oversight

Military Personnel: A Strategic Approach Is Needed to Improve Joint Officer Development

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-03-19.

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

                                 United States General Accounting Office

GAO                              Testimony
                                 Before the Subcommittee on Total Force,
                                 Committee on Armed Services, House of
                                 Representatives

For Release on Delivery
Expected at 2:00 p.m. a.m. EST
Wednesday, March 19, 2003        MILITARY PERSONNEL
                                 A Strategic Approach Is
                                 Needed to Improve Joint
                                 Officer Development
                                 Statement of Derek B. Stewart, Director, Defense
                                 Capabilities and Management




GAO-03-548T
                                                March 19, 2003


                                                MILITARY PERSONNEL

                                                A Strategic Approach Is Needed to
Highlights of GAO-03-548T, a testimony
before the Subcommittee on Total Force,
                                                Improve Joint Officer Development
Committee on Armed Services, House of
Representatives




 The Department of Defense (DOD)                DOD has not taken a strategic approach to develop officers in joint matters.
 has increasingly engaged in                    It has not identified how many joint specialty officers it needs, and it has not
 multiservice and multinational                 yet, within a total force concept, fully addressed how it will provide joint
 operations. Congress enacted the               officer development to reserve officers who are serving in joint
 Goldwater-Nichols Department of                organizations – despite the fact that no significant operation can be
 Defense Reorganization Act of
 1986, in part, so that DOD’s military
                                                conducted without reserve involvement.
 leaders would be better prepared
 to plan, support, and conduct joint            As of fiscal year 2001, DOD has promoted more officers with previous joint
 operations. GAO assessed DOD                   experience to the general and flag officer pay grades that it did in fiscal year
 actions to implement provisions in             1995. However, in fiscal year 2001, DOD still relied on allowable waivers in
 the law that address the                       lieu of joint experience to promote one in four officers to these senior pay
 development of officers in joint               grades. (See figure below.) Furthermore, DOD is still not fully meeting
 matters and evaluated impediments              provisions to promote mid-grade officers who are serving or who have
 affecting DOD’s ability to fully               served in joint positions at rates not less than the promotion rates of their
 respond to the provisions in the               peers who have not served in joint positions. Between fiscal years 1995 and
 act.                                           2001, DOD met more than 90 percent of its promotion goals for officers who
                                                served on the Joint Staff, almost 75 percent of its promotion goals for joint
                                                specialty officers, and just over 70 percent of its promotion goals for all
 GAO is not making new                          other officers who served in joint positions.
 recommendations in this
 testimony. However, GAO did                    DOD has met provisions in the act that require it to develop officers in joint
 recommend, in a report that it                 matters through education by establishing a two-phased joint professional
 issued in December 2002                        military education program. The act, however, did not establish specific
 (GAO-03-238), that the Under                   numerical requirements, and DOD has also not determined the number of
 Secretary of Defense for Personnel             officers who should complete the joint education. In fiscal year 2001, only
 and Readiness develop a strategic              one-third of the officers who were serving in joint organizations had
 plan that links joint officer                  completed both phases of the education. DOD has also increasingly relied
 development to DOD’s overall
                                                on allowable waivers and has not filled all of its critical joint duty positions
 mission and goals. DOD concurred
 with the recommendation.                       with officers who hold a joint specialty designation. This number reached an
                                                all-time high in fiscal year 2001 when DOD did not fill 311, or more than one-
                                                third, of its 808 critical joint duty positions with joint specialty officers.

                                                Percentage of Officers Promoted to General or Flag Rank with Joint Experience between
                                                Fiscal Years 1995 and 2001




 www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-548T.

 To view the full report, including the scope
 and methodology, click on the link above.
 For more information, contact Derek B.
 Stewart at (202) 512-5140 or
 stewartd@gao.gov.
Chairman McHugh and Members of the Subcommittee,

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this Subcommittee to
discuss the implementation of legislative provisions addressing joint
officer development that are contained in the Goldwater-Nichols
Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986.1 Prior to 1986, the
Department of Defense (DOD) primarily operated under a culture in which
the four military services educated their officers in service-specific
matters, assigned their most talented officers to key service positions, and
promoted them to leadership positions within their own service. This
arrangement served DOD well when military operations fell primarily
within the capabilities of one of the military branches. Given that DOD
was increasingly moving toward engaging in joint – multiservice and
multinational – operations, however, Congress recognized that cultural
change was needed to move DOD away from its service parochialisms
toward interservice cooperation and coordination. Congress also believed
that DOD needed to better prepare its military leaders to plan, support,
and conduct joint operations.

Toward that end, Mr. Chairman, the act has been hailed as landmark
legislation, given the significance of the cultural change that it was
designed to achieve, and DOD has, in fact, subsequently issued joint vision
statements that anticipate an armed force that will be “fully joint:
intellectually, operationally, organizationally, doctrinally, and technically.”2
During the 16 years since the act’s passage, however, DOD has repeatedly
sought legislative relief from the act’s provisions that address the
development of officers in joint matters and, although it has complied with
many of these provisions, it is still experiencing difficulties in
implementing some of its joint officer development programs and policies.

Mr. Chairman, in our recently issued report to you on joint officer
development, we recommended that DOD develop a strategic plan that
will link joint officer development to DOD’s overall mission and goals.3
My statement today will address (1) the need for DOD to develop this
strategic plan, (2) the successes and limitations that DOD has experienced


1
    Pub. L. 99-433, Oct. 1, 1986.
2
    Department of Defense, Joint Vision 2010 and Joint Vision 2020, Washington, D.C.
3
 U.S. General Accounting Office, Military Personnel: Joint Officer Development Has
Improved, but a Strategic Approach Is Needed, GAO-03-238 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 19,
2002).



Page 1                                                                     GAO-03-548T
          in promoting officers who have previous joint experience, and (3) the
          challenges DOD has experienced in educating its officers in joint matters
          and then filling key positions with officers who have the requisite joint
          education and experience.


          A significant impediment affecting DOD’s ability to fully realize the
Summary   cultural change that was envisioned by the act is the fact that DOD has not
          taken a strategic approach to develop officers in joint matters. For
          example, DOD has not identified how many joint specialty officers it needs
          and, at the time of our review, DOD had not yet, within a total force
          concept, fully addressed how it will provide joint officer development to
          reserve officers who are serving in joint organizations – despite the fact
          that no significant operation can be conducted without reserve
          involvement. In addition, the four services have emphasized joint officer
          development to varying degrees.

          As of fiscal year 2001, DOD has, in response to the requirements of the act,
          promoted more officers with previous joint experience to the general and
          flag officer pay grades than it did in fiscal year 1995. However, in fiscal
          year 2001, DOD still relied on allowable waivers in lieu of joint experience
          to promote one in four officers to these senior pay grades. Furthermore,
          DOD has made progress, but it is still not fully meeting provisions to
          promote mid-grade officers (majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels in
          the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps and lieutenant commanders,
          commanders, and captains in the Navy) who are serving or who have
          served in joint positions at rates not less than the promotion rates of their
          peers who have not served in joint positions. Between fiscal years 1995
          and 2001, DOD met more than 90 percent of its promotion goals for
          officers who served on the Joint Staff, almost 75 percent of its promotion
          goals for joint specialty officers, and just over 70 percent of its promotion
          goals for all other officers who served in joint positions.

          DOD has met provisions in the act that require it to develop officers in
          joint matters through education by establishing a two-phased joint
          professional military education program. The act, however, did not
          establish specific numerical requirements, and DOD has also not
          determined the number of officers who should complete the joint
          education program. In fiscal year 2001, only one-third of the officers who
          were serving in joint organizations had completed both phases of the
          education. DOD has also increasingly relied on allowable waivers and has
          not filled all of its critical joint duty positions with officers who hold a
          joint specialty designation. This number reached an all-time high in fiscal

          Page 2                                                           GAO-03-548T
             year 2001 when DOD did not fill 311, or more than one-third, of its
             808 critical joint duty positions with joint specialty officers.

             In a letter dated January 28, 2003, the Under Secretary of Defense for
             Personnel and Readiness concurred with our recommendation that DOD
             develop a strategic plan that links joint officer development to DOD’s
             overall mission and goals.


             The intent of the Goldwater-Nichols Act was, in part, to reorganize DOD
Background   into a more unified military structure. Within that act, Congress included
             several provisions that specifically address the promotion of officers
             serving in joint positions, the education of officers in joint matters,4 and
             their assignment to joint organizations. The act also established a joint
             specialty officer designation for officers who are specifically trained in
             and oriented toward joint matters.5 Although the act contains a number of
             specific requirements, Congress also provided DOD with flexibility in
             meeting the requirements by granting it waiver authority when it can
             demonstrate justification.6 DOD approves waivers on a case-specific basis.
             These waivers apply to a number of the provisions, including (1) the
             methods for designating joint specialty officers, (2) the posteducation
             assignments for joint specialty officers, (3) the assignment of joint
             specialty officers to critical joint duty positions, and (4) the promotions of
             officers to the general and flag officer pay grades.

             Moreover, Congress has issued follow-on reports and made changes to the
             law in subsequent legislation. For example, a congressional panel on


             4
               Congress defined joint matters as those matters relating to the integrated employment of
             land, sea, and air forces, including matters relating to national military strategy, strategic
             planning and contingency planning, and command and control of combat operations under
             unified command. 10 U.S.C. sec. 668.
             5
               There are four methods for an officer to be selected for the joint specialty: (1) An officer
             completes joint professional military education and subsequently serves in a joint position;
             (2) An officer who has a military occupational specialty, which is a critical occupational
             specialty involving combat operations, serves in a joint position and then completes the
             joint professional military education program; (3) An officer serves in a joint position and
             then completes the joint professional military education, provided the Secretary of Defense
             determines a waiver is in the interest of sound personnel management; and (4) An officer
             completes two joint assignments and the Secretary of Defense waives the joint education
             requirement. A numerical limitation on the last two waivers is specified in the law.
             10 U.S.C. sec. 661.
             6
                 10 U.S.C. secs. 619a (b), 661 (c)(3) and (d)(2)(C), 663 (d).



             Page 3                                                                          GAO-03-548T
military education issued a report in April 1989 that contained numerous
recommendations regarding joint professional military education.7 Among
other things, this panel recommended that the services’ professional
military education schools teach both service and joint matters and that
the student body and faculty at each of the service schools include officers
from the other services. DOD has implemented these recommendations.
Most recently, Congress amended the law regarding the promotion criteria
for officers being considered for promotion to the general and flag officer
pay grades.8 The Goldwater-Nichols Act established a requirement that
officers must have served in a joint position prior to being selected for
these promotions. The amendment, contained in the National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, will require most officers being
considered for appointment to this grade after September 30, 2007, to
complete the joint education program as well.

DOD uses a number of multiservice and multinational commands and
organizations to plan and support joint matters. Since passage of the
Goldwater-Nichols Act, officers serving in these commands and
organizations have overseen a number of joint and multinational military
operations that range from humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping to
major operations such as Operation Desert Storm and ongoing operations
in Afghanistan. In fiscal year 2001, DOD had a total of 9,146 joint positions.
Of these positions, 3,400 positions, or 37 percent, were allocated to the Air
Force; 3,170 positions, or 35 percent, were allocated to the Army;
2,004 positions, or 22 percent, were allocated to the Navy; and
572 positions, or 6 percent, were allocated to the Marine Corps.

Officers in pay grades O-4 (majors in the Air Force, Army, and Marine
Corps and lieutenant commanders in the Navy) and above can receive
credit for joint experience when they serve in the Joint Staff, joint
geographic and functional commands, combined forces commands, and
defense agencies. In addition, the Secretary of Defense has the authority to
award joint credit to officers for serving in certain joint task force
headquarters staffs.9 DOD has developed a joint duty assignment list that
includes all active duty positions in pay grades O-4 and above in the



7
 Report of the Panel on Military Education of the 100th Congress, Committee on Armed
Services, House of Representatives, April 21, 1989.
8
    Pub. L. 107-107, Div. A, Title V, sec. 525 (a), (b), Dec. 28, 2001.
9
    10 U.S.C. sec. 664 (i).



Page 4                                                                    GAO-03-548T
                        multiservice organizations that are involved in or support the integrated
                        employment of the armed forces. DOD’s policy places limits on the
                        number of positions in the defense agencies and other jointly staffed
                        activities that can be included on the list.

                        DOD uses a two-phased approach to educate officers in joint matters. It
                        incorporated the first phase of the program into the curricula of the
                        services’ intermediate- and senior-level professional military education
                        schools.10 DOD offers the second phase of the program at the National
                        Defense University’s Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. This
                        phase is designed to provide officers with the opportunity to study in a
                        truly joint environment and to apply the knowledge they gained during the
                        first phase of their joint education. DOD also offers a combined program
                        that includes both phases at the National Defense University’s National
                        War College and Industrial College of the Armed Forces in Washington,
                        D.C.



                        A significant impediment affecting DOD’s ability to fully realize the
Lack of a Strategic     cultural change that was envisioned by the act is the fact that DOD has not
Approach Is             taken a strategic approach that establishes clear goals for officer
                        development in joint matters and links those goals to DOD’s overall
Contributing to DOD’s   mission and goals. This lack of an overarching vision or strategy may
Difficulties to Fully   continue to hamper DOD’s ability to make continued progress in this area.
                        A well-developed human capital strategy would provide a means for
Respond to the Act’s    aligning all elements of DOD’s human capital management, including joint
Intent                  officer development, with its broader organizational objectives.

                        The Goldwater-Nichols Act not only defined new duty positions and
                        educational requirements but also envisioned a new culture that is truly
                        oriented toward joint matters. Moreover, DOD’s Joint Vision 2020 portrays
                        a future in which the armed forces are “fully joint: intellectually,
                        operationally, organizationally, doctrinally, and technically.” The key
                        question, today, is how does DOD best seize the opportunity to build on
                        current momentum. In April 2002, the Office of the Secretary of Defense


                        10
                           These schools include the Air Command and Staff College and the Air War College in
                        Montgomery, Alabama; the Army Command and General Staff College in Leavenworth,
                        Kansas; the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania; the Marine Corps Command and
                        Staff College and the Marine Corps War College in Quantico, Virginia; and the College of
                        Naval Command and Staff and the College of Naval Warfare in Newport, Rhode Island.



                        Page 5                                                                      GAO-03-548T
issued the Military Personnel Human Resource Strategic Plan to establish
military priorities for the next several years. The new military personnel
strategy captures DOD leadership’s guidance regarding aspects of
managing human capital, but the strategy’s linkage to the overall mission
and programmatic goals is not stated. DOD’s human capital strategy does
not address the vision cited in Joint Vision 2020. DOD’s human capital
approach to joint officer development – if it were linked to its overall
mission – would emphasize individuals with the knowledge, skills, and
abilities needed to function in the joint environment.

DOD, for example, has not fully assessed how many joint specialty officers
it actually needs. The number of joint specialty officers has decreased by
almost 60 percent over the years, from just over 12,400 joint specialty
officers in fiscal year 1990 to approximately 4,900 joint specialty officers in
fiscal year 2001, yet DOD has a significant backlog of officers who,
although otherwise qualified, have not been designated as joint specialty
officers. Moreover, without knowing how many joint specialty officers it
needs, DOD’s joint professional military education system may not be
structured or targeted properly. For example, without first defining how
many officers should be joint specialty officers – all officers, most officers,
or only those needed to fill joint positions – DOD has not been able to
determine the number of joint professional military graduates it needs.
DOD does not know if the total number of available seats is sufficient to
meet its needs or if it will need to explore alternatives for providing joint
education to greater numbers of officers.

The Goldwater-Nichols Act states that the Secretary of Defense should
establish personnel policies for reserve officers that emphasize education
and experience in joint matters.11 However, at the time of our review, the
Secretary of Defense had not yet, within a total force concept, fully
addressed how it will provide joint officer development to reserve officers
who are serving in joint organizations – despite the fact that no significant
operation can be conducted without reserve involvement. Providing
education in joint matters to reservists has become increasingly important
since 1986, given that DOD has increasingly relied on reservists in the
conduct of its mission. Further, with 1.2 million reservists in seven
components, they represent almost half of our nation’s total force. When
the act was enacted, reservists were viewed primarily as an expansion
force that would supplement active forces during a major war. In addition,


11
     10 U.S.C. sec. 666.



Page 6                                                            GAO-03-548T
                      the current mobilization for the war on terrorism is adding to this
                      increased use and is expected to last a long time. We interviewed officers
                      at several joint organizations and found that reservists are serving in
                      positions at all levels from the Chief of Staff at one command down to the
                      mid-grade officer positions. Moreover, DOD has identified 2,904 additional
                      positions that it will fill with reservists when it operates under mobilized
                      conditions.

                      Moreover, data suggest that the four services continue to struggle to
                      balance joint requirements against their own service needs and vary in the
                      degree of importance that they place on joint education, assignments, and
                      promotions. The Air Force, for example, has been able to send a higher
                      percentage of its officers to a joint position after the officers attend a joint
                      professional military education school. In fiscal year 2001, 44 percent of
                      Air Force officers serving in joint positions had previously attended a joint
                      professional military education school. In contrast, 38 percent of Army
                      officers and 33 percent of Navy and Marine Corps officers serving in joint
                      positions had attended a joint professional military education school prior
                      to their joint assignments.


                      The Goldwater-Nichols Act set a requirement that officers must complete
DOD Is Promoting      a full tour of duty in a joint assignment, or receive a waiver, prior to being
Officers with Joint   selected for appointment to the general and flag officer pay grade.12
Experience with       DOD’s reliance on good-of-the-service waivers,13 in particular, to promote
Mixed Results         officers who had not previously served in joint positions is one indicator
                      of how DOD is promoting its general and flag officers. The service
                      secretaries request use of this waiver authority when they believe they
                      have sound justification for promoting an officer who (1) has not
                      completed a full tour of duty in a joint position and (2) does not qualify for



                      12
                         The Secretary of Defense may waive the requirement for (1) officers when the selection
                      is necessary for the good of the service; (2) officers with scientific and technical
                      qualifications for which joint requirements do not exist; (3) medical officers, dental
                      officers, veterinary officers, medical service officers, nurses, biomedical officers, chaplains,
                      or judge advocates; (4) officers who had served at least 180 days in a joint assignment at
                      the time the selection board convened and the officers’ total consecutive service in joint
                      duty positions within that immediate organization is not less than 2 years, and (5) officers
                      who served in a joint assignment prior to 1987 that involved significant duration of not less
                      than 12 months. 10 U.S.C. sec. 619a (b).
                      13
                           10 U.S.C. sec. 619a (b)(1).



                      Page 7                                                                          GAO-03-548T
promotion through one of the other four specific waivers. We analyzed the
extent to which DOD has relied on this waiver category to promote its
senior officers because these waivers apply most directly to the population
of general and flag officers who are likely to be assigned to senior
leadership positions in joint organizations.

DOD approved 185 good-of-the-service waivers, representing 11 percent of
the 1,658 promotions to the general and flag officer pay grades, between
fiscal years 1989 and 2001. Specifically, DOD approved 10 or more good-of-
the-service waivers each year between fiscal years 1989 and 1998 and only
3 to 7 waivers in fiscal years 1999 through 2001. The Secretary of Defense
has paid particular attention to this waiver category and, in 2000,
established a policy that restricts the use of good-of-the-service waivers to
10 percent of total promotions to the general and flag officer pay grades
each year.14 In the 2 years since the Secretary of Defense issued limitations
on the use of these waivers, DOD has used them in about
5 percent of its promotions. Our analysis of general and flag officer
promotions showed that, between fiscal years 1995 and 2000, the Marine
Corps used good-of-the-service waivers to promote 19 percent of its
officers to brigadier general. The Army used this waiver authority for
17 percent of its promotions, and the Navy used the authority for
13 percent of its promotions. In contrast, the Air Force only requested one
good-of-the-service waiver during that time period.

For most appointments to the general and flag level made after September
30, 2007, officers will have to meet the requirements expected of a joint
specialty officer.15 This means that most officers, in addition to completing
a full tour of duty in a joint position, will also have to complete DOD’s
joint education program as well.16 Our analysis of the 124 general and flag
officers promoted in fiscal year 2001 showed that 58 officers, or
47 percent, had not fulfilled the joint specialty officer requirements. These
58 officers included 18 of 43 officers promoted in the Air Force, 18 of
40 officers promoted in the Army, 19 of 33 officers promoted in the Navy,
and 3 of the 8 officers promoted in the Marine Corps.



14
     Secretary of Defense memorandum dated July 6, 2000.
15
     10 U.S.C. sec. 619a (a)(2).
16
  The existing waiver authority remains unchanged by the amendments made to 10 U.S.C.
sec. 619a (a) by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002. Pub. L. 107-
107, Div A, Title V, sec. 525, Dec. 28, 2001.



Page 8                                                                       GAO-03-548T
We also analyzed DOD’s use of the four additional waiver categories. As of
fiscal year 2001, DOD has been promoting more officers who had the
requisite joint experience to the general and flag officer pay grades than it
did in fiscal year 1995. In fiscal year 2001, however, DOD still relied on
allowable waivers in lieu of joint experience to promote one in four
officers to these senior pay grades. Figure 1 shows that the percentage of
officers who were selected for promotion to the general and flag officer
pay grades, and who had previous joint experience, rose from 51 percent
in fiscal year 1995 to 80 percent in fiscal year 1999. Figure 1 also shows,
however, that DOD experienced slight increases in the use of waivers in
fiscal years 2000 and 2001.

Figure 1: Percentage of Officers Promoted to General or Flag Rank with Joint
Experience between Fiscal Years 1995 and 2001




DOD has made progress, but is still not fully meeting provisions to
promote mid-grade officers (majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels in
the Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps and lieutenant commanders,
commanders, and captains in the Navy) who are serving or who have
served in joint positions at rates not less than the promotion rates of their
peers who have not served in joint positions. The Goldwater-Nichols Act


Page 9                                                               GAO-03-548T
established promotion policy objectives for officers serving in pay grades
O-4 and above who (1) are serving on or have served on the Joint Staff,
(2) are designated as joint specialty officers, and (3) are serving or have
served in other joint positions.

DOD has been most successful in meeting the promotion objective set for
officers assigned to the Joint Staff. The act established an expectation that
officers who are serving or have served on the Joint Staff be promoted, as
a group, at a rate not less that the rate of officers who are serving or have
served in their service headquarters. 17 Between fiscal years 1995 and 2001,
DOD met this objective 92 percent of the time.

The act further established an expectation that joint specialty officers, as a
group, be promoted at a rate not less than the rate of officers who are
serving or have served in their service headquarters.18 Between fiscal years
1995 and 2001, DOD met this promotion objective 74 percent of the time.
Where DOD did not meet its promotion objective was somewhat random,
and we were not able to attribute problem areas to specific pay grades or
services. This standard has been temporarily reduced, and, through
December 2004, DOD is required to promote joint specialty officers, as a
group, at a rate not less than the rate for other officers in the same service,
pay grade, and competitive category. We also compared the promotion
rates of joint specialty officers against this lower standard and found that,
with few exceptions, DOD would have met this standard between fiscal
years 1988 and 2001.

DOD has made less significant improvement in meeting its promotion
objective for officers assigned to other joint organizations.19 The act
established an expectation that officers who are serving or have served in
joint positions be promoted, as a group, at a rate not less than the rate for


17
  The Goldwater-Nichols Act states that “officers who are serving on, or have served on,
the Joint Staff are expected, as a group, to be promoted to the next higher grade at a rate
not less than the rate for officers of the same armed force in the same grade and
competitive category who are serving on, or have served on, the headquarters staff of their
armed force.” 10 U.S.C. sec 662 (a) (1).
18
  The Goldwater-Nichols Act states that “officers who have the joint specialty are
expected, as a group, to be promoted at a rate not less than the rate for officers of the same
armed force in the same grade and competitive category who are serving on, or have
served on, the headquarters staff of their armed force.” 10 U.S.C. sec. 662 (a)(2).
19
  This category excludes officers who have served on the Joint Staff and joint specialty
officers.



Page 10                                                                        GAO-03-548T
                      all officers in their service.20 Between fiscal years 1995 and 2001, DOD met
                      this objective 71 percent of the time. With few exceptions during the last
                      7 years, all services met the promotion objective for their officers being
                      promoted to the O-5 pay grade who are assigned to other joint
                      organizations. However, the services have had significant difficulty
                      meeting the promotion objectives for their officers being promoted to the
                      O-6 pay grade. For example, the Navy has failed to meet this objective for
                      its O-6 officers since fiscal year 1988, and the Army has only met this
                      promotion objective twice – in fiscal years 1995 and 2001 – since fiscal
                      year 1988. The Air Force has generally met this objective for its officers at
                      the O-6 pay grade, but it has not met this objective in the past 4 years.
                      Conversely, the Marine Corps had difficulty in meeting this promotion
                      objective for its officers at the O-6 pay grade between fiscal years 1988 and
                      1994, but it met this objective in every year until fiscal year 2001.


                      One of the provisions in the Goldwater-Nichols Act requires DOD to
Positive Actions      develop officers, in part, through education in joint matters.21 Accordingly,
Taken, but Gaps       DOD has defined joint education requirements in terms of a two-phased
                      program in joint matters. Furthermore, the Secretary of Defense is
Remain in Education   required to educate sufficient numbers of officers so that approximately
and Assignments       one-half of the joint positions are filled at any time by officers who have
                      either successfully completed the joint professional education program or
                      received an allowable waiver to complete the education after their
                      assignment.22 The act, however, did not identify a specific numerical
                      requirement and, similarly, DOD has not established numerical goals
                      concerning the number of officers who should complete joint professional
                      military education.

                      According to DOD data, only one-third of the officers serving in joint
                      positions in fiscal year 2001 had received both phases of the joint
                      education program. This is due, in large part, to space and facility
                      limitations at the National Defense University Schools that provide the



                      20
                         The Goldwater-Nichols Act states that “officers who are serving in, or have served in,
                      joint duty assignments (other than officers covered in paragraphs (1) and (2)) are
                      expected, as a group, to be promoted to the next higher grade at a rate not less than the
                      rate for all officers of the same armed force in the same grade and competitive category.”
                      10 U.S.C. sec. 662 (a) (3).
                      21
                           10 U.S.C. sec. 661 (c).
                      22
                           10 U.S.C. sec. 661 (b) and (d).



                      Page 11                                                                       GAO-03-548T
second phase. Although DOD assigns approximately 3,000 active duty
officers to joint positions each year, the three schools, collectively, have
about 1,200 seats available for active duty officers.

Furthermore, the Joint Forces Staff College, from which most officers
receive the second phase, is currently operating at 83 percent of its
906-seat capacity. Moreover, the number of unfilled seats at the Joint
Forces Staff College has risen significantly in recent years, from a low of
12 empty seats in fiscal year 1998 to a high of 154 empty seats in fiscal year
2001. DOD officials cited pressing needs to assign officers to the
increasing number of military operations as the major reason for these
vacancies. A Joint Staff officer responsible for joint education expressed
concern about the services’ ability to fill seats in the future due to the
ongoing war on terrorism.

Logistics, timing, and budget issues are also making it difficult for officers
to attend the second phase of the joint education program. The Joint
Forces Staff College offers the second phase three times during the year
and, by law, may not be less than 3 months.23 The Joint Forces Staff
College can only accommodate approximately 300 students in each
3-month term and does not have the space to receive all of the service
professional military education school graduates at the same time. Given
that, officers can report to their joint position after completing the first
phase and subsequently attend the second phase on a temporary duty
basis at some point during their assignment. However, officers and senior
leaders at the sites we visited told us that their joint commands cannot
afford a 3-month gap in a position due to pressing schedules and workload
demands. Officers serving on the Joint Staff told us that a former
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had instituted a policy that the Joint
Staff would not send officers to the Joint Forces Staff College – or to any
other training lasting more than 30 days – after they reported to the Joint
Staff for duty. DOD officials confirmed this and explained that the former
chairman instituted this policy with the expectation that the services
would send their officers to the second phase of the education before
sending them to their Joint Staff assignments. The services, however, are
still not sending all officers to the second phase before they assign officers
to the Joint Staff. In addition to logistics and timing issues, related budget
issues exist. When an officer attends the second phase en route to a joint
command, the officer’s service pays the expenses associated with sending


23
     10 U.S.C. sec. 663 (e).



Page 12                                                           GAO-03-548T
the officer to the Joint Forces Staff College. When the officer attends the
program midtour, the joint organization pays the expenses.

In addition, considerable variation exists among the services in terms of
the number of officers each service sends to the Joint Forces Staff College.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has directed that the seats be
allocated among the services in accordance with the distribution of
service positions on the joint duty assignment list. The percentage of seats
reserved for each service at the school does, in fact, reflect the distribution
on the list. However, while the Air Force filled almost 98 percent and the
Marine Corps 91 percent of their allocated seats in academic year 2001, the
Army filled only 77 percent of its seats and the Navy filled only 67 percent
of its seats. Moreover, vacancy rates for the Army and the Navy have, for
the most part, increased between academic years 1996 and 2001.

The Goldwater-Nichols Act, as amended, further requires DOD to
designate at least 800 joint positions as critical joint duty positions24 –
positions where the duties and responsibilities are such that it is highly
important that officers assigned to the positions are particularly trained in,
and oriented toward, joint matters. DOD has met this requirement and has
designated 808 positions as critical joint duty positions. However, DOD is
also required to place only joint specialty officers in these positions unless
the Secretary exercises his waiver authority.25 DOD has increasingly used
its waiver authority to meet this requirement. The percentage of critical
joint duty positions that were filled by officers other than joint specialty
officers steadily increased from 9 percent in fiscal year 1996 to 38 percent
in fiscal year 2001. This number reached an all-time high in fiscal year
2001, when DOD did not fill 311, or more than one-third, of its critical joint
duty positions with joint specialty officers. In addition, DOD has left other
critical joint duty positions vacant. The percentage of unfilled critical joint
duty positions has steadily increased from 8 percent in fiscal year 1989 to
22 percent in fiscal year 2001. Therefore, only 331 positions, or 41 percent,
of the 808 critical joint duty positions were filled by joint specialty officers
in fiscal year 2001.




24
  The act originally required the Secretary to designate no fewer than 1,000 critical joint
duty positions, but the act was amended in 1996 by Public Law 104-106 section 501(a) to
reduce the number to 800. 10 U.S.C. sec. 661 (d)(2)(A).
25
     10 U.S.C. sec. 661 (d)(2)(B) and (C).



Page 13                                                                        GAO-03-548T
The services fill these critical joint duty positions with officers who have
both the joint specialty designation and the appropriate primary military
skill, any additional required skills, and pay grade. However, when (1) no
joint specialty officer with the other requisite skills is available for
assignment (e.g., pay grade and military occupation) or (2) the best-
qualified candidate is not a joint specialty officer, a waiver must be
approved to fill the position with an otherwise qualified officer. Service
and Joint Staff officials explained DOD’s inability to fill a critical position
with a joint specialty officer may be due to the fact that the critical joint
duty position description may not reflect the commander’s needs at the
time the position is filled. These officials told us that the most frequently
cited reason for requesting an allowable waiver was because the
commander believed that the best-qualified officer for the position was not
a joint specialty officer.

In addition, DOD’s population of joint specialty officers may not be
sufficient to meet this requirement. By fiscal year 1990, DOD had
designated just over 12,400 officers, who already had the joint education
and experience, as joint specialty officers. However, DOD experienced a
56 percent decrease in its joint specialty officers between fiscal years 1990
and 1997 and has experienced moderate decreases in fiscal years 2000 and
2001. By fiscal year 2001, DOD had approximately 4,900 designated joint
specialty officers. Officials on the Joint Staff attributed the decreases in
the early years to the fact that the attrition of officers who received the
designation in fiscal year 1990 has exceeded the number of new
designations of joint specialty officers. DOD officials also projected that
they would need to designate approximately 800 new joint specialty
officers each year to maintain its current population. Our review of data
since fiscal year 1990 found that DOD only met this projection in fiscal
years 1998, 1999, and 2001. Figure 2 shows the number of new
designations of joint specialty officers each year and the total number of
joint specialty officers for fiscal years 1990 through 2001.




Page 14                                                           GAO-03-548T
Figure 2: Number of Officers Designated Annually as Joint Specialty Officers and
Total Number of Joint Specialty Officers for Fiscal Years 1990 through 2001




Officials told us that DOD has been selective in nominating and
designating officers for the joint specialty because of the promotion
objectives specified in the law. Officials noted that as a result, the
population of joint specialty officers has been small. The act requires the
services to promote joint specialty officers, as a group, at a rate not less
than the rate of officers being promoted who are serving on, or have
served on, the headquarters staff of their service.26 This higher promotion
standard is applied to joint specialty officers from the time they receive
the joint specialty designation until they are considered for or promoted to
pay grade O-6. DOD sought relief from this provision and, in December
2001, Congress reduced the standard for 3 years. During this 3-year period,
the services are to promote joint specialty officers at a rate not less than
the promotion rates of all other officers being promoted from the same
military service, pay grade, and competitive category. Currently, about
2,700 officers meet the joint specialty officer qualifications but have not
been designated, and DOD, given this change in the law, is in the process



26
     10 U.S.C. sec. 662 (a)(2).



Page 15                                                              GAO-03-548T
           of designating these officers. Once they are designated, DOD will have a
           population of about 7,600 joint specialty officers.

           In a letter dated January 28, 2003, the Under Secretary of Defense for
           Personnel and Readiness concurred with our recommendation that DOD
           develop a strategic plan that links joint officer development to DOD’s
           overall mission and goals.

           Mr. Chairman, this completes my prepared statement. I would be happy to
           respond to any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may
           have at this time.

           Contacts and Acknowledgments

           For questions about this statement, please contact Derek B. Stewart at
           (202) 512-5140 (e-mail address: Stewartd@gao.gov) or Brenda S. Farrell at
           (202) 512-3604 (e-mail address: Farrellb@gao.gov). Individuals making key
           contributions to this testimony included David E. Moser and
           Ann M. Ulrich.




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