oversight

Mobility Capabilities: DOD's Mobility Study Limitations and Newly Issued Strategic Guidance Raise Questions about Air Mobility Requirements

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-03-07.

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

                            United States Government Accountability Office

GAO                         Testimony
                            Before the Seapower and Projection
                            Forces, Committee on Armed Services,
                            House of Representatives


                            MOBILITY CAPABILITIES
For Release on Delivery
Expected at 3:30 p.m. EST
March 7, 2012



                            DOD’s Mobility Study
                            Limitations and Newly
                            Issued Strategic Guidance
                            Raise Questions about Air
                            Mobility Requirements
                            Statement of Cary Russell, Acting Director, Defense
                            Capabilities and Management




GAO-12-510T
                                          March 7, 2012

                                          MOBILITY CAPABLITIES
                                          DOD’s Mobility Study Limitations and Newly
                                          Issued Strategic Guidance Raise Questions about
                                          Air Mobility Requirements
Highlights of GAO-12-510T, a testimony
before the Subcommittee on Seapower and
Projection Forces, Committee on Armed
Services, House of Representatives



Why GAO Did This Study                    What GAO Found
Over the past 30 years, the               The Mobility Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016 (MCRS-16) provided
Department of Defense (DOD) has           some useful information concerning air mobility systems—such as intratheater
invested more than $140 billion in its    airlift, strategic airlift, and air refueling—but several weaknesses in the study
airlift and tanker forces. In 2010,       raised questions about its ability to fully inform decision makers. In particular, the
DOD published its Mobility                MCRS-16 did not provide decision makers with recommendations concerning
Capabilities and Requirements Study       shortfalls and excesses in air mobility systems. In evaluating capabilities, the
2016 (MCRS-16), which was                 MCRS-16 used three cases that it developed of potential conflicts or natural
intended to provide an understanding      disasters and identified the required capabilities for air mobility systems. Based
of the range of mobility capabilities     on data in the MCRS-16, GAO was able to discern possible shortfalls or potential
needed for possible military              capacity that could be considered excess or an operational reserve (see figure),
operations. In January 2012, DOD          even though the MCRS-16 was ambiguous regarding whether actual shortfalls or
issued new strategic guidance,            excess capabilities exist. It also did not identify the risk associated with potential
Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership:        shortfalls or excesses. Identifying the risk associated with specific mobility
                 st
Priorities for 21 Century Defense,        systems could help with decisions to allocate resources.
affecting force structure decisions.      Figure: Potential Shortfalls and Excesses in Air Mobility Capabilities Derived from MCRS-16
This testimony addresses GAO’s
previous findings on the MCRS-16
and air mobility issues to consider in
light of DOD’s new strategic
guidance.

GAO’s December 2010 report on the
MCRS-16 (GAO-11-82R) is based
on analysis of DOD’s executive
summary and classified report, and
interviews with DOD officials.


What GAO Recommends
GAO previously recommended that
DOD clearly identify shortfalls and
excesses in the mobility force
structure and the associated risks.       The Department of Defense (DOD) issued new strategic guidance in January
DOD did not concur with the               2012, which is intended to help guide decisions regarding the size and shape of
recommendations, stating that the         the force. In the past, DOD has translated strategic guidance into specific
MCRS-16 identified shortfalls and         planning scenarios, which it used in studies (such as the MCRS-16) to generate
excesses and included a risk              requirements that inform force structure decisions. Based on the new strategic
assessment. GAO disagreed, noting         guidance, the Air Force has proposed reducing its mobility air fleet by 130
for example, that DOD’s MCRS-16           aircraft, which would leave 593 mobility aircraft in the airlift fleet. According to Air
study did not explicitly identify         Force officials, the proposals will enable the Air Force to deliver the airlift
excess aircraft and did not include       capabilities required to implement the new strategic guidance and remain within
mobility system risk assessments          funding levels. However, the Air Force’s document that outlines its proposed
when potential shortfalls existed.        aircraft retirements does not provide details of any analyses used to support the
                                          reductions. Given the new strategic guidance, it is unclear the extent to which the
View GAO-12-510T. For more information,   requirements developed from MCRS-16 are still relevant. In weighing the Air
contact Cary Russell, 404-679-1808,       Force’s proposal, decision makers would benefit from a clear understanding from
russellc@gao.gov                          DOD of the basis for the proposed aircraft retirements and DOD’s ability to
                                          execute its new strategic guidance with its planned air mobility force structure.
                                                                                       United States Government Accountability Office
March 7, 2012

The Honorable W. Todd Akin
Chairman
The Honorable Mike McIntyre
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces
Committee on Armed Services
House of Representatives

Chairman Akin, Ranking Member McIntyre, and members of the
subcommittee, I am pleased to be here today to discuss air mobility
issues and supporting analyses. As we have previously reported, over the
past 30 years, DOD has invested more than $140 billion in its airlift and
tanker forces. In 2010, DOD completed the Mobility Capabilities and
Requirements Study 2016 (MCRS-16), which was to provide senior
leaders with a detailed understanding of the range of mobility capabilities
needed for possible future military operations by identifying the
capabilities and requirements to support national strategy. 1 The MCRS-16
reported on several mobility issues, including intratheater airlift, strategic
airlift, and air refueling in the context of three cases that included a mix of
different types of potential conflicts and natural disasters. DOD concluded
that, with few exceptions, the projected mobility capabilities in 2016 were
sufficient to support the most demanding projected requirements. The
MCRS-16 study was prepared in 2010 based on the defense strategy and
planning scenarios current at that time. In January 2012, DOD issued
new strategic guidance, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for
21st Century Defense. 2 In the past, DOD has translated strategic
guidance into specific planning scenarios, which it has used in studies
(such as the MCRS-16) to generate requirements that inform force
structure decisions.




1
 To conduct the MCRS-16, DOD modeled a broad spectrum of military engagements that
supported notional strategic operations using forces listed in the 2009 President’s Budget
with appropriate fiscal year 2010 adjustments and compared these capabilities with the
requirements for the 2016 time frame. Based on the strategy in effect at the time, DOD
considered the increased level of U.S. military engagements around the world and an
increased reliance on airlift for moving equipment and supplies.
                                                          st
2
 DOD, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21 Century Defense.
(Washington, D.C.: Jan. 3, 2012).




Page 1                                                                        GAO-12-510T
             My statement today will address our previous findings on the MCRS-16, 3
             with an emphasis on air mobility issues, as well as air mobility issues to
             consider in light of DOD’s January 2012 strategic guidance on defense
             priorities. To prepare this testimony, we relied on the findings of our
             December 2010 review of the MCRS-16. For that report, we reviewed the
             unclassified executive summary and the classified report of the MCRS-
             16, the study’s terms of reference, and study plan. We focused our
             December 2010 report on the extent to which the MCRS-16 met its study
             objectives. In conducting our review, we met with the MCRS-16 study
             leaders to obtain further context and information concerning the study as
             it was presented in DOD’s report. For this testimony statement, we also
             reviewed DOD’s January 2012 strategic guidance on defense priorities
             and the Air Force’s proposed force structure changes, and contacted
             officials at the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Air Mobility
             Command. We conducted work for our report 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 objective. We believe that the evidence obtained
             provided a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on
             our audit objective.



Background
MCRS-16      DOD’s MCRS-16, which was completed in February 2010, was to provide
             senior leaders with a detailed understanding of the range of mobility
             capabilities needed for possible future military operations and help
             leaders make investment decisions regarding mobility systems. The study
             was driven by strategy current at the time. The study scope included,
             among other things, the way changes in mobility systems affect the
             outcomes of major operations and an assessment of the associated risks.
             MCRS-16 had several objectives, including to determine capability




             3
              GAO, Defense Transportation: Additional Information Is Needed for DOD’s Mobility
             Capabilities and Requirements Study 2016 to Fully Address All of Its Study Objectives,
             GAO-11-82R ( Washington, D.C.: Dec. 8, 2010).




             Page 2                                                                       GAO-12-510T
shortfalls 4 (gaps) and excesses 5 (overlaps) associated with programmed
mobility force structure, provide a risk assessment, and identify the
capabilities and requirements to support national strategy.

In order to assess mobility capabilities, DOD officials responsible for the
MCRS-16 used three cases to evaluate a broad spectrum of military
operations that could be used to inform decisions regarding future
mobility capabilities. The three cases are described below:

•   Case 1: U.S. forces conduct two nearly simultaneous large-scale land
    campaigns and at the same time respond to three nearly
    simultaneous homeland defense events.
•   Case 2: U.S. forces conduct a major air/naval campaign concurrent
    with the response to a large asymmetric 6 campaign and respond to a
    significant homeland defense event.
•   Case 3: U.S. forces conduct a large land campaign against the
    backdrop of an ongoing long-term irregular warfare 7 campaign, and
    respond to three nearly simultaneous homeland defense events.

Each case required a certain percentage of mobility airlift capacity—
including strategic airlift (C-17s, C-5s), intratheater airlift (C-130s, C-27s),
and air refueling aircraft (KC-135s, KC-10s)—that DOD would employ on
the most demanding day of the case. If DOD had fewer aircraft than



4
 According to DOD, a capability gap is the inability to achieve a desired effect under
specified standards and conditions through combinations of means and ways to perform a
set of tasks. The gap may be the result of no existing capability, lack of proficiency or
sufficiency in existing capability, or the need to replace an existing capability. A shortfall
may result from a lack of forces, equipment, personnel, materiel, or capability, and is
reflected as the difference between the required resources and those available to a
combatant commander. When a lack of resources would adversely affect the command’s
ability to accomplish its mission, it is described as a shortfall.
5
 For this testimony, overlap and excess are used interchangeably. An overlap (excess)
can occur when the military seeks to achieve a desired effect by performing tasks under
specified standards and conditions and redundant capabilities exist to accomplish a
mission or task and the overlap is determined to be operationally undesirable or
excessive.
6
 In military operations, the term asymmetric means the application of dissimilar strategies,
tactics, capabilities, and methods to circumvent or negate an opponent’s strengths while
exploiting his weaknesses.
7
 Irregular warfare is a violent struggle among state and nonstate actors for legitimacy and
influence over the relevant population(s).




Page 3                                                                           GAO-12-510T
                        required, a potential shortfall would exist and there could be a risk that the
                        mission might not be accomplished. If DOD had more aircraft than
                        required, a potential excess could exist, and there could be risk that
                        resources could be expended unnecessarily on a mobility capability.


DOD’s January 2012      In January 2012, DOD issued Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership:
Strategic Guidance on   Priorities for 21st Century Defense, which describes the projected
Defense Priorities      security environment and the key military missions for which DOD will
                        prepare. DOD may make force and program decisions in accordance with
                        the strategic approach described in this guidance, which could differ from
                        the guidance—the National Military Strategy—that was used by the
                        MCRS-16 to determine requirements. The new strategic guidance is
                        intended to help inform decisions regarding the size and shape of the
                        force, recognizing that fiscal concerns are a national security issue. To
                        support the new strategic guidance and remain within funding constraints,
                        the Air Force has proposed changes concerning the retirement of aircraft
                        in its airlift fleet. 8 Specifically, in February 2012, the Air Force proposed to

                        •    Retire the oldest 27 C-5 aircraft, thereby reducing the fleet to 275
                             strategic airlift aircraft—which, according to the Air Force, would
                             consist of 223 C-17s 9 and 52 C-5s. 10
                        •    Retire the 65 oldest C-130 aircraft—the primary aircraft used in DOD’s
                             intratheater airlift mission—thereby reducing the fleet to 318 C-130s. 11
                        •    Retire or cancel procurement of all 38 planned C-27 aircraft, which
                             were intended to meet time-critical Army missions. 12




                        The Air Force has also proposed reductions in its air refueling fleet.
                        8


                        9
                         DOD’s January 2012 Budget Priorities and Choices document identifies a remaining force
                        of 222 C-17 aircraft, which differs from the remaining 223 C-17s identified in the Air
                        Force’s February 2012 Force Structures Changes document.
                        10
                          The C-5 Galaxy is one of the largest aircraft in the world and the largest airlifter in the Air
                        Force inventory. The aircraft can carry a fully equipped combat-ready military unit to any
                        point in the world on short notice and then provide the supplies required to help sustain
                        the fighting force. The C-5 can carry outsize and oversize cargo and has a greater
                        capacity than any other airlifter.
                         The C130 is a medium-range, tactical airlift aircraft designed primarily for transport of
                        11

                        cargo and personnel within a theater of operations. Variants of the C-130 perform other
                        missions including rescue and recovery, air refueling, special operations, fire-fighting and
                        weather reconnaissance.




                        Page 4                                                                             GAO-12-510T
                           While the MCRS-16 included some useful information concerning air
DOD Did Not Clearly        mobility systems, the report did not clearly meet two of its objectives
Identify Some              because it did not provide decision makers with specific information
                           concerning (1) shortfalls and excesses associated with the mobility force
Important Mobility         structure or (2) risks associated with shortfalls or excesses of its mobility
Issues in the MCRS-16      capabilities. Moreover, the MCRS-16 generally did not make
and Its New Strategic      recommendations about air mobility capabilities. These weaknesses in
                           the MCRS-16 raise questions about the ability of the study to provide
Guidance Raises            decision makers with information needed to make programmatic
Questions                  decisions. In addition, DOD’s January 2012 strategic guidance could
                           affect its air mobility requirements. I will first address the issues related to
                           DOD’s MCRS-16, and then turn to a discussion of the new strategic
                           guidance.


Study Did Not Clearly      The MCRS-16 did not meet its objective to identify shortfalls and
Identify Shortfalls and    excesses in most of its assessments of mobility systems. For each of the
Excesses in Air Mobility   three cases of potential conflicts or natural disasters DOD used in the
                           MCRS-16, the department identified the required capabilities for air
Systems                    mobility systems. However, the MCRS-16 stopped short of explicitly
                           stating whether a shortfall or excess existed. Moreover, it did not make
                           recommendations regarding the need for any changes to air mobility
                           assets based on any shortfalls or excesses. Using DOD data from the
                           MCRS-16, we were able to discern possible shortfalls or potential
                           capacity that could be considered excess or used as an operational
                           reserve even though the MCRS-16 report was ambiguous regarding
                           whether actual shortfalls or excess capabilities existed (see figure). 13




                           12
                             The C-27 Spartan is a mid-range, multifunctional aircraft. Its primary mission is to
                           provide on-demand transport of time-sensitive, mission-critical supplies and key personnel
                           to forward-deployed Army units, including those in remote and austere locations. Its
                           mission also includes casualty evacuation, airdrop, troop transport, aerial sustainment,
                           and homeland security.
                           13
                             Operational reserves can be an emergency reserve of men or materiel established for
                           the support of a specific operation.




                           Page 5                                                                       GAO-12-510T
Figure: Potential Shortfalls and Excesses in Air Mobility Capabilities Derived from the MCRS-16




                                         Note: Case two did not include an intratheater airlift requirement.


                                         As shown in the figure, the MCRS-16 determined that in each case, there
                                         was unused strategic airlift capacity, but the study did not specifically
                                         state whether the unused capacity represented excesses or identify
                                         excesses by aircraft type. When an excess exists, decision makers need
                                         to know which aircraft and how many could be retired. Specifically, the
                                         MCRS-16 did not identify the required number of C-5s or excesses of C-5
                                         aircraft; but at the time of our report, the Air Force stated its intention to
                                         seek the retirement of 22 C-5s, which it increased to 27 and proposed
                                         again in February 2012. Furthermore, the MCRS-16 did not identify the
                                         most combat-effective or the most cost-effective fleet of aircraft even




                                         Page 6                                                                GAO-12-510T
                            though DOD had previously stated that the MCRS-16 would set the stage
                            to address the cost-effectiveness of its strategic aircraft. 14

                            Decision makers rely on studies such as the MCRS-16 so that they can
                            make informed choices to address mobility shortfalls and excesses. In our
                            December 2010 report, we recommended that DOD explicitly identify the
                            shortfalls and excesses in the mobility systems that DOD analyzed for the
                            MCRS-16 and provide this additional analysis to DOD and congressional
                            decision makers. In commenting on our draft report, DOD disagreed with
                            our recommendations, stating that the MCRS-16 explicitly identifies
                            shortfalls and excesses in the mobility system. DOD identified strategic
                            airlift as an example of an excess. While the MCRS-16 showed that there
                            was unused capacity associated with strategic airlift, it was not clear from
                            the study whether this unused capacity could serve as an operational
                            reserve. If the study had clearly identified an excess in strategic lift
                            capabilities, decision makers may have chosen to retire aircraft and
                            reallocate resources to other priorities or to keep an operational reserve
                            to militate against unforeseen events. Similarly, if the study had identified
                            a shortfall in strategic lift capabilities, decision makers may have chosen
                            to accept the operational risk or sought to address the shortfall by
                            increasing capabilities. DOD has not taken action based on our
                            recommendation, but we continue to believe that explicitly identifying the
                            shortfalls and excesses in mobility systems is useful to decision makers in
                            making programmatic decisions.


Study Did Not Identify      The MCRS-16 also did not clearly achieve its study objective to provide
Associated Risks of         risk assessments. 15 Assessing risk related to shortfalls and excesses is
Shortfalls or Excesses in   important—the risk associated with shortfalls is that the mission might not
                            be accomplished, while the risk associated with excesses is that
Air Mobility Systems
                            resources may be expended unnecessarily on a mobility capability.
                            However, the MCRS-16 did not include risk assessments of airlift



                             GAO, Defense Acquisitions: Timely and Accurate Estimates of Costs and Requirements
                            14

                            Are Needed to Define Optimal Future Strategic Airlift Mix, GAO-09-50 (Washington, D.C.:
                            Nov. 21, 2008).
                            15
                              According to the National Defense Strategy in effect at the time of the study, risk
                            assessment is an essential part of balancing risks, given limited resources, and requires
                            identifying the potential for damage to national security combined with the probability of
                            occurrence and a measurement of the consequences should the underlying risk remain
                            unaddressed.




                            Page 7                                                                         GAO-12-510T
                        systems. For example, the MCRS-16 showed potential excesses in
                        strategic and intratheater aircraft but did not identify the risk associated
                        with these potential excesses. Furthermore, the MCRS-16 identified a
                        reduced intratheater airlift fleet (401 C-130s) in comparison with the
                        previous fleet (a maximum of 674 C-130s), but it did not describe the level
                        of risk associated with this reduced fleet size. 16 Concerning air refueling,
                        the MCRS-16 reported that airborne tanker demand exceeded tanker
                        capacity by 20 percent in MCRS-16 case two but did not identify the risk
                        associated with that potential shortfall.

                        In our December 2010 report, we recommended that DOD provide a risk
                        assessment for potential shortfalls and excesses and provide this
                        additional analysis to department and congressional decision makers.
                        DOD disagreed, stating that MCRS-16 included a risk assessment which
                        links the ability of mobility systems to achieve warfighting objectives.
                        Therefore, DOD has not taken action on this recommendation. While
                        warfighting risk metrics can inform decision makers concerning overall
                        mobility capabilities, decision makers would benefit from knowing the risk
                        associated with particular mobility systems as they make force structure
                        decisions. Quantifying the risk associated with specific mobility systems
                        could help with decisions to allocate resources, enabling decision makers
                        to address the most risk at the least cost.


DOD’s New Strategic     In January 2012, DOD issued new strategic guidance, Sustaining U.S.
Guidance May Affect     Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, that will help
Required Air Mobility   guide decisions regarding the size and shape of the force. The strategic
                        guidance is to ensure that the military is agile, flexible, and ready for the
Capabilities            full range of contingencies. However, the strategic guidance includes
                        changes from previous strategy—for example, U.S. forces will no longer
                        be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations. 17 In the
                        past, DOD has translated strategic guidance into specific planning



                        16
                          In 2005, DOD’s Mobility Capabilities Study described a fleet containing a maximum of
                        674 C-130s as a moderate risk fleet. By comparison, DOD’s MCRS-16 reported that a
                        fleet of 401 C-130s exceeded demands.
                        17
                          DOD defines stability operations as an overarching term encompassing various military
                        missions, tasks, and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination with
                        other instruments of national power to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure
                        environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure
                        reconstruction, and humanitarian relief.




                        Page 8                                                                       GAO-12-510T
                     scenarios, which DOD has used in studies (such as the MCRS-16) to
                     generate requirements that inform force structure decisions. Based on the
                     new strategic guidance, the Air Force has proposed changes to the
                     mobility air fleet, including the retirement or cancellation of procurement
                     of 130 mobility aircraft. According to Air Force officials, the proposals
                     ensure that the Air Force can deliver the capabilities required by the new
                     strategic guidance and remain within funding levels. However, the Air
                     Force’s February 2012 document that outlines its proposed aircraft
                     retirements does not provide details of any analyses. Given the new
                     strategic guidance—which articulates priorities for a 21st century
                     defense—it is unclear the extent to which the requirements developed
                     from the MCRS-16 are still relevant. In weighing the Air Force’s proposal,
                     decision makers will require additional information concerning what types
                     of potential military operations are envisioned by the strategic guidance
                     and to what extent DOD has analyzed its planned force structure using
                     cases that reflect the new strategic guidance.


                     In conclusion, the MCRS-16 study did not fully provide congressional
Concluding Remarks   decision makers with a basis for understanding what mobility systems are
                     needed to meet requirements, how many are needed, and what are the
                     risks of having too many or not enough of each aircraft to meet defense
                     strategy. While DOD disagreed with our recommendations, we continue
                     to believe that the study missed opportunities to identify specific shortfalls
                     and excesses and did not provide associated risk assessments. Further,
                     the MCRS-16 study was completed more than 2 years ago using defense
                     planning guidance in effect at that time. With DOD’s newly issued
                     strategic guidance on defense priorities, the department’s potential
                     scenarios may have changed. Decision makers would benefit from a clear
                     understanding from DOD of the basis for the proposed aircraft retirements
                     and DOD’s ability to execute its new strategic guidance with its planned
                     air mobility force structure.


                     Chairman Akin and Ranking Member McIntyre, and members of the
                     subcommittee, this concludes my prepared statement. I am happy to
                     answer any questions that you may have at this time.




                     Page 9                                                             GAO-12-510T
                  For further information regarding this testimony, please contact Cary
Contacts and      Russell at (404) 679-1808 or russellc@gao.gov. In addition, contact
Acknowledgments   points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may
                  be found on the last page of this statement. Individuals who made key
                  contributions to this testimony are Alissa H. Czyz, Assistant Director,
                  James P. Klein, Ronald La Due Lake, Richard B. Powelson, Michael C.
                  Shaughnessy, Jennifer B. Spence, Amie M. Steele, Joseph J. Watkins,
                  and Stephen K. Woods.




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                  Page 10                                                        GAO-12-510T
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