oversight

Urgent Warfighter Needs: Opportunities Exist to Expedite Development and Fielding of Joint Capabilities

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-04-24.

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

             United States Government Accountability Office

GAO          Report to Congressional Requesters




April 2012
             URGENT
             WARFIGHTER
             NEEDS
             Opportunities Exist to
             Expedite
             Development and
             Fielding of Joint
             Capabilities




GAO-12-385
                                                April 2012

                                                URGENT WARFIGHTER NEEDS
                                                Opportunities Exist to Expedite Development and
                                                Fielding of Joint Capabilities
Highlights of GAO-12-385, a report to
congressional requesters




Why GAO Did This Study                          What GAO Found
With the conflicts in Iraq and                  A majority of the initiatives GAO reviewed (26 of 30) met, or expected to meet,
Afghanistan, DOD has had to                     the Department of Defense’s (DOD) expectation for fielding a capability in
accelerate efforts to field capabilities        response to joint urgent operational needs within 2 years (see figure). However,
addressing urgent warfighter needs,             performance in meeting schedule estimates varied, and more than half of the
including joint needs affecting more            initiatives experienced schedule delays.
than one service. GAO was asked to
assess (1) how quickly capabilities             Time to Field Sampled Initiatives
responding to joint urgent operational
needs have been developed and
fielded and (2) what key practices
enabled executing organizations to
overcome challenges. To do this, GAO
studied a sample of joint urgent
operational needs including all urgent
needs over $100 million approved from
April 2008 through December 2010
and a random selection of smaller
urgent needs. GAO analyzed data on
key events and issues in the
development and fielding of solutions
and met with service and DOD officials
responsible for validating, assigning,
and executing joint urgent needs.

What GAO Recommends                             Initiatives leveraged three types of solutions: (1) off-the-shelf products, (2)
                                                modifications of off-the-shelf items to add capabilities, and (3) products requiring
GAO recommends that DOD reduce                  technology development. Off-the-shelf solutions should be fielded the quickest
the time spent on identifying and               because existing products are being bought. However, while off-the-shelf
contracting for off-the-shelf solutions,        solutions were fielded quickly once a contract was awarded, it took longer than
devise methods for providing early              the two other types to identify, fund, and contract for off-the-shelf solutions. In
funding to research laboratories and            addition to the program offices that manage traditional acquisition programs,
engineering centers, require that               initiatives were also managed by research laboratories and engineering centers,
initiative decision memorandums be              such as the Army Research Laboratory or the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
prepared for all initiatives, and require
                                                Program offices fielded solutions faster, in part, because program offices are
acquisition organizations to
                                                experienced in the full range of acquisition activities. Also, laboratories and
communicate with the Central
Command and other combatant
                                                engineering centers depended on funding provided by other organizations and
commands about plans for fielding               delays in receiving this funding affected the start of some initiatives.
capabilities. DOD concurred with these          Acquisition organizations employed various practices to overcome challenges
recommendations.                                affecting fielding of capabilities within short time frames. For example, although
                                                these practices could affect the prices paid, shorter times were associated with
                                                using existing contracts, awarding contracts without agreeing on contract terms
                                                (prices), or awarding contracts without competition. U.S. Central Command
                                                officials stated that they were not aware of all initiatives underway or the
                                                expected schedule for fielding capabilities and this could affect planning
                                                activities. In some cases, initiative decision memorandums were prepared that
                                                documented schedule estimates but such memorandums are not required for all
View GAO-12-385. For more information,          initiatives. Also, some organizations were proactive in communicating with U.S.
contact Michael J. Sullivan at (202) 512-4163   Central Command and this facilitated a clearer understanding of requirements
or sullivanm@gao.gov.
                                                and plans for fielding initiatives, but regular communication is not required.
                                                                                         United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                             1
                       Background                                                                  3
                       Initiatives Generally Fielded within 2 Years, but More Than Half
                          Experienced Delays                                                       8
                       Acquisition Organizations Employed Varying Methods to Overcome
                          Challenges                                                             21
                       Conclusions                                                               32
                       Recommendations for Executive Action                                      33
                       Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                        33

Appendix I             Scope and Methodology                                                     35



Appendix II            Sample Joint Urgent Operational Needs and Executing Organizations         38



Appendix III           Comments from the Department of Defense                                   40



Appendix IV            GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                     43



Related GAO Products                                                                             44



Tables
                       Table 1: Sampled Initiatives with Fielding Times Greater Than 24
                                Months                                                           10
                       Table 2: Sampled Off-the-Shelf Initiatives Requiring at Least 9
                                Months Early in the Joint Urgent Needs Process                   13


Figures
                       Figure 1: Number of Initiatives Reviewed Based on Available
                                Schedule Data                                                      3
                       Figure 2: Steps in the Joint Urgent Operational Needs Process for
                                Iraq and Afghanistan                                               7



                       Page i                                           GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Figure 3: Most Sampled Initiatives Were Fielded or Expected to
         Field within 24 Months                                            9
Figure 4: More Than Half of the Sampled Initiatives Experienced
         Delays                                                          11
Figure 5: Off-the-Shelf Solutions Took Longer Initially but Were
         Delivered More Quickly after Contract Award for Sampled
         Initiatives                                                     12
Figure 6: Sampled Initiatives Meeting Schedule Estimates Used Off-
         the-Shelf Solutions or Modified Off-the-Shelf Solutions         14
Figure 7: Types of Organizations Executing Sample Initiatives            15
Figure 8: Program Offices Fielded Solutions More Quickly Than
         Reimbursable Organizations for Sampled Initiatives              17
Figure 9: JIEDDO Took Longer Than Other Sponsors to Reach
         Contract Award for the Sampled Initiatives                      18
Figure 10: Time to Funding Improved for Sampled Initiatives              20
Figure 11: About Half of the Sampled Initiatives Received Funding
         within 1 Month of Tasking                                       22
Figure 12: Time to Contract Award Was Shorter for Sampled
         Initiatives That Used Existing Contracts                        25
Figure 13: Time to Contract Award Was Shorter for Sampled
         Initiatives That Used Undefinitized Contracts                   26
Figure 14: Time to Contract Award Was Shorter for Sampled
         Initiatives That Did Not Compete a Contract                     27
Figure 15: Shorter Time to Initial Fielding Associated with U.S.
         Central Command Involvement in Refining Requirements
         for Sampled Initiatives                                         29
Figure 16: Sample Joint Urgent Operational Needs Selected for
         Review                                                          35
Figure 17: Number of Initiatives Reviewed Based on Available
         Schedule Data                                                   36




Page ii                                         GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Abbreviations

CJCSI             Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction
DOD               Department of Defense
JIEDDO            Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization
Joint Staff       Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
JRAC              Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell
MRAP              Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle


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Page iii                                                   GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   April 24, 2012

                                   The Honorable Adam Smith
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Committee on Armed Services
                                   House of Representatives

                                   The Honorable Roscoe Bartlett
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable Silvestre Reyes
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces
                                   Committee on Armed Services
                                   House of Representatives

                                   The dynamic nature of the enemy and tactical conditions encountered by
                                   forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have prompted the Department of Defense
                                   (DOD) to rapidly acquire and field new capabilities as quickly as possible
                                   in order to prevent mission failure or loss of life. Requests for newer
                                   capabilities have included technology to detect improvised explosive
                                   devices; sensors to provide increased situational awareness; and
                                   command and control equipment to warn personnel of hazardous areas
                                   and changing battlefield conditions. To accommodate the need for a rapid
                                   response, DOD has had to look beyond the traditional acquisition
                                   procedures and employ innovative techniques and methods to overcome
                                   institutional challenges and improve efficiencies. Requests that address
                                   the urgent needs of more than one service (joint urgent operational
                                   needs) are validated by the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
                                   Staff (Joint Staff) and then shepherded into the acquisition process by the
                                   Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell (JRAC).

                                   DOD reports that funding the fulfillment of joint and service-specific urgent
                                   needs totaled at least $76.9 billion from fiscal years 2005 through 2010.
                                   In 2009, a Defense Science Board report identified DOD’s funding
                                   processes as a major institutional barrier to rapidly developing and




                                   Page 1                                            GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
fielding new capability. Among other problems, our previous work has
shown that DOD has had difficulty translating needs into programs. 1

Urgent needs require a quick response time in order to deliver solutions
that can reduce casualties and improve mission success. This requires
that once urgent operational needs are validated, organizations are
quickly tasked to develop and field needed capabilities. In response to
your request, we assessed: 1) how quickly capabilities responding to joint
urgent operational needs have been developed and fielded and 2) what
practices enabled executing organizations to overcome challenges in the
development and fielding of joint urgent need solutions.

To conduct this review, we selected a sample of 28 joint urgent
operational needs from the population of 70 joint urgent needs that were
validated from April 2008 to December 2010. We selected all 14 joint
urgent needs with cost estimates greater than $100 million and randomly
selected 14 joint urgent needs from the remaining 56 joint needs that had
estimated costs of less than $100 million. Three joint urgent needs were
dropped from the sample—in one case because the urgent need was
terminated before it was assigned to a sponsor and in the other two cases
because knowledgeable officials were not accessible. We encountered
several instances in which multiple initiatives were pursued to address
one joint urgent need. Each initiative was responsible for developing a
capability and therefore the initiative became our unit of analysis. We
reviewed a total of 45 initiatives addressing 25 joint urgent needs. For
these initiatives, we collected and analyzed data on key events and
issues in executing initiatives. We met with acquisition officials
responsible for developing and fielding solutions, as well as officials from
the Joint Staff, JRAC, the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat
Organization (JIEDDO), and other DOD officials responsible for validating
and assigning joint urgent needs to the military services and agencies for
leading joint efforts. Although the results presented in this report are
limited to the initiatives we analyzed and cannot be projected to all urgent
needs initiatives, they provide valuable insight on the length of time it
takes to develop and field initiatives and the factors that affect
development and fielding. (Additional details on our scope and



1
 GAO, Warfighter Support: DOD’s Urgent Needs Processes Need a More Comprehensive
Approach and Evaluation for Potential Consolidation, GAO-11-273 (Washington, D.C.:
Mar. 1, 2011).




Page 2                                                GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
             methodology are in app. I; the joint urgent needs we reviewed are
             identified in app. II.)

             Because of the emphasis on quickly responding to urgent needs, we
             focused on the time taken to reach critical events such as tasking to an
             organization, awarding a contract, and initial fielding of a capability. Data
             were not available for all key events, in part because some initiatives
             were not yet complete. Figure 1 shows the number of initiatives analyzed
             based on availability of schedule data. This figure is used throughout the
             report to indicate the data being discussed.

             Figure 1: Number of Initiatives Reviewed Based on Available Schedule Data




             We conducted this performance audit between January 2011 and April
             2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
             standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
             obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for
             our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe
             that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
             and conclusions based on our audit objectives.

             To be validated as a joint urgent operational need, a requirement must be
Background   joint in nature and, importantly, if not addressed immediately will seriously
             endanger personnel or pose a major threat to ongoing operations. DOD
             has taken a number of steps to provide urgently needed capabilities to
             the warfighter more quickly and to alleviate the challenges associated


             Page 3                                               GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
with the traditional acquisition process for acquiring capabilities. 2 The
Office of the Secretary of Defense established JRAC in 2004 to help
overcome institutional barriers and provide timely, effective support to
meet the urgent materiel and logistics requirements that combatant
commanders deem operationally critical. In July 2005, the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued Instruction 3470.01 to establish policy and
procedures to facilitate the assessment, validation, sourcing, resourcing,
and fielding of urgent combatant command needs considered as life- or
combat mission-threatening, based on unforeseen requirements that
must be resolved quickly. Although not addressed in the July 2005
instruction, DOD officials stated that a criterion for validation was the
expectation that the capability gap could be addressed within 2 years.
Subsequently, the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for
Fiscal Year 2011 provided that the acquisition process for fielding
capabilities in response to urgent operational needs is appropriate only
for capabilities that can be fielded within a period of 2 to 24 months.

In June 2011, the Secretary of Defense established the Senior Integration
Group to serve as DOD’s single authority to prioritize solutions that can
be fielded quickly and to direct actions to resolve issues associated with
joint urgent needs, including requirements, resources, and acquisitions. In
addition, the military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps)
have each established processes to address service-specific urgent and
compelling warfighter needs. 3 Finally, in January 2012, the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction (CJCSI) 3170.01H was updated to
integrate joint urgent operational needs as part of the joint capabilities




2
 DOD’s framework for planning, executing, and funding its weapon programs relies on
three decision-making systems—the Defense Acquisition System that relies on DOD
Instruction 5000.02, Operation of the Defense Acquisition System (Dec. 8, 2008), to guide
and manage the development and procurement of major weapon capabilities; the Joint
Capabilities Integration and Development System to assess gaps and recommend
solutions; and the Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution process to allocate
funding resources—all of which involve lengthy time frames, large budgets, and
development efforts that can take decades to procure weapon systems.
3
 Headquarters, Department of the Army regulation 71-9, Warfighting Capabilities
Determination (Dec. 28, 2009); Department of the Navy, Navy Urgent Needs Process
Implementation, OPNAV 4000, ASN (RD&A) (July 26, 2007); Air Force Instruction 10-601,
Operational Capability Requirements Development, July 12, 2010; and Marine Corps
Order 3900.17, The Marine Corps Urgent Needs Process and the Urgent Universal Need
Statement (Oct. 17, 2008).




Page 4                                                    GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
integration and development system to identify, assess, validate, and
prioritize joint military capability requirements. 4

In response to Section 804 of the Ike Skelton National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011, DOD is now in the process of
assessing its policies and processes for managing both joint and service-
specific urgent needs. This review is intended to establish policy that will
be used to respond to urgent needs arising from future contingencies and
will consider improvements to the acquisition process for rapid fielding of
capabilities responding to urgent needs. In a February 2012 letter to the
Chairmen of the Armed Services and Appropriations Committees, the
Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and
Logistics stated that additional policy options were under development to
address, among other elements, the need for more comprehensive policy
to govern the acquisition of capabilities to satisfy urgent needs. DOD
expects that the review of these policies will be complete by August 31,
2012.

The joint process begins when a need that is threatening to life or mission
success is identified and a request is submitted to the commander of U.S.
forces in a theater of operations, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. Once
approved, the request is submitted to the combatant command
headquarters, such as U.S. Central Command, for requests pertaining to
Iraq or Afghanistan. 5 If endorsed at this level, the joint urgent need is then
submitted to the Joint Staff where it is reviewed by a Functional
Capabilities Board. The board is responsible for determining whether the
urgent need addresses a capability gap that, if unmet, could threaten lives
or the success of a combat mission. If the need meets these criteria, the
board convenes a working group that collects additional information and
makes recommendations for the review, including whether the Joint Staff
Deputy Director for Requirements should validate the need. Once
validated, the joint need is sent to JRAC who assigns a military service or
agency as the sponsor. JIEDDO is generally the sponsor for joint urgent


4
 The CJCSI 3170.01H results in the cancellation of CJCSI 3170.01G, Joint Capabilities
Integration and Development System (Mar. 1, 2009); CJCSI 3470.01, Rapid Validation
and Resourcing of Joint Urgent Operational Needs (JUONs) in the Year of Execution (July
15, 2005).
5
 The U.S. Central Command is one of 10 combatant commands. It is headquartered at
MacDill Air Force Base, Florida and its area of responsibility covers 20 countries,
stretching from Afghanistan to Egypt and the Persian Gulf.




Page 5                                                   GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
needs focused on countering improvised explosive devices. The sponsor
is responsible for tasking executing organizations to lead the
development and fielding of the capability, as well as providing oversight,
guidance, and in most cases, funding.

The major events throughout the joint urgent needs life cycle are
described in figure 2 for urgent needs originating from operations in Iraq
and Afghanistan. While the joint urgent needs process begins when a
request is submitted in theater, our analysis focused on the part of the
process beginning at validation of the need and ending with the fielding of
the first units of the capability in theater. From validation, the joint urgent
needs process consists of five key events.




Page 6                                              GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Figure 2: Steps in the Joint Urgent Operational Needs Process for Iraq and Afghanistan




                                         Page 7                                          GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                              Twenty-six of the 30 initiatives met, or expected to meet, DOD’s
Initiatives Generally         expectation for fielding capabilities within 2 years from validation, but the
Fielded within 2              remaining 4 initiatives took longer. Performance in meeting schedule
                              estimates varied, and more than half of the initiatives experienced
Years, but More Than          schedule delays. Most of the initiatives we reviewed, including all of those
Half Experienced              that met fielding estimates, used solutions based on buying commercial
Delays                        or government off-the-shelf items or modifying off-the-shelf items to add
                              capabilities. Those based on buying off-the-shelf items took longer in the
                              initial stages of the process, but were fielded more quickly after contract
                              award. The rate at which an initiative progressed through the process
                              also varied based on the type of organization responsible for executing
                              the initiative and the sponsor. The median time to progress through the
                              early stages of the process decreased from 2008 to 2010.


Most Initiatives Fielded or   A number of initiatives have been fielded in a year or less, and most
Are Expected to Field         initiatives (26 of 30) met, or expected to meet, the expectation for fielding
Capabilities within 2 Years   capabilities within 2 years, as shown in figure 3. The median time to initial
                              fielding of a capability was 13 months for fielded initiatives and an
                              estimated 19 months for initiatives not yet fielded. Overall, the 30
                              initiatives consisted of a range of urgent needs solutions, including
                              improvised explosive device disruptors and detectors, wide-area
                              surveillance systems, and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP)
                              vehicles. Nine initiatives had not been fielded at the time of our review.
                              These nine initiatives ranged from systems that detect homemade
                              explosives to aerostat balloons that provide persistent surveillance
                              capability and to machine-based Afghani language translation
                              capabilities.




                              Page 8                                            GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Figure 3: Most Sampled Initiatives Were Fielded or Expected to Field within 24
Months




Eleven initiatives took 12 months or less to reach initial fielding. For
example, the MRAP Recovery Vehicle—a tow truck to retrieve disabled
vehicles—reached initial fielding within 6 months of validation. According
to program officials, this initiative benefited from existing relationships
built during the development of other MRAP vehicles, as well as support
from high-level stakeholders. One of the MRAP contractors anticipated
the need for such a capability and developed the wrecker so that it was
able to immediately respond to program office interest. Because of high-
level support, approval for the acquisition was received even before the
requirement was formally validated. In another example, the Persistent
Ground Surveillance System, a system that provides surveillance and
reconnaissance capability, reached initial fielding within 7 months
because the program office had prior experience working in a rapid
prototype environment. Program officials also said that earlier efforts
enabled them to work with the vendor, become knowledgeable about the
system, and work with contracting personnel who were very responsive to
subsequent requests for the capability.



Page 9                                                 GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                                           Four initiatives—two fielded and two not yet fielded—had actual or
                                           estimated fielding times of 27 months or more. Various factors contributed
                                           to the longer fielding times or estimates, depending on the initiative, as
                                           shown in table 1.

Table 1: Sampled Initiatives with Fielding Times Greater Than 24 Months

Initiative                 Factors that contributed to fielding time
Data Classification and    According to program officials, this system met an urgent need for hardware and software that provided
Processing System          data access and functionality across intelligence domains. The capability was fielded in 28 months, 21 of
                           which elapsed after the executing organization, the Army’s Program Manager Distributed Common
                           Ground System, awarded a contract. Officials said they spent considerable time educating the agency
                           responsible for the network about the capability and working out data-sharing issues.
Entry Control Point in a   This initiative addressed an urgent need for a capability that could detect and defeat personnel- and
Box                        vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Twenty-seven months elapsed from validation to fielding of a
                           capability by the executing organization, Program Manager Improvised Explosive Device Defeat/Protect
                           Force. Eighteen months passed after the organization received funding to fielding, during which time site
                           surveys were conducted and specific capability needs identified, officials said. According to program
                           officials, the requirement was modified after the funding decision was approved. Also, the change to
                           reduce the original requirement had led the program manager to adjust contracts and procurement plans,
                           causing delays. As a result, delivery to theater was delayed from 2010 to 2011.
Spectral Scientists        According to staff, the Naval Postgraduate School modified an existing curriculum to create a 1-year
                           Master’s degree to train experts who will work in the DOD and intelligence community to detect
                           homemade explosive devices and materials. The estimated completion date of the training for the initial
                           group of specialists is 28 months from validation. This initiative was one of several responding to the
                           urgent need, and the academic institution was tasked 8 months after validation, when other efforts were
                           already underway.
Handheld Biometric         According to program officials, this initiative responded to an urgent need for improved biometric systems
Solution                   at bases in Afghanistan. Of the 28 months that elapsed from validation to the estimated fielding date,
                           about half of the time occurred prior to contract award. Officials of the executing organization, Program
                           Manager Biometrics Identity Management Agency, noted that the majority of delays they faced were
                           related to the contracting process; in particular, the organization dealt with five different contracting
                           officers prior to contract award. Once a contract was awarded, meeting the urgent need required
                           hardware procurement as well as software development for biometric devices, officials said.
                                           Source: GAO analysis of Department of Defense data.



                                           Performance in meeting schedule estimates varied. Eleven of the
                                           sampled initiatives met, or were on track to meet, estimated fielding
                                           dates. However, 19 of the 30 sampled initiatives reported delays, and 12
                                           of these initiatives exceeded their originally estimated fielding dates by at
                                           least 3 months, as illustrated in figure 4. Officials attributed the delays to
                                           some key issues that included the receipt of initial funding, awarding
                                           contracts, and conducting test activities.




                                           Page 10                                                     GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                             Figure 4: More Than Half of the Sampled Initiatives Experienced Delays




Off-the-Shelf Initiatives    Initiatives that addressed joint urgent operational needs leveraged three
Were Slower Early in the     types of solutions: (1) off-the-shelf products, (2) modifications of off-the-
Process Than Other           shelf items to add capabilities, and (3) products that required
                             development of a technology. Off-the-shelf solutions should be fielded the
Solution Types, but Were     quickest because they are focused on buying already-existing products.
Fielded More Quickly after   However, this was not the case for initiatives in our sample. Overall, off-
Contract Award               the-shelf solutions in our sample tended to take somewhat longer to field
                             than other solution types, a median time of 13.5 months compared to 12
                             months for modifications of off-the-shelf products and 11 months for
                             technology development. Once a contract was awarded, off-the-shelf
                             solutions were fielded quickly. However, as shown in figure 5, off-the-
                             shelf solutions took longer in the early stages of the process. The median
                             time to task, fund, and award a contract for off-the-shelf solutions was 9.5
                             months compared to 2 months for technology development solutions and
                             4 months for modified off-the-shelf solutions.




                             Page 11                                               GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Figure 5: Off-the-Shelf Solutions Took Longer Initially but Were Delivered More
Quickly after Contract Award for Sampled Initiatives




Off-the-shelf solutions took longer during the early phases, in part,
because they were less likely than other solution types to leverage
ongoing efforts and thus required additional time to identify, fund, and
contract for the solution. In contrast, other solution types—technology
development and modifications of existing systems—leveraged ongoing
efforts where solutions were at least partially developed. All 13 of the
modified off-the-shelf and technology development initiatives leveraged
efforts already underway before the sponsor tasked the urgent need to an
acquisition organization. In contrast, only three of the eight initiatives that
employed off-the-shelf solutions leveraged efforts underway prior to
tasking. Leveraging ongoing efforts allowed for shorter time frames
because it collapsed the time for identifying a solution and tasking an
organization to execute it. For example, officials for an initiative
developing a wide-area surveillance capability said they were within
weeks of delivering the first sensors (in response to a service request) at
the time the urgent need was validated. As a result, the solution was



Page 12                                                GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                                          identified quickly and the initiative moved swiftly through the early stages
                                          of the process.

                                          The experience of four initiatives further illustrated why off-the-shelf
                                          initiatives in our sample took longer than other solution types early in the
                                          joint urgent needs process. For these four initiatives, more than 9 months
                                          elapsed from validation to the receipt of funding. The reasons for these
                                          delays varied by initiative, as shown in table 2.

Table 2: Sampled Off-the-Shelf Initiatives Requiring at Least 9 Months Early in the Joint Urgent Needs Process

Initiative                       Factors contributing to delays in early phases
Night and All-Weather Sniper     Twenty months elapsed before the executing organization, Space and Naval Warfare Systems
Equipment                        Command, received funding for this initiative, which provided night and all-weather sniper
                                 equipment. An official for the command highlighted issues in gaining funding approval within
                                 JIEDDO, and the initiative experienced a delay of about 8 months between the tasking of the
                                 urgent need and the receipt of funding. An official explained that initial and subsequent
                                 requirements changes and modifications by the Army, Marine Corps, and Special Operations
                                 Command contributed to the delays.
Entry Control Point in a Box     This initiative was for an urgent need requiring a capability to detect and defeat personnel- and
                                 vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. The program manager for this initiative said that
                                 preliminary work for site surveys of the forward operating bases in Afghanistan was required in
                                 order to determine the vehicle and pedestrian configurations. According to the program manager, 5
                                 months had elapsed before the executing organization was tasked. In addition to the time involved
                                 with site surveys, other delays were associated with the time it took to manage multiple contracts in
                                 which competition was involved, and incorporating a requirement change from theater which
                                 needed to be resolved and agreed on by the military services. Also, a requirement change to the
                                 mission reduced the original requirement and required the program manager to adjust contracts
                                 and procurement plans, delaying the program. The delivery to theater was delayed from 2010 to
                                 2011.
Unmanned Aerial System           This initiative met an urgent need request for an unmanned aerial system that could transport
Resupply                         supplies to warfighters in areas where weather, terrain, and enemies posed risks, officials said.
                                 Although work on the capability had started by the time the urgent need was validated, 10 months
                                 passed before the program office was officially tasked to address the joint urgent need. According
                                 to DOD officials, the time elapsed during this period was attributable to delays in selecting a
                                 capability and securing funding.
Improvised Explosive Device      The initiative addressed the need for a capability that could detect nonmetallic and buried
Detector                         improvised explosive devices. JIEDDO conducted tests of two potential solutions, including the
                                 Minehound and the Mini-Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System. The originally selected Mini-
                                 Handheld Standoff Mine Detection System failed to meet requirements. Minehound was tested in
                                 parallel but it also initially failed to meet requirements. The Army Research Laboratory was able to
                                 resolve the issues associated with Minehound but the Mini-Handheld Standoff Mine Detection
                                 System performance issues could not be resolved as quickly. Modifications to the system delayed
                                 testing and put the program behind schedule. These issues, in addition to JIEDDO’s process of
                                 identifying and selecting a solution, contributed to the 10 months elapsed between tasking of the
                                 urgent need and the receipt of funding.
                                          Source: GAO analysis of Department of Defense data.




                                          Page 13                                                      GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
After contract award, however, initiatives that required technology
development or modification took longer to field as a result of technical
challenges and testing delays. Off-the-shelf solutions relied on mature
technologies and therefore could be fielded in a median time of 4 months
after contract award. This compared to a median time of 8 months for
initiatives modifying off-the-shelf products and 9 months for technology
development efforts. Three of the four fielded initiatives that developed
technology responded to the same urgent need for a wide-area
surveillance capability. Officials working on these initiatives highlighted
various issues that extended the fielding schedule subsequent to the
awarding of a contract, including technical challenges and delays related
to certification and accreditation of the solution.

Most of the fielded initiatives we reviewed, including all of those that met
fielding dates, used solutions based on off-the-shelf items in response to
joint urgent operational needs. Specifically, 17 of the 21 fielded initiatives
either employed off-the-shelf products or modified off-the-shelf items. As
figure 6 illustrates, the eight initiatives that met, or expected to meet,
schedule estimates for fielding a capability leveraged off-the-shelf items
or modified them to address the urgent need.

Figure 6: Sampled Initiatives Meeting Schedule Estimates Used Off-the-Shelf
Solutions or Modified Off-the-Shelf Solutions




Page 14                                               GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Program Offices Delivered   Joint urgent needs are executed by a broader range of organizations than
Capabilities Faster Than    those typically responsible for managing acquisitions, as shown in figure
Other Organizations         7. In addition to program offices that traditionally manage the acquisition
                            and fielding of weapon systems, engineering centers and science and
                            technology laboratories were tasked with executing initiatives.
                            Engineering centers such as the Naval Surface Warfare Center and the
                            Army Research, Development and Engineering Center typically provide
                            support to the program offices that manage acquisition programs.
                            Science and technology laboratories such as the Army Research
                            Laboratory conduct technology development and research in the physical,
                            engineering, and environmental sciences. In responding to urgent needs,
                            both engineering centers and science and technology laboratories
                            operate as reimbursable organizations, accepting project orders under
                            which they get reimbursed for the costs of performing services, sharing
                            knowledge, and conducting technical services.

                            Figure 7: Types of Organizations Executing Sample Initiatives




                            Program offices fielded capabilities faster than reimbursable
                            organizations for the initiatives we reviewed, as shown in figure 8. The
                            ability of program offices to field capabilities more quickly is partly
                            explained by the expertise that these organizations have with the full



                            Page 15                                               GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
range of acquisition activities, including developing test plans, accessing
contract support, and planning for training and transportation. In addition,
reimbursable organizations have a different funding environment than
program offices in that they typically rely entirely on customer funding to
perform work. 6 In contrast, program offices generally had greater flexibility
in terms of their funding sources, which was particularly beneficial when
funding delays occurred. Initiatives managed by reimbursable
organizations took longer to field a capability, in part, because they do not
have the same funding flexibilities as the program offices and they may
need additional time to fully understand other program management
processes.




6
 Reimbursable organizations provide products and services on a reimbursable basis,
based on a customer-provider relationship between operating units and support
organizations. Customers send funded orders to the providers such as Warfare Centers
and Research Laboratories who furnish the services or products, pay for incurred
expenses, and bill the customers, who in turn authorize payment.




Page 16                                                 GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                           Figure 8: Program Offices Fielded Solutions More Quickly Than Reimbursable
                           Organizations for Sampled Initiatives




                           Note: The number of initiatives is 20, instead of 21, because one of the organizations for which
                           fielding data was available could not be categorized as either a program office or a reimbursable
                           organization. We therefore removed the initiative from the analysis of schedule performance with
                           respect to executing organization type.


JIEDDO Initiatives Took    The amount of time initiatives spent progressing through the urgent needs
Longer to Reach Contract   process, particularly before tasking to an organization, also differed
Award                      depending on the sponsoring service or agency. As figure 9 shows, for
                           the sampled initiatives, JIEDDO took longer than other sponsors to task
                           an urgent need to an organization. The median amount of time sponsors,
                           excluding JIEDDO, took to task initiatives to organizations was 1 month.
                           In contrast, JIEDDO tasked its initiatives in a median time of 7 months.




                           Page 17                                                            GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Figure 9: JIEDDO Took Longer Than Other Sponsors to Reach Contract Award for
the Sampled Initiatives




Note: Other services or agencies that led the initiatives we reviewed, besides JIEDDO, include the Air
Force, the Marine Corps, the Army, the Navy, the United States Special Operations Command, the
Defense Information Systems Agency, and the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task
Force.


JIEDDO, however, had a more deliberate process for identifying and
selecting a solution when one was uncertain, which helped explain why it
took longer to task initiatives to an organization. Officials noted that the
lead military service can quickly task urgent needs because an applicable
solution, as well as the acquisition organization with the relevant expertise
in developing it, is easily identifiable. However, according to DOD
officials, JIEDDO often addresses urgent need requests for which the
solution is ambiguous, therefore requiring greater effort to identify a
capability and executing organization. For instance, one of the joint needs
for which JIEDDO was the sponsor required development of a capability
allowing warfighters to detect homemade explosives from a distance.
According to officials, the urgent need solution was complex and required
evaluation of various sensors and platforms tailored for homemade
explosive detection. As a result, 7 months elapsed from when JRAC


Page 18                                                            GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                              assigned the validated urgent need to JIEDDO to the point when the
                              agency first tasked an organization with development of a solution. In the
                              interim, JIEDDO worked to evaluate and identify potential capabilities to
                              address the urgent need by forming a working group, writing a concept of
                              operations, and completing a proof of concept. In the case of most other
                              sponsors, the executing organization itself was responsible for activities
                              such as developing a concept of operations and assessing solutions,
                              officials said.


Initiatives Passed through    Sampled initiatives validated in 2009 and 2010 were tasked and funded
Early Stages of the Process   more quickly than initiatives validated in 2008, suggesting overall
Faster in 2010 Than in 2008   improvements in the earlier stages of the joint urgent needs process.
                              Specifically, urgent needs validated in 2008 took 5 months longer than
                              2009 initiatives and 7 months longer than 2010 initiatives to be tasked
                              and funded, as shown in figure 10.




                              Page 19                                          GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Figure 10: Time to Funding Improved for Sampled Initiatives




Note: One initiative responded to a modification of an urgent need that was validated in 2011 and was
not included in this analysis.


DOD officials cited the establishment of a senior group of officials to
facilitate the joint urgent needs process as contributing to the reduction in
the median time in which initiatives progressed through the joint urgent
needs process since it was created. The deployment of additional forces
to Afghanistan in the fall of 2009 led to an increase in demand for urgent
need capabilities. Shortly after, in November 2009, DOD created the
Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Senior Integration Group to provide
oversight for all joint urgent operational needs related to counter-
improvised explosive devices. DOD officials stated that the group has
been renamed the Senior Integration Group, which is responsible for
reviewing all validated joint urgent needs. The group, consisting of high-
level DOD officials and agencies, meets every 3 weeks. According to
DOD officials, the Senior Integration Group has helped increase oversight
over the entire joint urgent operational needs process, and specifically
accelerated the identification and allotment of funds to urgent need


Page 20                                                           GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                          initiatives. In 2008, the median time initiatives spent from validation to the
                          receipt of funding for the initiative was 9 months; however, initiatives
                          validated in 2010 took no more than 1 month to receive funding during
                          this time period.


                          In developing and fielding solutions addressing joint urgent operational
Acquisition               needs, acquisition organizations faced common challenges that affected
Organizations             their ability to deliver capabilities as quickly as possible. These challenges
                          included obtaining timely funding, addressing contracting requirements,
Employed Varying          and agreeing on testing that should be accomplished. Officials highlighted
Methods to Overcome       various practices—having early access to funds, receiving high-level
Challenges                support, using flexibilities in the contracting process, leveraging
                          relationships, and communicating with the warfighter—that helped
                          overcome challenges during solution development and fielding.


Early Access to Funding   About half of the sampled initiatives received funding within 1 month of
Speeds Execution          being tasked with an urgent need, but the remainder did not receive
                          funding for 2 months or more, as illustrated in figure 11.




                          Page 21                                            GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Figure 11: About Half of the Sampled Initiatives Received Funding within 1 Month of
Tasking




For initiatives within our sample, the median length of time from when a
program office was tasked with an urgent need to when it received
funding was 1 month; the median length of time for all other types of
executing organizations, including engineering centers and science and
technology laboratories, was 3 months. The difference may be due, in
part, to the fact that some of these programs have access to budgeted
funds. For example, according to agency officials, the MRAP program has
an annual budget that provides the program with access to funding and
requires that DOD notify congressional committees 10 days before it
transfers these funds from the appropriation in the DOD and Full Year
Continuing Appropriation Act, 2011. Although other program offices did
not have such dedicated urgent needs funding, agency officials stated
that, in some instances, they were able to leverage budgeted funds, as
illustrated in the development of an unmanned cargo aircraft. This
initiative managed by a Navy program office focused on developing and
fielding an unmanned cargo capability to support forward operating bases
in Afghanistan. The program office reported that it was able to reprogram
funds from an alternate budget line when funding became a challenge.
The Navy official said funding was important to begin early activities—
such as developing an acquisition plan—particularly since the program
had a 12-month deadline to deploy the capability.


Page 22                                               GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Funding options were more limited for reimbursable organizations like
engineering centers and science and technology laboratories. These
types of organizations relied on customer funding and performed work in
response to orders placed by other organizations, such as traditional
program offices, that received appropriated funds. As a result, these
organizations reported funding challenges more frequently than other
organizations. Funding challenges were reported for 11 of 20 initiatives
managed by engineering centers or science and technology laboratories.
In contrast, 8 of the 25 remaining organizations in our sample reported
funding challenges. The urgent need for a special purpose X-ray machine
is one that experienced funding problems. The engineering center
manager for this initiative said that the initiative experienced a 6-month
delay due to 4 months in elapsed time to identify resources and 2 months
for administrative problems associated with the transfer of customer
funding at the end of the fiscal year.

While awaiting their major funding allotment early in the process, several
organizations had access to a small amount of funding or were able to
leverage existing resources to begin activities sooner. According to
agency officials, JIEDDO, unlike JRAC or other sponsors, has the
authority to provide up to $1 million in early or seed funding for
administrative and programmatic start-up prior to the initiative decision
memorandum authorizing funds for development or demonstrations. 7
Early funds can be used to support development of the acquisition
strategy, test and evaluation strategy, and other programmatic
documentation. Among the 45 initiatives in our sample, we identified eight
instances where JIEDDO had provided executing organizations with early
funding. In other instances, officials from executing organizations stated
that they were able to leverage existing “in-house” resources to begin to
research urgent needs solutions. However, officials noted that without
funding, even staff time is limited and planning activities are constrained,
particularly for reimbursable organizations.

Visibility by high-level stakeholders helped overcome funding challenges.
Initiatives that had the attention of high-level stakeholders (such as the
Secretary of Defense; the Senior Integration Group; JRAC; the
Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force; or JIEDDO)



7
 Department of Defense JIEDDO, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Capability
Approval and Acquisition Management Process, JIEDDOI 5000.01 (Dec. 22, 2010).




Page 23                                                 GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                        experienced fewer delays in receiving their major funding allotment than
                        those initiatives that did not have such visibility. In one example, a
                        program office that was developing a wide-area surveillance capability
                        had requested additional funding to accelerate ongoing efforts and meet
                        the urgent need. When receipt of this funding was delayed, the Office of
                        the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics
                        urged the Marine Corps to provide the program office with existing funds.
                        This allowed the program office to continue developing the capability until
                        its funding became available. Most notably, organizations that reported
                        having high-level visibility among more than one of these stakeholders
                        reported the fewest funding challenges. Executing organizations for only
                        2 of 11 initiatives that reported high-level visibility among more than one
                        stakeholder also reported having funding challenges. In contrast,
                        executing organizations for five of the six initiatives without high-level
                        visibility reported having funding challenges. DOD officials noted that the
                        establishment of the Senior Integration Group in 2011 has increased the
                        visibility of high-level stakeholders into the joint urgent needs process
                        and, more importantly, into urgent needs initiatives that may not normally
                        receive such attention. DOD and program officials also stated that having
                        high-level attention helped to prioritize and secure funding that otherwise
                        could have been difficult.


Initiatives Leveraged   In March 2010, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition,
Flexibility in the      Technology and Logistics issued a memorandum reinforcing urgent
Contracting Process     needs as DOD’s highest priority and encouraging the acquisition
                        community to use all available tools and authorities—including contracting
                        tools and authorities—to develop and field capabilities more quickly.
                        Initiatives we reviewed commonly used one or more contracting tools,
                        including use of existing contracts, undefinitized (unpriced) contracts, and
                        sole-source contracts.

                        Within our sample, 24 of the 38 initiatives leveraged existing contracts. As
                        illustrated in figure 12, the median time to contract award was 6 months
                        shorter for initiatives that used existing contracts.




                        Page 24                                           GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Figure 12: Time to Contract Award Was Shorter for Sampled Initiatives That Used
Existing Contracts




A program manager noted that using existing contracts was
advantageous because the time traditionally taken to award a contract
can exceed 6 months, at least 25 percent of an executing organization’s
schedule if it is trying to field a capability in less than 2 years. Another
program official said that the use of existing contracts allowed the
program to save time in acquiring needed materials, parts, and equipment
since competing and awarding a new contract would have added time to
the overall effort.

For initiatives that used an undefinitized contract—a contract action
allowing contractors to begin work before reaching a final agreement on
contract terms, such as price—the median time to reach contract award
was 5 months shorter than those that did not, as shown in figure 13. As
we have previously reported, when a requirement needs to be met quickly
and there is insufficient time to use traditional contracting vehicles,
defense regulations permit the use of an undefinitized contract action. 8
These can be quickly initiated, but at a later date, the contract’s final price
and other terms must be agreed upon by the contractor and government,
a process known as definitizing the contract. The use of these contracting
vehicles increases the risk to the government until the contract has been
definitized. The MRAP program used undefinitized contracts for the three
initiatives we reviewed—the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle, the MRAP



8
 GAO, Defense Contracting: DOD Has Enhanced Insight into Undefinitized Contract
Action Use, but Management at Local Commands Needs Improvement, GAO-10-299,
(Washington, D.C.: Jan. 28, 2010).




Page 25                                               GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Recovery Vehicle, and the MRAP All-Terrain Ambulance. This allowed
the contractors to begin work immediately to meet aggressive schedule
targets while providing greater time to negotiate firm-fixed-price contracts.

Figure 13: Time to Contract Award Was Shorter for Sampled Initiatives That Used
Undefinitized Contracts




Executing organizations for 30 initiatives in our sample reported that they
did not compete their contracts, and instead relied upon sole-source
contracts. Program officials reported that they used the unusual and
compelling urgency exception to full and open competition under FAR
6.302-2 associated with urgent operational needs to justify using sole-
source contracts. As illustrated in figure 14, when contracts were
competed, initiatives took more time to reach contract award than those
that awarded sole-source contracts, although the reliance on sole-source
contracts may affect the price the government pays. In the case of the
MRAP program, however, officials relied on competition to incentivize
contractors to invest in and develop alternative solutions. Particularly
noteworthy was a contractor proposal to use underbody armor that
addressed the need for greater protection for MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles;
the solution was ultimately added to MRAP vehicles already in use, as
well as those in production.




Page 26                                              GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                            Figure 14: Time to Contract Award Was Shorter for Sampled Initiatives That Did Not
                            Compete a Contract




                            Note: One executing organization leveraged existing contracts but competed its contracts prior to
                            being tasked and did not award other contracts; we considered its previous competition as not
                            applicable to our review. We therefore removed this initiative from the analysis of schedule
                            performance with respect to the use of competed contracts.




Leveraging Relationships    Cooperative relationships with supporting organizations, such as those in
Helped to Address Testing   the test and logistics communities, enabled some initiatives to overcome
and Logistical Challenges   the difficulties associated with fielding capabilities quickly. Program
                            officials stated that approaching the test community early and establishing
                            working relationships with these organizations helped to make testing
                            more efficient. Officials from executing organizations noted that testing
                            performed on typical acquisition programs could not necessarily be
                            completed within rapid time frames. In one example, the testing
                            community requested 3-4 months to conduct tests on a capability, but the
                            schedule only allowed 8 weeks for testing. Officials stated that an
                            organization needs to involve the testing community early in the process
                            to create a feasible test strategy. In another case, officials stated that the
                            testing community was extremely cooperative and designed a test
                            strategy based on discussions that were held early in development.

                            Some officials told us that once the organization completed development
                            of the capability, they still faced challenges in obtaining approval to
                            deliver the capability to theater. According to agency officials, several
                            programs were required to obtain safety certification prior to deployment
                            to theater and some executing organizations experienced delays in




                            Page 27                                                           GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
certification and accreditation of solutions. 9 For instance, officials from
one initiative noted that 3 months passed after they had shipped a
capability to Afghanistan while it received various forms of accreditation
for the system’s components, such as the ground station, network, and
aircraft. This delay contributed to the 11 months spent from the time a
contract was awarded to when a fully operational capability was fielded.

Logistical challenges were also problematic, according to officials,
especially when their organization was not typically responsible for
shipping capabilities into theater. Organizations anticipated and overcame
logistics challenges by adapting the capability to facilitate shipping or by
partnering with other DOD agencies for transporting materials. For
example, one executing organization had special shipping requirements
for materials requiring cooled storage while in transit. Instead of
developing this capability on its own, the organization leveraged the
experience of an Army agency that had the requisite logistics experience
and knowledge. Officials for some initiatives stated that a list of best
practices, or a one-page checklist with requirements and security
information, would have made it easier for organizations to plan for these
tasks and avoid having to figure it out on their own.

Testing and other challenges were at times discussed in acquisition
strategies. For example, the acquisition strategy for the MRAP program
discussed the level of testing that would take place, logistics and
maintenance that would be provided, required facilities support, and
training for personnel. Acquisition plans for another initiative identified
important aspects of the joint urgent need that included the initiative’s
focus on increasing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance
capabilities, and other expectations such as procurement quantities,
contractor support for procurement of commercial off-the-shelf
components and materials, testing, and the need for tailored logistics
support. JIEDDO requires that organizations prepare an acquisition
strategy within 30 days of tasking, therefore providing a vehicle to
address testing, logistics, and other challenges.




9
 Defense officials note that required safety documentation varies among the services and
may take the form of a Safety Confirmation (created by a services testing capability) or
Safety Recommendation.




Page 28                                                   GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Communication with     Officials we spoke with said that communication throughout the joint
Combatant Command      urgent needs process—particularly between the acquisition community
During Solution        and the combatant command officials in Iraq and Afghanistan and at
                       headquarters—aided in overcoming challenges related to the
Development Improved   development and fielding of solutions. While the Joint Staff worked to
Expectations           define and clarify urgent needs requirements during validation, officials for
                       16 of the 45 initiatives in our sample stated that they had to work with
                       U.S. Central Command officials in theater and at headquarters to further
                       develop the requirements after they were tasked with the urgent need.
                       The median time to initial fielding of a capability was over 8 months
                       shorter for initiatives where officials worked with U.S. Central Command
                       on requirements, as illustrated in figure 15.

                       Figure 15: Shorter Time to Initial Fielding Associated with U.S. Central Command
                       Involvement in Refining Requirements for Sampled Initiatives




                       Officials noted that it is important that urgent needs statements allow
                       some flexibility for developing solutions so that acquisition organizations
                       can make use of all available technologies to meet the warfighter’s needs.
                       In some instances, communication that began with requirements


                       Page 29                                               GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
continued and supported fielding of the capability. For example, officials
developing a capability to detect improvised explosive devices worked
with officials in Afghanistan to clarify overly prescriptive requirements.
Program officials noted that strong communication between the program
and the warfighter was one of the most important factors that allowed
their organization to field a solution within 14 months.

Officials also stated that communication with officials in theater before
and after fielding a solution was important for overcoming challenges
related to integrating the capability into the unit. For example, when
solutions arrived in theater, problems could sometimes arise because the
receiving warfighter unit was not always the same unit that had originally
requested the capability. For 15 of the 45 initiatives we reviewed, officials
reported that they had encountered challenges with fielding their
capability due to units that rotated into and out of theater. They addressed
this by contacting commanders in advance of their deployment to inform
them of the fielding of the urgent needs solution and, in some instances,
offered training to their unit. In many instances, a representative from the
executing organization would also be in theater to assist receiving
warfighter units. The program manager from one organization traveled to
theater to help address any challenges associated with unit rotation and
fielding the capability. This official emphasized that this presence in
theater helped to overcome any challenges. While officials for 31
initiatives noted that their organization had, or planned to have, a
representative in theater to aid in the fielding and integration of a solution
into a unit, some officials noted that it was preferable to have a military
representative in theater rather than a civilian employee or contractor
because the former had higher visibility among the units.

The extent to which U.S. Central Command has knowledge of the
progress of urgent needs initiatives depends, in large part, on the initiative
of program officials in communicating such information. Officials at U.S.
Central Command headquarters stated that they were not always aware
of what solutions were being developed in response to joint urgent needs
or of the progress being made by executing organizations. JRAC and
JIEDDO largely rely on three databases to track urgent needs initiatives
and document progress. 10 In these databases, information on specific


10
  Databases include the U.S. Central Command Requirements Information Manager
database, the JIEDDO Enterprise Management System, and the Joint Staff’s Knowledge
Management/Decision Support tool.




Page 30                                                GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
joint urgent needs, particularly those met by multiple initiatives, was often
unclear or incomplete, making it difficult to identify the initiatives
implemented in response to an urgent need. For example, not every
sponsor or executing organization provided a point of contact for its
initiative. JRAC officials explained that they solicit updates from executing
organizations and provide these updates to U.S. Central Command and
other groups—such as the Senior Integration Group—upon request.
Inconsistent documentation presented challenges in tracking the progress
of individual initiatives, as well as identifying points of contact for the
organizations responsible for meeting urgent needs.

Problems cited by U.S. Central Command officials in identifying what
initiatives were being developed in response to joint urgent needs were
consistent with difficulties we encountered in identifying initiatives
responding to the joint urgent needs in our sample. Officials from the Joint
Staff, JRAC, and JIEDDO compiled a list of initiatives that responded to
the joint urgent needs in our sample. For the urgent need addressing
personnel- and vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, additional
initiatives were identified later. In another case—the urgent need
addressing wide-area surveillance—officials identified additional initiatives
that had not been identified previously.

Schedule estimates were not consistently available in databases used by
U.S. Central Command, JRAC, and JIEDDO. Schedule plans were at
times documented for meeting the joint urgent need more generally, but
estimates of when a specific initiative would be fielded were often unclear
or undocumented. Executing organizations for many initiatives (25 of 45)
estimated initial fielding dates after being tasked with the joint urgent
need, but not all organizations or sponsors formally documented schedule
estimates. In many instances, estimated fielding dates were
communicated in briefing slides or through informal means, such as e-
mails.

For some initiatives, schedule estimates and expectations were
documented and communicated in an initiative decision memorandum. In
particular, an initiative decision memorandum was prepared for several
JIEDDO-sponsored initiatives, and JIEDDO currently requires that an
initiative decision memorandum be prepared for all JIEDDO-sponsored
initiatives; however, there is no requirement that applies to all initiatives.
The decision memorandums we reviewed generally included an
estimated schedule for fielding the capability and called for preparing an
acquisition strategy. Acquisition strategies we reviewed identified testing,
logistics, and other resources needed to support the development and


Page 31                                            GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
              fielding of the capability and, according to officials, facilitated better
              planning and disciplined management. Defense officials noted that the
              initiative decision memorandum includes other important information such
              as cost and funding estimates, schedule of funding, appropriation totals,
              entry/exit criteria, and manpower implications. Furthermore, they stated
              that the document captures performance and schedule changes,
              establishes a formal agreement between the program manager and
              JIEDDO, and documents the initiative’s life cycle from cradle to grave.

              Officials at U.S. Central Command stated that having better
              communication during development of a solution could help facilitate
              planning activities and operational decisions that affect the warfighter.
              JRAC and JIEDDO officials stated that although not required, they see
              regular communication with the combatant command as important for all
              initiatives.


              As DOD puts in place a policy for responding to future contingencies, it is
Conclusions   important to understand what worked well and correct what did not work
              well in responding to urgent needs in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several
              practices have potential for facilitating a quick response to warfighter
              needs. Off-the-shelf solutions should be fielded quickly, but doing so
              requires reducing the time to decide on a solution, make funding
              available, and award a contract. Creating and leveraging the enablers—
              early funding particularly for reimbursable organizations, use of
              authorities to expedite the award of contracts, early involvement of
              stakeholders including the warfighter—will help reduce response time.
              Communicating with combatant command officials in theater and at
              headquarters about requirements as well as challenges in integrating a
              capability into warfighting units supported effective fielding, but there is no
              requirement that this communication take place. Clearly communicating
              what initiatives are being undertaken in response to urgent needs is
              important to those who plan and make decisions about theater
              operations. Initiative decision memorandums aided in communicating
              schedule expectations for JIEDDO initiatives, and in some instances
              acquisition strategies communicated risks and identified testing, logistical,
              and other resources that needed to be brought to bear during
              development and fielding of joint need solutions. But, there is no
              requirement that an initiative decision memorandum be prepared for all
              initiatives.




              Page 32                                             GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                      To improve the process for responding to joint urgent operational needs,
Recommendations for   we recommend that the Secretary of Defense take the following four
Executive Action      actions:

                      •   Expedite fielding of off-the-shelf solutions by reducing the time it takes
                          to identify the solution and award a contract.
                      •   Devise methods for providing early funding to reimbursable
                          organizations tasked to execute joint urgent needs.
                      •   Require acquisition organizations to communicate with the combatant
                          commands, such as Central Command, regularly about progress in
                          executing initiatives and plans for fielding capabilities.
                      •   Require that an initiative decision memorandum be developed for all
                          initiatives that identifies the acquisition organization responsible for
                          the initiative, schedule estimates, and expectations for acquisition
                          strategies.

                      DOD provided written comments on a draft of this report. DOD concurred
Agency Comments       with all four of our recommendations, saying that it would address these
and Our Evaluation    recommendations as part of the assessment required by section 804 of
                      the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011.
                      DOD also provided technical comments that we incorporated in the final
                      report. Their comments can be found in appendix III of this report.


                      We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Defense; the
                      Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy; and the commanders for
                      the Special Operations Command and the U.S. Central Command. The
                      report also is available at no charge on the GAO website at
                      http://www.gao.gov.

                      If you or your staff have any questions concerning this report, please
                      contact me at (202) 512-4841 or sullivanm@gao.gov. Contact points for




                      Page 33                                            GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found
on the last page of this report. Staff members making key contributions to
this report are listed in appendix IV.




Michael J. Sullivan
Director
Acquisition and Sourcing Management




Page 34                                          GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology
             Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




             To review how the Department of Defense (DOD) has responded to
             urgent needs, we identified 70 joint urgent operational needs that were
             validated from April 1, 2008, to December 31, 2010. To create our
             nongeneralizable sample of initiatives to review, we selected all 14 joint
             urgent needs with cost estimates greater than $100 million and randomly
             selected 7 counter-improvised explosive device urgent needs and 7 other
             urgent needs from the remaining 56 urgent needs with cost estimates
             less than $100 million, as illustrated in figure 16.

             Figure 16: Sample Joint Urgent Operational Needs Selected for Review




             Three joint urgent needs were dropped from the sample—in one case
             because the urgent need was terminated before it was assigned to a
             sponsor and in the other two cases because knowledgeable officials were
             not accessible. We encountered several instances in which multiple
             initiatives were pursued to address one joint urgent need. As a result, we
             reviewed a total of 45 initiatives addressing 25 joint urgent needs. We
             collected the dates at which each initiative reached key events in the joint
             urgent needs process, including: urgent need validation, assignment to a
             sponsor, tasking to an executing organization, receipt of major funding
             allotment, first contract award or modification, and initial fielding of the
             capability. Moreover, the data available on initiatives varied, affecting the
             number of initiatives included in specific analyses, as shown in figure 17.




             Page 35                                              GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




Figure 17: Number of Initiatives Reviewed Based on Available Schedule Data




To determine how quickly executing organizations developed and fielded
capabilities in response to joint urgent operational needs, we assessed
the extent to which executing organizations met the expectation to field
urgent capabilities within 2 years. We reviewed the date on which the
urgent need was validated, and identified either the actual or estimated
date for initial fielding of a capability. We also assessed the extent to
which executing organizations met their own schedule estimates by
collecting and reviewing their first estimate for fielding the capability and
their actual fielding date or most current estimate. We examined the time
initiatives with certain characteristics took to field capabilities. We
analyzed characteristics on each initiative including: the year the urgent
need was validated; the sponsor; the type of executing organization
tasked with the urgent need; whether the executing organization was
working on a similar capability; and the type of solution. To assess the
reliability of our data for this review, we compared information
communicated by officials with initiative documentation, such as decision
memorandums, briefing slides, and urgent need requests. We also
reviewed information available in the three databases DOD uses to track
joint urgent needs—the U.S. Central Command Requirements
Information Manager, which is maintained by U.S. Central Command; the
Knowledge Management/Decision Support tool, which is maintained by
the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Joint
Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) Enterprise
Management System, which is maintained by JIEDDO. We determined


Page 36                                              GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




that the data we used were sufficiently reliable for the purpose of this
report.

To identify key practices that enabled executing organizations to
overcome challenges in the development and fielding of joint urgent
needs solutions, we interviewed officials from each initiative and collected
data on the challenges that each executing organization encountered.
From these interviews, we identified common challenges that initiatives
faced—receiving funds and awarding contracts—that could potentially
affect the ability of an executing organization to field an urgent capability
rapidly. We analyzed how different factors, such as contracting options,
affected the time that it took initiatives to reach key events in the urgent
needs process. We also reviewed practices that executing organizations
employed to overcome these and other programmatic challenges. In
performing our work, we obtained documentation to corroborate
information provided by officials.

We interviewed officials from the Department of Defense, the Office of the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell
who are responsible for validating and assigning joint urgent needs to
military services and other agencies for execution. We also met with
officials from Functional Capabilities Boards who were responsible for
identifying possible solutions for the urgent needs within our sample. We
met with officials from JIEDDO, each military service (Army, Navy, Air
Force, and Marine Corps), U.S. Central Command, and Special
Operations Command, who were the sponsors responsible for identifying
funds and tasking executing organizations or the combatant command
that endorsed urgent needs statements.

We conducted this performance audit between January 2011 and April
2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for
our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe
that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
and conclusions based on our audit objectives.




Page 37                                           GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Appendix II: Sample Joint Urgent Operational
                                            Appendix II: Sample Joint Urgent Operational
                                            Needs and Executing Organizations



Needs and Executing Organizations


                                                                  a
Joint urgent operational need           Executing organization
Afghanistan Counter-Rocket Artillery    •    Army, Counter-Rocket Artillery Mortar Program Directorate
Mortar
Afghanistan Mine Rollers                •    Army, Product Manager Improvised Explosive Device Defeat / Protect Force
All-Terrain Ambulance                   •    Joint Project Office, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle
Enemy Full Motion Video Exploitation    •    Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Task Force / Unmanned Aerial Systems Task
                                             Force
Handheld Metal Detector                 •    Army Research Laboratory
Improved Netted Iridium                 •    Defense Information Systems Agency, Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services Division
Improved Weather Forecasting            •    Air Force, Director of Weather
Improved Tactical Handheld Biometrics   •    Army, Program Manager, Biometrics Identity Management Agency
Solutions
Joint Expeditionary Forensic Facility   •    Naval Sea Systems Command, Asymmetric Systems Department
Low and Non-Metallic Buried             •    Army Research Laboratory
Improvised Explosive Device Detector
Machine Based Language Translation      •    Army Research Laboratory
MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle                •    Joint Project Office, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle
MRAP Wrecker and Tractor                •    Joint Project Office, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle
National Improvised Explosive Device    •    Army, Office of the Provost Marshal
Exploitation Facility
Night and All-Weather Counter-          •    Navy, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command
Improvised Explosive Device Targeting
Persistent Threat Detection System      •    Naval Air Systems Command, Special Surveillance Programs
                                        •    Army, Project Manager Robotics and Unmanned Systems
Personnel-Borne Improvised Explosive    •    Army, Armament Research Development and Engineering Center, Combating
Device / Vehicle-Borne Improvised            Terrorism Technology Team
Explosive Device Detect and Defeat      •    Army Space & Missile Defense Command / Army Forces Strategic Command
                                        •    Naval Surface Warfare Center, Directed Energy Warfare Office
                                        •    Army, Product Manager Improvised Explosive Device Defeat / Protect Force
Real-Time Regional Gateway              •    Army, Project Manager, Distributed Common Ground System
Integration with Distributed Common
Ground System
Robot Repeaters                         •    Naval Surface Warfare Center, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division
Stand-Off / Home Made Explosives        •    Air Force, Aeronautical Systems Center, Intelligence Surveillance and Surveillance,
                                             Sensors
                                        •    Army Corps of Engineers
                                        •    Naval Postgraduate School
                                        •    Army, Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate
Thick Case X-Ray                        •    Army, Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office
                                        •    Naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division
Unmanned Aerial System Resupply         •    Naval Air Systems Command, PMA-266




                                            Page 38                                                   GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
                                           Appendix II: Sample Joint Urgent Operational
                                           Needs and Executing Organizations




                                                                          a
Joint urgent operational need          Executing organization
Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive     •       Department of Energy, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Device Disruptor
Vehicle Mounted Mine Detection Husky   •       Army, Prototype Integration Facility
System
Wide-Area Surveillance                 •       Air Force, Big Safari
                                       •       Air Force Research Laboratory
                                       •       Army, Communication-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center
                                       •       Army, Project Manager Robotics and Unmanned Sensors
                                       •       Army, Project Manager, Airborne Reconnaissance and Exploitation Systems
                                       •       Army, Project Manager, Unmanned Aerial Systems
                                       •       Army, Aviation Applied Technology Directorate
                                       •       Naval Air Systems Command, Special Surveillance Programs
                                       •       Navy, Wide Focal Plane Array Camera, Integrated Product Team
                                           Source: Department of Defense provided data.
                                           a
                                           The names of some organizations are not listed because of sensitivity issues.




                                           Page 39                                                          GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Appendix III: Comments from the
              Appendix III: Comments from the Department
              of Defense



Department of Defense




              Page 40                                      GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Appendix III: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 41                                      GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Appendix III: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 42                                      GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Michael Sullivan, (202) 512-4841 or sullivanm@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  Key contributors to this report were Karen Zuckerstein, Assistant Director;
Staff             James Ashley; Jenny Chanley; Laura Greifner; Melissa Hermes; Laura
Acknowledgments   Jezewski; John Ortiz; Sylvia Schatz; Ryan Stott; Roxanna Sun; and Gavin
                  Ugale.




                  Page 43                                          GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
Related GAO Products
             Related GAO Products




             Warfighter Support: DOD’s Urgent Needs Processes Need a More
             Comprehensive Approach and Evaluation for Potential for Consolidation.
             GAO-11-273. Washington, D.C.: March 1, 2011.

             Warfighter Support: Improvements to DOD’s Urgent Needs Processes
             Would Enhance Oversight and Expedite Efforts to Meet Critical
             Warfighter Needs. GAO-10-460. Washington, D.C.: April 30, 2010.

             Warfighter Support: Actions Needed to Improve Visibility and
             Coordination of DOD’s Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Efforts.
             GAO-10-95. Washington, D.C.: October 29, 2009.

             Defense Acquisitions: Rapid Acquisition of MRAP Vehicles.
             GAO-10-155T. Washington, D.C.: October 8, 2009.

             Rapid Acquisition of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles.
             GAO-08-884R. Washington, D.C.: July 15, 2008.




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             Page 44                                       GAO-12-385 Joint Urgent Needs
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