering committee tasked to implement the
action plan has been unable to resolve most of the plan’s 15 action items
because of the time and effort required to solve the issues and the
services’ inability to reach agreement on them. DOD changed the
responsibility for chairing the executive steering committee to Joint
Forces Command in hopes of resolving the lingering interservice issues.
Until these problems are resolved, U.S. troops engaged in joint close air
support missions will be forced to conduct last-minute training or create
ad hoc procedures on the battlefield—practices that reduce the
effectiveness of the mission and increase the risk of injury or death to
friendly forces.

Efforts to enhance the capabilities of the equipment used in joint close air
support have not kept pace with precision weapons capabilities and, as a
result, do not achieve DOD’s goals for ensuring interoperability and cost-
effectiveness. The services have acquired digital transmission systems that
are used to share information instantly between airborne and ground
personnel. However, these systems are not yet interoperable across the
services, potentially hampering their effectiveness in joint operations.
While the services have recognized the need for such a system and have
plans to field one by 2007, the absence of an interoperable system in the
near term limits the ability of air and ground forces to coordinate air
attacks efficiently and under all conditions. Moreover, the services have
acquired a variety of ground-targeting systems, which allow ground
controllers to accurately locate targets for attacking aircraft, but they are
not purchasing these systems cost-effectively. Although DOD has tasked
the services to develop joint requirements for ground-targeting equipment,
they have not yet completed them. As a result, the services are procuring a
variety of systems independently and may be missing opportunities to
achieve cost benefits from joint purchases.

We are making several recommendations to help resolve DOD’s lingering
close air support training shortcomings and ensure that equipment
procured for this mission is interoperable and meets interservice
requirements. In written comments on a draft of this report, the
Department of Defense stated that it concurred with our
recommendations and is in the process of establishing specific completion


3
    Joint Close Air Support Action Plan, November 2001.




Page 3                                                    GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
             dates for each of the issues identified in the 2003 Joint Close Air Support
             Action Plan.


             Close air support is an air action by either fixed and rotary wing aircraft
Background   against hostile targets which are near friendly forces and which require
             detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and maneuver of
             those forces. Several different types of aircraft are assigned the close air
             support mission; examples are described in appendix II. To be successful,
             this type of combat mission requires detailed integration and close
             coordination between air and ground forces.4 Air is only one type of fire
             support available to ground forces—other forms include artillery, mortars,
             and naval surface fires. Ideally, these fires will be integrated to achieve the
             intended effect on the target. The controller plays the key role in
             coordinating the close air support mission. The controller is often located
             on the ground alongside maneuver forces; however, airborne controllers
             may also control attacks. The controller is responsible for ensuring that
             aircraft strike the target accurately while avoiding hitting friendly troops.
             During battle, when a ground commander needs air support, this specially
             trained controller initiates a call, using voice or digital communications, to
             the aircraft. The controller provides the attacking aircraft with the location
             of the target as well as the position of any friendly troops in the area.
             Based on this information, the aircraft’s crew directs the plane’s bombs to
             the target. Figure 1 depicts a typical mission.




             4
              Joint Publication 3-09.3, Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Close Air
             Support, December 1995 (currently being revised).




             Page 4                                                    GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Figure 1. Typical Steps Required in the Final Coordination of a Close Air Support Mission




                                         Note: GAO analysis of DOD documents.


                                         DOD is in the process of developing technologically advanced equipment
                                         to improve the military’s ability to conduct close air support missions
                                         under all types of conditions. Historically, such missions were conducted
                                         during the day under favorable weather conditions. This allowed both
                                         aircrews and ground controllers to visually acquire and attack ground
                                         targets. Today, these missions are typically undertaken at night or under
                                         poor visibility conditions. In addition, because the rules of engagement
                                         have placed strict limits on collateral damage, the aircraft need to deliver
                                         munitions precisely. For example, the use of bombers flying at high
                                         altitudes to perform close air support in recent operations in Afghanistan
                                         shows how the mission has evolved. Bombers carried out missions using
                                         precision weapons from altitudes that prevented aircrews from visually
                                         acquiring targets. The use of these weapons required controllers to
                                         provide more accurate target information to the attacking aircraft. In



                                         Page 5                                             GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                       addition, technological advancements in equipment continue to improve
                       the accuracy by which aircraft can strike their targets. For example,
                       equipment such as laser rangefinders and systems that allow controllers to
                       transmit information digitally improve accuracy and help mitigate the risk
                       of human error.

                       Significant differences exist in the services’ approaches to close air
                       support. Controllers from the Air Force, Marine Corps, and special
                       operations forces attend different schools to learn the basics of controlling
                       attack aircraft. To support Army ground units, the Air Force incorporates
                       officers and enlisted controllers into Army units. These Air Force
                       personnel live and work with the Army and are intended to become an
                       integral part of the unit’s fire support staff. The Army must rely on aircraft
                       from other services during training or combat. In contrast, the Marine
                       Corps uses its own aviators—on a rotational assignment with ground
                       forces—to control aircraft. The Marine Corps’ attack aircraft squadrons
                       are attached to Marine expeditionary forces, and their primary mission is
                       to support ground forces. Day to day, this means that Marine Corps
                       ground commanders have attack aircraft at their disposal, allowing them
                       to more easily incorporate close air support into their training events. The
                       inherently joint nature of the mission requires that all the services train
                       together to be adequately prepared. Training is fundamental, according to
                       a DOD assessment of the mission area, because technological
                       advancements are “meaningless if not supported by training.”


                       DOD has had limited success in overcoming the barriers that prevent
Despite DOD’s          troops from receiving the realistic, standardized training that is needed to
Efforts, Joint Close   prepare them for joint operations. These lingering problems include few
                       opportunities for ground and air forces to train together in a joint
Air Support Training   environment, a lack of realistic training opportunities at troops’ home
Deficiencies Remain    stations, differences in the training standards for aircraft controllers, and
                       the low priority placed on joint close air support training in the services’
                       school curriculum and exercises. While DOD has acknowledged the need
                       for more effective training in its 2001 Joint Close Air Support Action Plan,
                       it has been unable to resolve most of the plan’s action items because of the
                       time and effort required to resolve the issues and disagreement among the
                       services.




                       Page 6                                            GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Close Air Support Training       According to joint doctrine, training must be habitually emphasized in a
Barriers Continue to             joint training environment, and proficiency can only be obtained though
Linger                           dedicated, realistic joint training.5 Historical experience shows that
                                 realistic training is critical to success in combat. Realistic training is
                                 particularly important in the close air support mission where detailed
                                 coordination is required to effectively deliver bombs close to friendly
                                 forces. However, DOD has acknowledged that joint close air support
                                 mission deficiencies have existed for many years. We reviewed documents
                                 from the mid-1990s that showed that shortfalls in close air support
                                 procedures have led to decreased mission effectiveness and a greater
                                 chance of fratricide. Recent operations in Afghanistan have demonstrated
                                 that the military is placing an increased emphasis on joint close air
                                 support, but some serious challenges remain. Many of the soldiers, pilots,
                                 and aircraft controllers who are asked to perform this mission in combat
                                 told us that they feel ill prepared to do so. Service personnel told us that it
                                 was common for both pilots and ground controllers to be forced to learn
                                 new procedures “on the fly” during actual combat operations. During our
                                 unit visits, personnel from all services expressed concerns over their
                                 ability to perform the joint close air support mission. These concerns
                                 revolve around four interrelated factors, discussed below, which adversely
                                 affect training.

Joint Training Opportunities     Pilots, controllers, and ground commanders from the services that are
Are Infrequent and Ineffective   involved in joint close air support need to train together frequently in
                                 order to develop confidence in one another and become familiar with one
                                 another’s procedures. Without such regular exercises, pilots are not
                                 willing to fully trust the instructions they receive from controllers, and
                                 ground commanders are not confident that the air support will be timely
                                 and accurate.

                                 However, opportunities for the services to train together to prepare for the
                                 joint close air support mission are infrequent. Within the United States,
                                 there are primarily three training facilities that have the necessary
                                 maneuver and air space to adequately train close air support with both
                                 ground forces and attacking aircraft. These are the Army’s National
                                 Training Center at Fort Irwin, California; the Army’s Joint Readiness
                                 Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana; and the Marine Corps’ Air Ground
                                 Combat Center at Twenty-nine Palms, California. These training centers



                                 5
                                  Joint Publication 3-09.3, Joint Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for Close Air
                                 Support, December 1995 (currently being revised).




                                 Page 7                                                    GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
provide the maneuver space, airspace, and live ordnance delivery freedom
to train for this mission under simulated combat conditions that are not
available at home station training ranges. The centers are designed to offer
the most realistic and challenging battlefield experiences available;
however, units normally train at one of these locations only once every 12
to 18 months and for only 3 weeks at a time.

Information collected from training exercises at the Army’s National
Training Center has pointed to the need for more training in joint close air
support procedures. The Center for Army Lessons Learned, which collects
and consolidates data from operations and training events, identified
several long-standing problems associated with the execution of close air
support during these exercises. For example, in 1995 it reported that the
full effects of the mission are rarely achieved during training, and in 1998 it
found that integration issues between Army and Air Force personnel
continued to hamper the execution of the mission and may contribute to
fratricides.

Observations made by the Secretary of Defense’s Joint Close Air Support
Joint Test and Evaluation task force further confirmed that significant
problems exist. Chartered in 1998, the task force has collected and
analyzed a large quantity of data from the Army’s National Training Center.
By early 2001, it had observed 22 simulated battles that included more
than 200 close air support sorties. One of the key conclusions from its
study is that close air support seldom achieved the outcome sought by the
ground commander during such training exercises. As figure 2 shows,
close air support operations met the ground commander’s intent—that is,
they destroyed or otherwise disrupted enemy troops—less than one-third
of the time. More often than not, close air support failed to meet the
ground commander’s needs.




Page 8                                            GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Figure 2. Percentage of Time That Close Air Support Operations Met Ground
Commander’s Intent at Army’s National Training Center (Calendar Years1998-2000)




The task force attributed this low success rate to several factors, in
particular the lack of integration between the Air Force controllers and
Army fire support teams, whose mission is to coordinate different types of
firepower. Ideally, air power would be employed seamlessly along with
artillery and other fire support. We heard frequently about this issue from
the commanders of Army units we visited in the United States, Germany,
and Korea. They told us that Army teams did not view assigned aircraft
controllers as a part of their teams and, thus, were not as comfortable
relying on the controllers to provide support as they were with their own
unit personnel. Army unit personnel work with the controllers only a few
times a month or during field training exercises. Consequently, a deployed
Army team may have to rely on controllers with whom they have not
worked during training and in whom they have not developed confidence.
On the other hand, Air Force controllers who are trying to integrate
themselves into the Army structure must still report to Air Force
leadership, and thus they have to satisfy the needs of two different
commanders. Perhaps most telling, the task force observers also noted



Page 9                                             GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
that integrating close air support was often an “afterthought” during
ground maneuver exercises. Some participants they interviewed
expressed concerns about how well they were prepared for the mission.
Air Force participants, for example, noted they did not get enough practice
with the Army’s teams, and Army participants pointed out that training for
this mission was often overlooked and underemphasized.

In addition to infrequent training opportunities, many of the unit leaders
and soldiers we interviewed expressed disappointment with the
effectiveness of the close air support training they received at the Army’s
training centers. Pilots told us that because training scenarios at the
centers are scripted to maximize training benefits for maneuver forces,
ground commanders fail to use aircrews effectively. In short, available
aircraft are underutilized, thus limiting the training pilots receive. In the
United States, personnel from the 18th Air Support Operations Group told
us that because the Army runs the training events, nearly all of the training
time at the centers is devoted to Army maneuver tasks rather than to joint
close air support. As a result, ground controllers are often not included in
the planning and execution of missions. In Europe, personnel from the 4th
Air Support Operations Group told us that the Army limits their controller
training to an hour a day at the Army’s Combined Training Center at
Grafenwoehr, Germany. On the other hand, aircraft availability is
sometimes a problem. According to military officials, joint close air
support is planned into all exercises, but in many cases the aircraft do not
arrive for a variety of reasons, such as weather conditions and mechanical
problems. One brigade official told us that during his unit’s last training
center rotation in Germany, 12 sorties were planned, but none was
actually undertaken.

While the Marines are widely considered to be proficient at integrated
close air support training, the training they provide at the Twenty-nine
Palms training center, for example, is typically not joint. Marines supply
their own attack aircraft and ground controller assets to train for close air
support missions. Overall, the task force concluded that Marine Corps
ground controllers figure prominently in the development of offensive and
defensive operational plans and that the mission was generally well
planned and executed. However, the training center presents its own
challenges. The aircraft maneuver space is restrictive, a simulated enemy
rather than a well-trained opposing force is used, and the exercises focus
more on training than on evaluating capabilities.

Combined training events between U.S. and coalition forces are also
infrequent. For example, U.S. officials in Korea told us that Army and Air


Page 10                                           GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                                Force personnel rarely practice close air support with South Korean
                                ground controllers or aircrews. In addition, U.S. ground controllers and
                                pilots stationed in Korea and Germany said that barriers such as accents
                                and the use of nonstandard phraseology by foreign aircrews impact the
                                effectiveness of combined training. Dutch military officials told us that it is
                                difficult to train with U.S. personnel. While two combined training
                                exercises promote close air support training—Clean Hunter and Flying
                                Rhino—Dutch officials stated that U.S. ground controllers have not
                                participated. Furthermore, these officials said that while A-10s from the
                                81st Fighter Squadron support Dutch ground controller training, this
                                relationship is informal and they cannot rely on U.S. support. U.S. officials
                                stated there are opportunities to train with coalition military personnel.
                                For example, Navy officials said that they schedule combined training with
                                British forces as part of their Joint Maritime Course. Moreover, they told
                                us that because the Navy does not own training ranges in the European
                                theater, it schedules training events with host nations to gain access to
                                live-fire ranges. In addition, U.S. Air Force officials in Korea told us that
                                they are planning to combine ground controller training for both U.S. and
                                South Korean personnel.

Range Restrictions Limit Home   Air Force and Navy units also have limited opportunities for realistic joint
Station Training                training for air support missions at their home stations, primarily because
                                of various air space and range restrictions.6 For example, Air Force
                                officials in South Korea said that their pilots experience numerous
                                airspace restrictions near the demilitarized zone separating North and
                                South Korea. Because of such restrictions, the Air Force rarely
                                synchronizes its training with the U.S. Army or South Korean forces. This
                                impedes the Air Force’s ability to train all the integrated elements they
                                would need to have in combat. Moreover, Air Force officials told us that
                                because of live ordnance limitations during training, fighter pilots may
                                employ live munitions for the first time in combat, under hostile
                                conditions, and close to friendly forces. Because range limitations often
                                force units to perform air attacks from the same direction and oriented on
                                the same targets, training officials frequently refer to this limited training
                                as “range close air support,” which means that it is done in a specific way
                                because of range restrictions rather than as it would be carried out in


                                6
                                  Such range limitations have been the subject of related GAO work, including, Military
                                Training: Limitations Exist Overseas but Are Not Reflected in Readiness Reporting,
                                GAO-02-525 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 30, 2002) and Military Training: DOD Lacks a
                                Comprehensive Plan to Manage Encroachment on Training Ranges, GAO-02-614
                                (Washington, D.C.: June 11, 2002).




                                Page 11                                                   GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
actual combat. In short, the training is not realistic, and its value is
diminished because trainees become familiar with the terrain and target.
The following are other additional examples of restricted training
environments:

•   The Fort Bragg, North Carolina, range used by the 23rd Fighter Group
    has altitude and laser restrictions and prohibits the use of tactical
    rockets. As a result, close air support cannot be realistically practiced.

•   The ground controllers from the 25th Air Support Operations Squadron
    in Hawaii are not able to maintain their currency requirements7 at their
    home stations because there are no close air support aircraft available
    to train them; thus, they must return to the mainland periodically to
    train.

•   Airspace restrictions in Germany force A-10 pilots from the 81st Fighter
    Squadron to train at altitudes of 17,000 to 20,000 feet rather than 5,000
    feet, where the A-10was designed to operate.

•   About 10 percent of last year’s planned close air support missions for
    the 31st Fighter Wing in Italy were executed. In addition, the squadron
    does not have a range where close air support can be undertaken with
    a ground controller or where units can train at night.

Likewise, home station training for Navy pilots is limited not only because
of range restrictions but also because of the Navy’s 18-month deployment
cycles. Before they are deployed, Navy pilots are sent to the Naval Strike
Air Warfare Center at Fallon Naval Air Station, Nevada, for 4 weeks of
training. The proficiency pilots gain at Fallon, however, erodes during
their 18-month deployment cycle because they have access to few ranges,
many of which may be inadequate. A second challenge comes after
deployment, when the pilots return to their home stations. According to
Navy personnel, the pilots’ mission skills continue to erode because they
have limited access to aircraft and equipment, and they are restricted to
using only local ranges for training that they feel is inadequate. Marine




7
 A currency requirement is the frequency with which a skill needs to be practiced during a
given period of time.




Page 12                                                   GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                          Corps pilots at units we visited echoed the concerns voiced about range
                          restrictions and the lack of varied training opportunities. For example:

                          •   Dare County Bomb Range, North Carolina, has only a 7-mile range
                              when 30 miles is necessary for the F/A-18 to effectively employ air-to-
                              ground weapons for close air support training.8

                          •   One range attached to the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, North
                              Carolina, is not much larger than the Dare County range and is
                              considered inadequate for effective close air support training. Another
                              range near the air station prohibits the use of live ordnance.

                          While range restrictions curtail realistic home station training
                          opportunities, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel told us that a close
                          air support simulator device could provide a mechanism to augment live
                          training opportunities. For example, officials said that the development of
                          a ground controller simulated training device, linked to an attack aircraft
                          simulator, would provide valuable training for both controllers and pilots.
                          DOD recognizes that simulators can enhance the planning, preparation,
                          and training for close air support. According to its capstone requirements
                          document, simulators enable units to practice the communication and
                          coordination procedures associated with the close air support mission
                          when constraints prohibit live-fire training. However, the United States
                          does not currently own any close air support simulated training devices.9
                          In Europe, the Air Force has arranged to lease simulator time from the
                          Dutch military. We visited the training facility in the Netherlands and
                          observed controllers using the device to practice simulated close air
                          support missions. Both Dutch and U.S. officials believe such a simulator
                          provides the capability to train close air support effectively in a safe
                          environment.

Inconsistent Controller   The individual services and the special operations communities do not use
Training Hampers Joint    common certification or currency requirements to train their aircraft
Operations                controllers. For initial certification, the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps
                          operate formal schools that have curriculums based on the individual



                          8
                           The 30-mile standard is documented in the Navy’s Top Gun manual, Volume IV –
                          Employment/Tactics, May 2002.
                          9
                           After completion of our audit work, Air Force officials indicated that they have
                          incorporated extremely limited simulated close air support training devices in their Joint
                          Firepower Course.




                          Page 13                                                    GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
services’ interpretation of DOD’s Joint Publication 3-09.3, Joint Tactics
Techniques and Procedures for Close Air Support (1995). Overall, this
initial instruction is fairly common among the schools, and the Navy and
Marine Corps schools have the same requirements. The Air Force and the
Navy/Marine Corps curriculums cover such topics as intelligence,
equipment operation, integration of close air support with other fires, and
battle damage assessments. However, the time devoted to each topic, as
well as the specific instructional material presented, varies among the
services. Two notable differences exist in initial certification requirements
between the Navy/Marine Corps and the Air Force programs. The
Navy/Marine Corps program requires its controllers to practice close air
support with a variety of aircraft, including helicopters. The Air Force
does not require helicopter practice because it does not have combat
helicopters in its conventional force, and the Army does not use its
helicopters in a close air support role. A second difference is that the
Navy/Marine Corps requires its controllers to practice coordinating live
indirect fire support, such as artillery. The Air Force does not require
practice with live artillery for its initial certification. Usually, the Army
coordinates the use of indirect fires on the battlefield. The controller
certification debate is further complicated by the fact that NATO
certification requirements are more demanding and comprehensive in
some areas than those for U.S. personnel. For example, NATO standards
require controllers to have 12 successful low-level controls, controlling
close air support attacking aircraft at altitudes below 500 feet, to be
qualified. No such standard exists for U.S. controllers.

Once schooling is complete and controllers are sent back to their units,
they are required to maintain a level of proficiency throughout the year.
These annual currency requirements vary by service. (See table 1.) For
example, the Marine Corps and Air Force require controllers to practice 12
times a year to remain current, while NATO controllers need 24 practices.




Page 14                                          GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Table 1. Number of Practices Required Annually by Ground Controllers to Maintain
Currency

                          Total number                  Number of                   Number of
                           of practices          daylight practices         nighttime practices
 Marine Corps                        12                           8                           4
 Air Force                           12                          10                           2
 NATO                                24                          20                           4
Source: DOD and NATO.
                                                            10
Note: GAO analysis of DOD and NATO training publications.


Likewise, currency requirements for controllers in the special operations
community differ among the Air Force, Navy, and Army because they are
required to meet their service-directed requirements. Special operations
controllers receive their initial certification by attending one of the service
schools. However, the services have different requirements for
maintaining their controllers’ status. In fact, only Air Force special
operations controllers have a specific annual currency requirement to
maintain. Because of this situation, some personnel we interviewed told us
that during operations in Afghanistan, ground commanders were hesitant
to have non-Air Force personnel directing close air support missions, and,
in most cases, asked to have Air Force ground controllers attached to their
special operations teams. In addition, it was not clear how recently non-
Air Force special operations controllers had practiced this skill, adding to
the ground commanders’ reluctance to use them.

In interviews, controllers from conventional forces told us that while they
have currency standards to maintain, it is difficult to meet them.
According to Air Force officials, 50 percent of the assigned Air Force
ground controllers in Europe are not current in nighttime or live ordnance
controls. One contributing factor is that Air Force pilots can meet all of
their close air support training requirements using an airborne controller,
thus negating the need to provide air support for ground controller
training. For example, according to personnel from the 81st Fighter
Squadron in Germany, less than 20 percent of their close air support



10
  The publications are as follows: Marine Corps order P3500.37, Aviation Training and
Readiness Manual vol. 9 Tactical Air Control Party Officer, dated May 8, 2001; Air Force
Instruction 13-102, Air Support Operations Center and Tactical Air Control Party Training
and Evaluation Procedures, dated September 1, 1996; Minimum Qualifications for Forward
Air Controllers, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Standardization Agreement #3797,
dated February 26, 1979.




Page 15                                                          GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                              training sorties involve the use of a ground controller. Recognizing this
                              shortage, Air Force officials have requested funding for a simulator to help
                              train their ground controllers stationed in Europe.

                              Beyond certification and currency standards, some stark differences exist
                              in the procedures that U.S. and NATO forces use to pass target
                              information from ground controllers to attacking aircraft. U.S. controllers
                              are trained to use a standardized 9-linebriefing format, while NATO troops
                              use a 15-line briefing. This lack of commonality creates a potentially
                              hazardous battlefield situation in operations involving U.S. military allies.

Some Services Give Low        One of the primary reasons the services do not provide the training needed
Priority to Joint Close Air   to adequately prepare U.S. forces to plan and execute the joint close air
Support Training              support missions is the low priority they give to this mission in
                              comparison with other training requirements. This lack of emphasis is
                              apparent in operational doctrine, school instruction, and the number of
                              pilot sorties devoted to close air support, all of which prevent aircrews
                              and controllers from developing their mission skills.

                              The Air Force has historically not placed a high priority on close air
                              support in its doctrine. Service officials we interviewed stated that the Air
                              Force tends to emphasize air-to-air and deep attack missions over close air
                              support. In our review of Air Force doctrine, we found that the Air Force
                              prioritizes air superiority, strategic attack, and air interdiction missions
                              because it views such missions as a more effective and efficient use of its
                              resources. While officials indicated that the Air Force would provide joint
                              close air support when it was needed to support ground troops, they said
                              that it is more efficient to use the aircraft to attack enemies before they
                              come in contact with friendly forces.

                              Key Air Force and Navy pilot training schools also give a low priority to
                              close air support training in their curriculums. At the Air Force weapons
                              school, for example, only 13 percent of the F-16’s flight syllabus is devoted
                              to this mission. Moreover, for pilots of the A-10—an aircraft primarily
                              designed to perform close air support—only 31 percent of Weapons
                              School training sorties were for the mission. At the Navy’s air warfare
                              center, pilots receive 8 days of close air support training during their 4-
                              week course. However, because of the number of pilots attending the
                              course, the 8 days devoted to close air support only allow aircrews to fly
                              two close air support missions.

                              Furthermore, some Air Force unit training programs place low emphasis
                              on this mission. According to the Air Force, active duty F-16 squadrons


                              Page 16                                           GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
stationed in the United States devote only about 5 percent of their training
sorties to close air support. In addition, an Air Force official in Europe
stated that less than 10 percent of his F-16 squadron’s training program is
devoted to close air support, while 50 percent is for air-to-air missions.
Given the difficult nature of the mission, many pilots believe that this level
of training is not sufficient to develop adequate mission skills.

According to DOD’s task force, the lack of integration between the Army’s
fire support elements and the Air Force’s ground controller personnel is
the top problem facing joint close air support training. Such poor
integration is primarily the result of the services’ low emphasis on joint
training for this mission. We confirmed this conclusion during our visits to
various units. For example, Army commanders have been trained to use
direct and indirect fire, with joint close air support being used as a last
resort. Joint close air support is only one of a myriad of support options
available to ground force commanders that must be trained. Army units
rarely integrate close air support into training exercises outside the
training centers and, as a result, joint close air support integration training
is often unrealistic. In addition, the Air Force’s selection of air liaison
officers, who provide ground commanders with expertise on the
employment of joint close air support, shows a lack of Air Force
commitment and has added to the lack of confidence on the part of the
Army and the ground controllers. Both Army and Air Force personnel at
several locations we visited raised concerns that this position has not been
considered a career-enhancing position. These officers not only do not get
a chance to fly but they also have to live in the “dirt” with Army forces
during various maneuvers. According to personnel, the best personnel, or
even those with extensive close air support training, have not filled this
position. However, according to Air Force officials in Europe, beginning in
2000 the service implemented a change that elevates the selection of
candidates for this position to the same level as picking candidates for
flying and operational squadron support commands for their theater. This
should produce higher-quality candidates for the position.

The Marine Corps emphasizes close air support in its training and
considers integrating aviation with other supporting fires as a critical
element because it lacks the amount of artillery available to Army
commanders. However, Marine Corps training is usually limited to
practicing close air support with its own air assets supporting its own
ground forces. The Marines do not emphasize training these skills with
other services. We found that the Marines rarely conduct joint training for
this mission, which limits their ability to integrate on the battlefield when
they are called upon to perform this mission with others. According to an


Page 17                                           GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                           internal Operation Enduring Freedom after-action report, investigators
                           found that Marine Corps ground controllers require more extensive joint
                           training opportunities, particularly for controlling air support in joint
                           operations.


DOD is Making Efforts to   Even before the extensive use of close air support in Afghanistan
Resolve Training           highlighted the potential dangers inherent in this mission, DOD had
Deficiencies               acknowledged that action was needed to improve its effectiveness. In an
                           internal assessment, DOD concluded that current capabilities do not meet
                           all present or projected needs and that the joint community faces a
                           substantial challenge in attaining the new levels of capabilities required to
                           support emerging war fighting concepts.11

                           In January 2000, the Joint Requirements Oversight Council chartered an
                           executive steering committee to identify shortfalls across the mission area.
                           The steering committee developed a Joint Close Air Support action plan to
                           address a number of training and equipment interoperability issues. The
                           training issues include such items as increasing joint training exercises;
                           establishing joint integrated training plans; and creating a “joint terminal
                           attack controller” with standardized certifications, which DOD says will
                           improve joint operations and reduce the potential for accidents and
                           fratricides. However, none of the action item target dates for completion
                           were met on time. In fact, only 3 of the 15 action items have been
                           completed to date, and the remaining 12 issues have rolled over into the
                           updated 2003 plan. The complete list of issues contained in the action plan
                           is included in appendix IV.

                           According to service personnel we interviewed, progress on resolving the
                           training issues has been slow because of the joint nature of the mission.
                           Getting agreement across the services is difficult because there are
                           fundamental differences in how the individual services employ close air
                           support. Moreover, no joint organization is responsible for overseeing the
                           training and equipping of the mission. Individual service and joint staff
                           representatives expressed frustration with the executive steering
                           committee’s inability to resolve the action items. The services have not
                           been able to agree on several of them. For example, the services disagree
                           on what to include in the joint terminal attack controller certification. The
                           committee does not have the authority to require individual services to


                           11
                                Capstone Requirements Document for Close Air Support, JROCM 067-02, May 6, 2002.




                           Page 18                                                  GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                           train jointly or to compromise by developing common training standards
                           for their controllers. In October 2002, DOD changed the responsibility for
                           chairing the Joint Close Air Support Executive Steering Committee to
                           Joint Forces Command. Previously, the committee had been cochaired by
                           the Air Force and the Marine Corps. According to DOD officials, this
                           action was undertaken, at least in part, in hopes of resolving the
                           interservice issues. At Joint Forces Command, the Joint Requirements and
                           Integration Directorate (J8) serves as the lead joint integration expert,
                           ensuring that the various services and defense agencies combine their
                           capabilities into a single successful effort.

                           DOD has acknowledged that such deficiencies in joint training are not
                           limited to the close air support mission. In March 2002, DOD announced a
                           plan for transforming all of its training programs. This plan emphasizes the
                           need to provide comprehensive and systematic joint training focused on
                           the operational requirements of the combatant commanders. Furthermore,
                           it acknowledges a need for increasing the use of live and virtual training in
                           its training environment. According to DOD, a Joint National Training
                           Capability would be established to provide training that is less service-
                           focused and more reflective of how U.S. forces actually fight today. The
                           first training event is scheduled for May 2003 and will focus on Army
                           maneuver forces at Fort Irwin, California; however, the event will also
                           include supporting forces at several locations across the United States.


                           The military services have not yet achieved DOD’s goals for ensuring that
Lack of Equipment          equipment acquired for close air support missions is interoperable and
Interoperability and       cost-effective. The digital transmission systems that the services procured
                           to transmit information instantly between airborne and ground personnel
Coordinated                are not interoperable across the services, and a common capability is not
Purchases Hampers          expected to be fielded until 2007. The lack of interoperability does not
                           allow participants to take advantage of the increased effectiveness that
Effectiveness of Close     digital transmissions add to the mission. In addition, the services’
Air Support Mission        independent purchases of different kinds of ground-targeting equipment
Programs                   have precluded them from achieving potential cost savings from joint
                           purchases.


Current Digital            Advanced technological systems that allow ground and air forces to
Transmission Systems Are   transmit battlefield information digitally can greatly improve the
Not Interoperable across   effectiveness and timeliness of close air support missions. These systems
                           are designed to allow a ground controller to input the information needed
the Services               for a ground attack into a computer and transmit this information instantly


                           Page 19                                          GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
to a computer on board an aircraft. The use of digital communication has a
number of advantages over visual or voice communication. Digital
transmissions speed up the execution of a mission and can reduce
transcription errors between the controllers and the pilots of attack
aircraft. For example, Marine Corps officials told us that the amount of
time required for transmitting and verifying coordinates could be reduced
from about 7 minutes (the time needed for voice communication) to less
than 1 minute for digital communication. Digital transmissions can also
enhance the effectiveness of a mission during darkness, in inclement
weather, or under other conditions when the ground controller may not be
in position to observe the aircraft. In addition, digital transmission systems
can transmit more detailed information, thereby improving the “situational
awareness” of both ground and air forces. For example, digital systems
can provide the ground controller’s mission computer with detailed and
constantly updated battlefield information, including the position of the
attack aircraft, verification of target acquisition, and the location of
friendly forces. According to tests performed at the Army’s National
Training Center during February 2002, the use of digitally transmitted
communication significantly improved mission performance. As figure 3
shows, this equipment allowed ground controllers to provide the correct
attack decision more often (89 to 93 percent of the time) than when they
relied on only what they could see and communicate by voice to the attack
aircraft (correct 67 percent of the time).

Figure 3. Percentage of Correct Attack Decisions for Combined Visual and Digital
Systems, Digital Systems Alone, and Visual and Voice Communication




Page 20                                              GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Digital transmission systems are currently available on only four types of
aircraft. The Air Force has installed this equipment on less than three-
quarters of its active-duty F-16 fighter aircraft12 and has procured a limited
number of portable systems for its B-52 bombers. The Marine Corps has
installed similar equipment on roughly 95 percent of its AV-8Bs and on
about 20 percent of its F/A-18s. Because of the limited number of aircraft
with this equipment, ground controllers told us that they have had few
opportunities to transmit information digitally to attack aircraft. Even
when digital transmission equipment is available on board an aircraft, it
may be incompatible with the equipment that is on the ground because the
services use different systems. This lack of interoperability across the
services reduces the equipment’s effectiveness and limits its usefulness.
Some ground controllers told us that they would hesitate to bring this
equipment to the battlefield because they would not be able to control
attack aircraft from another service. Figure 4 shows that only one (the AV-
8B) of six aircraft that currently perform the close air support mission is
fully capable of receiving digital transmissions from its own service
controllers. However, none is capable of receiving such transmissions
across service lines.

Figure 4: Digital Transmission Capabilities between Ground Controllers and
Selected Aircraft




Note: GAO analysis of DOD data.




12
  In addition to the active duty Air Force effort to enhance digital transmission capabilities,
the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard have developed the Situational Awareness
Data Link. However, primarily only Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard F-16s are
equipped with this system.




Page 21                                                      GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                             Given the uncertainties surrounding equipment interoperability, ground
                             troops and aircrews may have to resort to using multiple means of
                             communication. In Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, for
                             example, the primary means of passing targeting information from
                             controllers to attack aircraft was by voice communication. Service
                             personnel who took part in these operations stated that the use of multiple
                             modes of communication was a cause of confusion on the battlefield.

                             Recognizing that it needs to improve the interoperability of digital
                             transmission systems, DOD has developed a plan for the services to field
                             an interoperable system by 2007. This system, commonly called “Link 16,”
                             would provide an integrated air and ground display of friendly and enemy
                             battlefield positions. Link 16, as it is currently fielded, is limited to air-to-
                             air missions, but DOD plans to expand its capabilities to include the air-to-
                             ground mission. In the interim, the Air Force and Marine Corps are
                             seeking ways to improve the interoperability of their current systems by
                             developing common software applications. However, these efforts are in a
                             preliminary stage and, according to DOD officials, it will be at least 2004
                             before the interim solutions are in place.


Services’ Fielding of        The services are independently procuring a wide variety of different
Multiple Ground-Targeting    ground-targeting systems to improve their execution of close air support
Systems Do Not Take          missions. However, these service-specific purchases have not taken
                             advantage of the benefits of buying common equipment that could reduce
Advantage of Possible Cost   overall program costs.
Savings
                             The services are procuring new ground-targeting equipment to improve
                             their ability to undertake close air support missions during night
                             operations, in adverse weather conditions, and from increasingly higher
                             altitudes. In Afghanistan, for example, U.S. forces delivered precision
                             weapons from medium to high altitudes; this meant that ground
                             controllers had to determine target coordinates with precision in order to
                             maximize mission effectiveness and avoid fratricides. According to DOD
                             officials, recent technological advancements in ground-targeting
                             equipment are providing this needed precision. Figure 5 shows examples
                             of the equipment the services are procuring to enhance ground-targeting
                             capabilities.




                             Page 22                                             GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Figure 5: Selected New Ground-Targeting Equipment Procurements




Note: GAO generated based on DOD documents.


Each service has established its own program to acquire more advanced
systems to enhance the capabilities of its ground-targeting equipment. The
Air Force and Marine Corps, for example, have initiated acquisition
programs to buy equipment that will more precisely locate targets at all
levels of visibility, mark targets for attack by precision weapons, and
increase communication connectivity with all battlefield participants.
Table 2 provides an overview of the Marine Corps and Air Force programs,
which were initiated in 1997 and 1999, respectively.




Page 23                                          GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Table 2: Air Force and Marine Corps Acquisitions Programs for Ground-Targeting
Equipment

 Dollars in millions
                                                                        Program
                                   Fiscal year                           fielding
                         Total    2004 budget Examples of ground-     completion
 Service          program cost        request targeting equipment            date
 Marine Corps            $79.6          $29.8 • Laser rangefinder            2005
                                               • GPS receiver
                                               • Laser target
                                                 designator
                                               • Multiband radio
                                               • Mission computer
 Air Force                 $344         $15.1 • Laser rangefinder            2011
                                               • GPS receiver
                                               • Multiband radio
                                               • Mission computer
                                               • Infrared laser
Source: GAO.

Note: GAO analysis of DOD data.


In addition, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and U.S. Special Operations
Command have procured technologically advanced ground-targeting
equipment for their special operations forces. This equipment was used
during Operation Enduring Freedom and, according to after-action
reports, it significantly enhanced the ground controllers’ ability to identify
ground targets for attack aircraft, thereby improving mission effectiveness.

Although this equipment can improve mission effectiveness, because of
the lack of joint requirements, the services have fielded multiple types of
equipment with similar capabilities. For example, Special Operations
Command officials told us that U.S. forces used four different ground-
targeting systems in Operation Enduring Freedom. An analysis of the
services’ procurement plans shows that a variety of similar ground
targeting equipment will be fielded. For example, the services have
programmed funding to procure at least six different laser rangefinders
and four different laser target designators.

DOD has determined that equipment commonality for the mission could
reduce overall program costs for the services. The Joint Close Air Support
Executive Steering Committee, for example, recommended that the Air
Force and Marine Corps identify opportunities for multiservice
procurement of ground-targeting equipment to meet joint requirements.
U.S. Central Command officials echoed the recommendation that U.S.
forces should acquire a common set of ground-targeting equipment and


Page 24                                              GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
              further emphasized that all forces should be trained in its use and
              characteristics. However, with the services continuing to pursue individual
              programs based on service-specific requirements, DOD cannot provide
              assurances that the services are acquiring the most cost-effective systems.

              GAO has previously reported that DOD fails to consider joint solutions and
              broader mission requirements when proposing systems.13 While the
              services conduct considerable analyses in justifying major acquisitions,
              these analyses can be narrowly focused and may not fully consider
              alternative solutions, such as joint acquisition of a system with other
              services. As a result, there is no assurance that DOD and the services are
              avoiding costly duplication of systems, investing in the most cost-effective
              and affordable solutions, and optimizing mission performance.
              Furthermore, because the services plan, acquire, and operate systems to
              meet their own operational concepts, not necessarily the requirements of
              joint operations, there is no guarantee that fielded systems will operate
              together effectively. A joint acquisition strategy, based on broader mission
              requirements, would provide assurances that the services are acquiring
              systems that are cost-effective and function together during joint
              operations.


              DOD needs to provide better and more realistic training to prepare U.S.
Conclusions   forces for joint close air support operations. With forces growing lighter,
              ground commanders may need to rely more heavily on close air support.
              Even a small mistake in conducting this mission can be deadly to friendly
              forces, a tragedy we witnessed in Afghanistan. While ineffective training is
              the fundamental problem facing close air support, technological
              advancements hold promise for enhancing battlefield information.
              However, the services have pursued solutions to meet their individual
              needs, and it will be years before DOD takes advantage of the
              enhancements on a wide scale. As a result, the services are spending
              millions of dollars on uncoordinated efforts to obtain equipment, and
              different types of systems are proliferating in the field.

              DOD’s efforts to improve close air support training have met with limited
              success. DOD’s Joint Close Air Support action plan has hit several
              roadblocks—primarily because the services have been unable to agree on



              13
               U.S. General Accounting Office, Major Management Challenges and Program Risks,
              Department of Defense. GAO-03-98 (Washington, D.C.: January 2003).




              Page 25                                              GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                      joint solutions. Thus, the solutions to long-standing problems will likely
                      have to come from an organization such as the Joint Forces Command.
                      DOD and the services understand the issues, but a strong commitment
                      from senior leadership may help to implement pending action items and
                      address lingering problems. Such problems may also be indicative of
                      larger-scale training concerns in the department. DOD recognizes that
                      significant challenges exist in delivering realistic joint training to prepare
                      forces for a wide range of missions, not just close air support. DOD’s plans
                      to create a Joint National Training Capability could ultimately provide a
                      venue for better joint training. Such training is certainly needed to prepare
                      U.S. troops to conduct close air support missions.


                      To resolve the lingering training and equipment close air support issues,
Recommendations for   we recommend that the Secretary of Defense give close air support
Executive Action      priority when implementing the department’s training transformation
                      initiatives. Specifically, we recommend that the Secretary provide the
                      Commander of the Joint Forces Command with the authority and
                      resources, if necessary, to resolve the issues identified in the joint close air
                      support action plan. The Command’s actions should include

                      •   emphasizing close air support as part of the department’s new Joint
                          National Training Capability to ensure that units receive realistic joint
                          training;

                      •   seeking ways to mitigate home station training limitations, including
                          the use of simulation to augment live training; and

                      •   preparing aircraft controllers to perform in a joint environment by
                          standardizing training and certifications.

                      We further recommend that the Secretary of Defense, through the Joint
                      Forces Command or other appropriate organizational entity, review the
                      services’ plans for procuring advanced close air support equipment to
                      ensure that it is interoperable and meets valid joint requirements.


                      Because of the long-standing nature of training and equipment issues
Matters for           associated with the joint close air support mission, Congress may wish to
Congressional         consider requiring the Secretary of Defense to report on the progress the
                      department has made toward resolving the identified issues. Congress
Consideration         needs this information to ensure that U.S. forces are adequately prepared
                      to perform the mission and that the department is making cost-effective



                      Page 26                                            GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                     decisions in procuring equipment to enhance joint performance on the
                     battlefield.


                     In written comments on a draft of this report, DOD stated that it concurred
Agency Comments      with our recommendations and has tasked the U.S. Joint Forces Command
and Our Evaluation   with establishing specific completion dates for each of the issues
                     identified in the 2003 Joint Close Air Support Action Plan and to fully
                     implement them in a timely manner. DOD further stated that it would
                     provide a copy of the timetable to GAO by May 30, 2003. DOD’s comments
                     are reprinted in their entirety in appendix V.


                     We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Defense, the
                     Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Air force, the Secretary of the
                     Navy, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Director, Office of
                     Management and Budget. We will also make copies available to others
                     upon request.

                     If you have any questions, please call me on (757) 552-8100. Key
                     contributors to this report were John Pendleton, Laura Durland, Vincent
                     Balloon, Nancy Benco, Ray Carroll, Matthew Ullengren, and Lester Ward.




                     Neal P. Curtin
                     Director, Defense Capabilities and Management




                     Page 27                                          GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
             Appendix I: Scope and Methodology
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology


             To determine what efforts the Department of Defense (DOD) and the
             services have made in providing adequate training for the joint close air
             support mission, we interviewed officials at all levels of DOD from the
             Office of the Secretary of Defense, Personnel and Readiness, and unit-level
             service representatives both within the United States and overseas.
             Specifically, we met with members of the Joint Close Air Support
             Executive Steering Committee to document the actions they had been able
             to accomplish in resolving the training shortcomings listed in their 2001
             Joint Close Air Support Action Plan and to identify the reasons for their
             lack of progress. In addition, we gathered data from each service to
             determine, from the user’s perspective, what barriers were preventing
             adequate training in close air support. We also obtained the training
             curriculum from each service’s ground controller schools and analyzed
             these documents, looking for commonalities and inconsistencies. Table 3
             lists all of the major units, commands, and training facilities that we visited
             or contacted to obtain our data.

             To determine what efforts DOD has made to enhance the capabilities of
             the equipment used to support the joint close air support mission, we
             obtained the services’ acquisition strategies for the specific equipment
             they were procuring to enhance mission effectiveness. We interviewed
             service personnel and obtained documentation to verify the value these
             procurements added and to determine any barriers that would limit their
             effectiveness. Once we determined that no joint requirement existed and
             that the services were procuring interoperable digital transmission devices
             and multiple variants of ground-targeting equipment, we obtained
             documentation on the potential solutions for obtaining interoperable
             common equipment.




             Page 28                                           GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




Table 3. Units and Locations Included on This Assignment

Army                  U.S. Army Safety Center, Fort Rucker, Ala.
                      U.S. Army Aviation Center, Fort Rucker, Ala.
                      Combined Arms Center, Fort Leavenworth, Kans.
                      Center for Army Lessons Learned, Fort Leavenworth, Kans.
                      101st Air Mobile Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
                      U.S. Army Artillery Training Command, Fort Sill, Okla.
                      U.S. Army Headquarters Europe, Heidelberg, Germany
                      Eighth U.S. Army, Yongsan Post, Republic of Korea
                      2nd Infantry Division, Camp Casey, Republic of Korea
                      2nd Infantry Division, 1st Brigade, Camp Casey, Republic of
                      Korea
                      25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii
Air Force             Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va.
                      U.S. Air Force Reserve Command, Warner-Robbins Air Force
                      Base, Ga.
                      U.S. Air Force Doctrine Center, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.
                      Detachment 1, 334th Training Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
                      23rd Fighter Group, Pope Air Force Base, N.C.
                      18th Air Support Operations Group, Pope Air Force Base, N.C.
                      19th Air Support Operations Center, Fort Campbell, Ky.
                      U.S. Air Force Air Ground Operations School, Nellis Air Force
                      Base, Nev.
                      U.S. Air Force Weapons School, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
                      6th Combat Training Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
                      422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
                      Detachment 1, 28th Test Squadron, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
                      2nd Operations Support Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
                      20th Bomber Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
                      93rd Bomber Squadron (AF Reserve), Barksdale Air Force Base,
                      La.
                      96th Bomber Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
                      548th Combat Training Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
                      303rd Fighter Squadron (AF Reserve), Whiteman Air Force Base,
                      Mo.
                      457th Fighter Squadron (AF Reserve), Naval Air Station Joint
                      Reserve Base, Fort Worth, Tex.
                      706th Fighter Squadron (AF Reserve), Joint Reserve Base, New
                      Orleans, La.
                      U.S. Air Force Europe, Ramstein Air Base, Germany
                      81st Fighter Squadron, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany
                      555th Fighter Squadron, Aviano Air Base, Italy
                      32nd Air Ground Operations School, Germany
                      4th Air Support Operations Group, Germany
                      1st Air Support Operations Squadron, Germany
                      2nd Air Support Operations Squadron, Germany




Page 29                                                GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




                   Headquarter Pacific Air Forces, Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii
                   7th Air Force, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea
                   51st Operations Support Squadron, Osan Air Base, Republic of
                   Korea
                   51st Fighter Wing, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea
                   25th Air Support Operations Squadron, Hickam Air Force Base,
                   Hawaii
Navy               Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, Naval Air Station Fallon,
                   Nev.
                   U.S. Naval Safety Center, Naval Air Reserve, Norfolk, Va.
                   Naval Air Forces-Atlantic Fleet, Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.
                   Strike Fighter Wings Atlantic, Oceana Naval Air Station, Va.
                   VFA-136, Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
                   VF-211, Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
                   Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Pacific, Naval Amphibious
                   Base, Coronado, Calif.
                   U.S. Navy Europe, London, England
Marine Corps       Marine Corps, Aviation Plans, Policy, and Budget Branch,
                   Washington, D.C.
                   Marine Corps, Plans, Policy, and Operations Department,
                   Washington, D.C.
                   Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Va.
                   Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va.
                   Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, Quantico, Va.
                   Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command, Twenty-nine
                   Palms, Calif.
                   Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron-One, Yuma
                   Marine Corps Air Station, Ariz.
                   2nd Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
                   2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
                   Marine Air Group 14, Cherry Point Marine Corps Air
                   Station, N.C.
                   Marine Air Group 29, New River Marine Corps Air Station, N.C.
                   Marine Air Group 31, Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, S.C.
                   Marine Forces Pacific Command, Hawaii
Special Operations U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Fort Bragg, N.C.
                   3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, N.C.
                   5th Special Forces Group, Fort Campbell, Ky.
                   720th Special Tactics Group, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
                   19th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
                   U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
                   U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Joint              Joint Combat Identification Evaluation Team, Eglin Air Force
Organizations      Base, Fla.
                   Joint Close Air Support Joint Test & Evaluation Task Force, Eglin
                   Air Force Base, Fla.
                   The Office of the Secretary of Defense, Readiness and Training,
                   Washington, D.C.




Page 30                                                GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




                      The Joint Staff, Force Structure, Resources, and Assessments,
                      Washington, D.C.
                      U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
                      U.S. Forces Korea, Seoul, Korea
                      U.S. Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, Va.
                      U.S. Pacific Command, Hawaii
 Netherlands          Royal Netherlands Army Combat Maneuver Training Center,
                      Netherlands
Source: DOD.



We conducted our review from April 2002 through March 2003 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.




Page 31                                                GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
              Appendix II: Examples of DOD Aircraft that
Appendix II: Examples of DOD Aircraft that
              Perform Close Air Support



Perform Close Air Support

              The services use many different aircraft to deliver close air support. Table
              4 provides pictures and brief descriptions of these aircraft.

              Table 4: Close Air Support Aircraft




              Page 32                                          GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
Appendix II: Examples of DOD Aircraft that
Perform Close Air Support




Table 4: Continued




Source: DOD.




Page 33                                      GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                                             Appendix III: Joint Close Air Support
Appendix III: Joint Close Air Support        Training and Friendly Fire Accidents



Training and Friendly Fire Accidents

                                             DOD and the services identified three close air support training mishaps
                                             that resulted in fatalities since the Persian Gulf War and three official joint
                                             close air support friendly fire events. Friendly fire is a circumstance in
                                             which members of a U.S. or friendly military force are mistakenly or
                                             accidentally killed or injured in action taken by U.S. or friendly forces
                                             actively engaged with an enemy or who are directing fire at a hostile force
                                             or what is thought to be a hostile force. According to DOD personnel and
                                             the conclusions reached in the investigations, these incidents have been
                                             caused by human error, by not following established standardized
                                             procedures, and by lack of experience and training. Two well-known
                                             events did not meet our criteria and are thus excluded. The April 17, 2002,
                                             incident where an Air National Guard F-16 bombed Canadian troops did
                                             not involve air support of ground forces, so it was not close air support.
                                             Secondly, the July 1, 2002, “wedding party” incident in which civilians
                                             were killed and injured is not by definition a friendly fire incident. Table 5
                                             contains a description of the close air support friendly fire and training
                                             incidents and the status of the investigations.

Table 5. Training and Friendly Fire Incidents since the Persian Gulf War

                                                                                                                       Status of
 Date                  Location                        Description of incident                  Who was hurt           incident report
 Training Incidents
 July 18, 1995         Fort Sill, Oklahoma             An Air Force Reserve A-10 aircraft       One person was         Complete
                                                       dropped a 500-pound bomb on a            killed and 13 others
                                                       forward observation post.                injured.
 April 19, 1999        Atlantic Fleet Weapons          A Marine FA-18C dropped two 500-         One person was         Complete
                       Training Facility, Vieques      pound bombs that impacted outside        killed and 4 others
                       Island, Puerto Rico             the live impact area but within the      injured.
                                                       confines of the range.
 March 12, 2001        Udairi Range, Kuwait            A Navy F/A-18C dropped three 500-        Six people were        Complete
                                                       pound bombs on an observation post       killed and 11 others
                                                       during a night exercise.                 injured.
 Friendly Fire Incidents
 November 26, 2001     Mazar-e Sharif,                 A Navy F/A-18 aircraft dropped a joint   No fatalities and 5    Ongoing
                       Afghanistan                     direct attack munition that exploded     others injured.
                                                       near friendly forces.
 December 5, 2001      Afghanistan                     A B-52 bomber dropped a joint direct     Three people were      Complete
                                                       attack munition that exploded near       killed and 19 others
                                                       friendly forces.                         injured.
 March 2, 2002         Terghul Ghar,                   During Operation Anaconda, an AC-        One person was         Complete
                       Afghanistan                     130 engaged coalition forces,            killed and 3 others
                                                       mistaking them for the enemy.            injured.
Source: DOD.




                                             Page 34                                                      GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                             Appendix IV: 2001 Joint Close
Appendix IV: 2001 Joint Close Air Support
                             Air Support Action Plan



Action Plan

              The 2001 Joint Close Air Support Action Plan contained 15 action items.
              All of the items originally had completion dates tasked within fiscal year
              2002. However, 12 of them have not yet been completed, and the executive
              steering committee has recommended that they transition into the updated
              2003 action plan. Table 6 lists the action items for 2001, their original
              estimated completion dates, and whether the action item has been
              completed.

              Table 6. Status of Fiscal Year 2001 Action Items

                                                                   Original date
               Action items                                        for completion     Completed
               Standardize ground controller training.             Jan. 2002
               Standardize airborne controller training.           Mar. 2002
               Expand air liaison officer course.                  Dec. 2001
               Expand fire support element curriculum.             Jan. 2002
               Produce joint mission essential task lists.         Feb. 2002
               Establish joint integrated training plans.          Jan. 2002
               Increase use of simulated training.                 Jan. 2002
               Increase joint exercises.                           Feb. 2002
               Include new concepts in joint publication 3-09.3.   Periodic           Yes
               Update service tactic techniques and procedures     Sep. 2002
               to reflect joint publication 3-09.3 revisions.
               Develop new concepts experiments to validate        Feb. 2002
               systems and procedures.
               Publish a capstone requirements document.           Aug. 2002          Yes
               Explore joint Air Force-Marine Corps ground         May. 2002
               controller equipment procurement.
               Standardize symbols and graphics.                   Apr. 2002
               Coordinate with Combat Identification action plan   Apr. 2002          Yes
               team on overlapping issues.
              Source: GAO.

              Note: GAO analysis of DOD data.


              In addition to the 12 remaining items, of which 2 have been combined, the
              executive steering committee has proposed adding 3 new items to the
              updated plan. These are the inclusion of unmanned aerial vehicles in joint
              close air support operations, an increased emphasis on precision targeting,
              and an increase in live sortie and artillery resources.




              Page 35                                                 GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                   Appendix V: Comments from the Department
Appendix V: Comments from the Department
                   of Defense



of Defense




         Page 36                                              GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
          Appendix V: Comments from the Department
          of Defense




Page 37                                              GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
          Appendix V: Comments from the Department
          of Defense




Page 38                                              GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
                     Appendix V: Comments from the Department
                     of Defense




(350192)
           Page 39                                              GAO-03-505 Military Readiness
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