oversight

Defense Strategy: Revised Analytic Approach Needed to Support Force Structure Decision-Making

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2019-03-14.

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

             United States Government Accountability Office
             Report to Congressional Committees




             DEFENSE
March 2019




             STRATEGY

             Revised Analytic
             Approach Needed to
             Support Force
             Structure Decision-
             Making




GAO-19-385
                                               March 2019

                                               DEFENSE STRATEGY
                                               Revised Analytic Approach Needed to Support Force
                                               Structure Decision-Making
Highlights of GAO-19-385, a report to
congressional committees




Why GAO Did This Study                         What GAO Found
DOD’s 2018 National Defense Strategy           The Department of Defense’s (DOD) analytic approach has not provided senior
continues the department’s shift toward        leaders with the support they need to evaluate and determine the force structure
focusing on the challenges posed by            necessary to implement the National Defense Strategy. DOD’s analytic
major powers—China and Russia. The             approach—Support for Strategic Analysis (SSA)—is used by the services to
strategy concludes that DOD must               evaluate their force structure needs and develop their budgets. However, GAO
pursue urgent change at a significant          found that SSA has been hindered by three interrelated challenges:
scale and starkly warns that failure to
properly implement the strategy will           •   Products are cumbersome and inflexible. Although DOD guidance states
rapidly result in a force that is irrelevant       that SSA products are to be common starting points for analysis on plausible
to the threats it will face. To implement          threats, including threats identified in strategic guidance, DOD has not kept
the change DOD envisions, senior                   the products complete and up to date in part because they were highly
leaders must have quality information.             detailed and complex and therefore cumbersome to develop and analyze.
Senate Report 115-125 includes a               •   Analysis does not significantly deviate from services’ programmed
provision for GAO to review DOD’s                  force structures or test key assumptions. Although DOD’s guidance
analytic approach for informing force              states that SSA should facilitate a broad range of analysis exploring
structure decisions to implement the               innovative approaches to mitigate threats identified in the strategy, the
National Defense Strategy. This report             services generally have not conducted this type of analysis because
assesses, among other things, whether
                                                   guidance has not specifically required the services to do so.
DOD’s analytic approach has provided
senior leaders with the support needed.        •   DOD lacks joint analytic capabilities to assess force structure. Although
GAO reviewed DOD guidance,                         DOD guidance states that SSA is intended to facilitate the comparison and
assessed whether DOD was meeting                   evaluation of competing force structure options and cross-service tradeoffs,
the objectives identified in its guidance,         the department has not conducted this type of analysis because it lacks a
and interviewed agency officials. This is          body or process to do so.
an unclassified version of a classified
report issued in February 2019.                DOD efforts to revise its analytic approach are in the early stages and have not
Information that DOD deemed classified         yet identified solutions to these challenges. Moreover, DOD has attempted
has been omitted.                              reforms in the past without success. Without a functioning analytic process that
                                               addresses the above challenges, senior leaders do not have the analytic support
What GAO Recommends                            they need to prioritize force structure investments that would best manage risk
GAO recommends that DOD (1)                    and address the threats outlined in the National Defense Strategy.
determine the analytic products needed
                                          Comparison of Support for Strategic Analysis Design and Implementation
and update them, (2) provide specific
guidance requiring the services to
explore a range of alternative
approaches and force structures, and
(3) establish an approach for conducting
joint force structure analysis across the
department. DOD concurred with the
recommendations and noted the
department has begun addressing them.




View GAO-19-385. For more information,
contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-3489 or
pendletonj@gao.gov.
                                               ______________________________________ United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                   1
               Background                                                               5
               DOD Has Established an Approach to Provide Senior Leaders
                 with Analytic Support for Making Force Structure Decisions             9
               DOD’s Analytic Approach Has Not Provided Senior Leaders with
                 Needed Support for Major Force Structure Decisions and
                 Alternative Approaches Are Incomplete                                 13
               Conclusions                                                             23
               Recommendations for Executive Action                                    24
               Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                      24

Appendix I     Military Services’ Analytic Processes for
               Assessing Force Structure Needs                                         28



Appendix II    Comments from the Department of Defense                                 31



Appendix III   GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                   34


Tables
               Table 1: Department of Defense (DOD) Organizations with Key
                       Roles in Providing Analytic Support to Senior Leaders
                       Making Force Structure Decisions                                 8
               Table 2: Support for Strategic Analysis (SSA) Product Summary           10
               Table 3: Comparison of Service Force Structure Development
                       Processes                                                       29

Figures
               Figure 1: Hierarchy and Description of Key U.S. Strategic
                        Guidance Documents                                              7
               Figure 2: Support for Strategic Analysis (SSA) Process as
                        Designed                                                       12




               Page i                                           GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
Abbreviations

CAPE                       Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation
CONOPS                     Concepts of Operations
DOD                        Department of Defense
DPS                        Defense Planning Scenario
DV                         Detailed View
NDS                        National Defense Strategy
NMS                        National Military Strategy
NSS                        National Security Strategy
OUSD (Policy)              Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Policy)
SSA                        Support for Strategic Analysis



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Page ii                                                       GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
                       Letter




441 G St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20548




                       March 14, 2019

                       The Honorable James M. Inhofe
                       Chairman
                       The Honorable Jack Reed
                       Ranking Member
                       Committee on Armed Services
                       United States Senate

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

                       The Department of Defense’s (DOD) 2018 National Defense Strategy
                       continues the department’s shift away from a focus on violent extremism
                       and toward a focus on the challenges posed by major powers. 1 According
                       to the strategy, the central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the
                       reemergence of long-term, strategic competition with “revisionist powers”
                       China and Russia. 2 After two decades of unchallenged U.S. military
                       dominance, the strategy notes that the future strategic environment
                       demands analysis that accepts uncertainty and complexity and that is
                       capable of driving innovation amid rapidly changing threats. U.S. military
                       advantage, as stated in the strategy, has been eroding as rapid
                       technological changes spread globally and potential adversaries actively
                       seek to undermine DOD’s advantages. The strategy concludes that the
                       department must pursue urgent change at a significant scale and starkly
                       warns that failure to properly implement the strategy will rapidly result in a
                       force that is irrelevant to the threats it will face.



                       1
                        DOD, 2018 National Defense Strategy: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive
                       Edge (Jan. 19, 2018) (SECRET). See also, DOD, Summary of the 2018 National Defense
                       Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive
                       Edge (Jan. 19, 2018).
                       2
                        The National Defense Strategy notes that revisionist powers are those that want to shape
                       a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other
                       nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions.




                       Page 1                                                      GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 increased defense discretionary
spending limits by a total of $165 billion for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. 3
However, the department faces difficult choices for how to best balance
the readiness of its current force, which is being heavily utilized, against
the modernization needed to implement a strategy focused on highly
capable adversaries. Moreover, rapid change can be difficult for any
organization, especially one as large as DOD. Any significant change
from the status quo requires sustained senior leader involvement. Senior
leaders are better positioned to do that when they have quality
information to help them weigh options and determine the best path
forward for implementing a strategy. However, DOD has reported facing
challenges implementing a process to provide analytic support to DOD
senior leaders as they deliberate strategy and budget matters, even after
years of reform efforts.

The Senate Armed Services Committee report accompanying a bill for the
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 notes that DOD
has varied its approach for determining force structure needs and
included a provision for us to review DOD’s analytic approach for
informing force structure decisions. 4 In this report, we (1) describe the
approach that DOD has established to provide senior leaders with
analytic support for making force structure decisions to support the
strategic priorities identified in the National Defense Strategy and (2)
assess whether that approach has provided senior leaders with the
analytic support needed for making force structure decisions to implement
the National Defense Strategy.

This report is a public version of our February 2019 classified report. 5
DOD deemed some of the information in the prior report as classified,
which must be protected from public disclosure. Therefore, this report
omits classified information such as specific information on the military
threats and capabilities of adversaries identified in the National Defense
Strategy, and the DOD products and analysis available to help senior
leaders prioritize the force structure needed to mitigate those threats.
Although the information provided in this report is more limited, the report


3
    Pub. L. No. 115-123, § 30101 (2018).
4
    S. Rep. No. 115-125, at 115-116 (2017).
5
 GAO, Defense Strategy: Revised Analytic Approach Needed to Support Force Structure
Decision-Making, GAO-19-40C (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 11, 2019) (SECRET//NOFORN).




Page 2                                                   GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
addresses the same objectives as the classified report and uses the
same methodology.

To address our first objective, we analyzed Office of the Secretary of
Defense guidance to determine how DOD’s analytic approach is used to
inform senior leaders’ force structure decisions. 6 We reviewed the
relevant guidance to determine the roles and responsibilities for the DOD
organizations involved with developing and maintaining products that
serve as starting points for analysis throughout the department,
definitions of those products, and the approach for developing and using
them. We reviewed the four military services’ respective guidance to
determine how the services are directed to identify and evaluate force
structure needs. 7 We also reviewed the 2018 National Defense Strategy
and supplemental Defense Planning Guidance to describe the key threats
against which the department is required to plan its force structure to be
prepared to deter or defeat. 8 We interviewed knowledgeable officials from
the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (OUSD (Policy));
the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Joint Staff); the
Office of the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE);
and the four military services to corroborate our understanding of the
guidance we reviewed.

To address our second objective, we assessed whether DOD’s approach
provided senior leaders the information they need for making force
structure decisions. We reviewed DOD’s relevant guidance documents,
developed by senior leaders such as the Secretary of Defense and the
Deputy Secretary of Defense, which defined key objectives for DOD’s
analytic approach and discussed whether the department was meeting

6
 Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum, National Defense Strategy: From Strategy to
Action (Feb. 16, 2018); Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff Memorandum, FY 2018 Defense Analytic Guidance (June 10, 2016);
Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum, Support for Strategic Analysis Process (Nov.
14, 2014); Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (OUSD (Policy)), Guidance
for the Use of Support for Strategic Analysis Products (May 6, 2013); DOD Directive
8260.05, Support for Strategic Analysis (SSA) (July 7, 2011).
7
 Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Instruction 3050.27, Force Structure Assessments
(Feb. 12, 2015); Air Force Policy Directive 90-11, Air Force Strategy, Planning, and
Programming Process (Aug. 6, 2015); Marine Corps Order 5311.1E, Total Force Structure
Process (Nov.18, 2015); Army Regulation 71-11, Total Army Analysis (TAA) (Dec. 29,
1995).
8
 DOD, 2018 National Defense Strategy; Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum,
National Defense Strategy: From Strategy to Action (Feb. 16, 2018).




Page 3                                                      GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
those objectives. 9 We reviewed documentation on the status of analytic
products DOD has developed since 2012 that are currently available for
the military services to use when conducting their force structure analyses
and assessed whether these products were developed in accordance
with DOD’s relevant guidance. 10 We also reviewed documentation
provided by the military services, including examples of recent force
structure analyses and additional analysis they conducted. We reviewed
DOD documentation to identify past reforms to guidance, products, and
processes and interviewed knowledgeable officials to understand
changes the department is currently considering to how it provides
analytic support to senior leaders. We also reviewed GAO’s Cost
Estimation Guide and Standards for Internal Control in the Federal
Government to identify best practices for sound analysis, which call for
sensitivity and risk analyses, among other things. 11 We also interviewed
officials from OUSD (Policy), the Joint Staff, CAPE, and the four military
services to corroborate our understanding of their development and use
of analytic products and to identify their perspectives on the benefits of
and challenges to using existing products and processes. For all of our
objectives, we performed work at the organizations responsible for
analyzing force structure needs within the Office of the Secretary of
Defense, the Joint Staff, and the military services. 12

The performance audit upon which this report is based was conducted
from August 2017 to February 2019 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

9
 Secretary of Defense Memorandum, FY 2018 – FY 2022 Defense Planning Guidance
(Feb. 29, 2016); Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
Staff Memorandum, FY 2018 Defense Analytic Guidance (June 10, 2016); Deputy
Secretary of Defense Memorandum, Support for Strategic Analysis Process (Nov. 14,
2014); OUSD (Policy), Guidance for the Use of Support for Strategic Analysis Products
(May 6, 2013); DOD Directive 8260.05.
10
  For the purposes of this report, force structure analysis includes the breadth of analysis
that informs force sizing, shaping, capability, and concept development.
11
 GAO, GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide, GAO-09-3SP (Washington, D.C.:
March 2009), and GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government,
GAO-14-704G (Washington, D.C.: September 2014).
12
   In addition to the military services, U.S. Special Operations Command has
responsibilities for analyzing force structure requirements. We did not include U.S. Special
Operations Command in the scope of this review.




Page 4                                                         GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
             audit objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a
             reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit
             objectives. We subsequently worked with DOD to prepare this
             unclassified version of the report for public release from February 2019 to
             March 2019. This public version was also prepared in accordance with
             these standards.


             The National Defense Strategy is DOD’s primary strategy document,
Background   providing a foundation for all other strategic guidance in the department. 13
             The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 required
             DOD to develop a national defense strategy and update it at least once
             every 4 years and, during the years without an update, to assess the
             implementation of the strategy and whether any revision is necessary. 14
             The National Defense Strategy replaces the Quadrennial Defense
             Review, which the Armed Services Committees concluded had become
             too slow and ineffective to provide relevant strategic direction to the
             department. For each new strategy, DOD is required to identify, among
             other things:

             •      DOD’s strategic priority missions;
             •      the force structure, readiness, posture, and capabilities needed to
                    support the strategy; and
             •      major investments required by the strategy.
             A separate provision in the act also established a Commission to assess
             the 2018 National Defense Strategy. The provision required the
             Commission to review the assumptions, missions, force posture and
             structure, and risks associated with the strategy. 15 Congress expressed
             continued interest in DOD’s strategy implementation and assessment in

             13
                Strategic guidance is strategic direction contained in key documents. The President,
             Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff use strategic direction to
             communicate their broad goals and issue specific guidance to DOD. Strategic direction
             provides the common thread that integrates and synchronizes the planning activities and
             operations of the Joint Staff, combatant commands, services, joint forces, combat support
             agencies, and other DOD agencies. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Pub. 5-0,
             Joint Planning (June 16, 2017).
             14
                  Pub. L. No. 114-328, § 941(a) (2016) (codified at 10 U.S.C. § 113(g)).
             15
               Pub. L. No. 114-328, § 942 (2016). The Commission issued its final report in November
             2018, after we had sent our draft report to DOD for its comments. As such, we have not
             incorporated the Commission’s findings into this report.




             Page 5                                                           GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
2019, which included several provisions related to these matters. 16

The National Defense Strategy falls under the President’s National
Security Strategy, which outlines the overarching security strategy for the
federal government. The National Defense Strategy is above the National
Military Strategy, which provides more detailed military direction. Figure 1
provides the hierarchy and description of key U.S. strategic guidance
documents.




16
  See, e.g., Pub. L. No. 115-232, §§ 902, 1041, 1075 (2018) (regarding modification of
responsibilities of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, strategic guidance
documents within DOD, and reporting on the highest-priority roles and missions of DOD
and the Armed Forces).




Page 6                                                      GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
Figure 1: Hierarchy and Description of Key U.S. Strategic Guidance Documents




Organizations across DOD play a role in providing analytic support to
senior leaders as they make force structure decisions to support the
National Defense Strategy. Table 1 provides a summary of the
organizations with key roles and responsibilities for providing analytic
support to senior leaders making force structure decisions.




Page 7                                                GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
Table 1: Department of Defense (DOD) Organizations with Key Roles in Providing
Analytic Support to Senior Leaders Making Force Structure Decisions

    Organization                      Summary of analytic duties
    Office of the Under               •      Advise on national security and defense policy and the
    Secretary of Defense for                 integration and oversight of DOD policy and plans to
    Policy (OUSD (Policy))                   achieve national security objectives.
                                      •      Provide direction regarding service analytic priorities for
                                             the budget development process.
    Joint Chiefs of Staff (Joint      •      Conduct net assessments in support of the development
    Staff)                                   of the National Military Strategy.
                                      •      Assess plans of the Combatant Commands and
                                             periodically review their missions, responsibilities, and
                                             force structure.
                                      •      Assess the extent to which military service budget
                                             proposals conform to DOD priorities and offer
                                             alternatives, if necessary.
    Cost Assessment and               •      Provide independent analysis and advice on matters
    Program Evaluation                       including DOD’s budget, and ensure that DOD’s cost
    (CAPE)                                   estimation and cost analysis processes provide accurate
                                             information and realistic estimates of cost for the
                                             acquisition programs.
                                      •      Conduct independent analysis of military service
                                             program and budget proposals.
    Military Services                 •      Determine military service force structure requirements
                                             and make recommendations concerning force
                                             requirements to support national security objectives and
                                             strategy and to meet the operational requirements of the
                                                                      a
                                             Combatant Commands.
                                      •      Present and justify positions on the plans, programs,
                                             and policies of the department.
Source: GAO analysis of Department of Defense information. | GAO-19-385

Note: Statutes and DOD guidance documents assign many of the roles and responsibilities to
individuals rather than to the offices that support those individuals (e.g., to the Under Secretary of
Defense for Policy rather than to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy). We refer to
the offices that support those principals, as is common practice in the department.
a
 The Combatant Commands also conduct analyses, including determining operational requirements,
identifying gaps, and conducting risk assessments.




Page 8                                                                    GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
                                                        DOD established its approach, Support for Strategic Analysis (SSA), in
DOD Has Established                                     2002 to provide analytic support to DOD senior leaders as they deliberate
an Approach to                                          strategy and budget matters and to support evaluations of force structure
                                                        needs across the joint force. 17 SSA is structured to do this by providing a
Provide Senior                                          common set of assumptions for various military threats that form the basis
Leaders with Analytic                                   for further analysis across the department. DOD guidance states that
                                                        SSA is intended to provide a common starting point for the exploration of
Support for Making                                      various approaches to address the threats. 18 DOD guidance further states
Force Structure                                         that analyses should provide senior leaders with insights on the relative
                                                        risks of various operational approaches and force structures. 19 Senior
Decisions                                               leaders would then have a basis to weigh options, examine tradeoffs
                                                        across the joint force, and drive any force structure changes necessary to
                                                        meet the strategy. For more information on the origin of SSA, see the
                                                        sidebar below.

Origin of Support for Strategic Analysis
                                                        SSA is led by OUSD (Policy), the Joint Staff, and CAPE—collectively
DOD officials told us that the department               referred to as the Tri-Chairs. DOD guidance assigns each Tri-Chair
developed what became SSA because then                  responsibility for creating one of three increasingly detailed products for a
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was                variety of military threats that, taken together, comprise the common
frustrated by the lack of objective measures to
compare competing force structure proposals.            starting point for additional analysis of that threat. 20 The resultant SSA
During the 1990s, each service developed its            product library is then available to the services and other DOD
own analytic process and assumptions for
assessing force structure needs to develop              organizations for further analysis.
requirements for budget submissions. Each
service’s analytic process tended to favor its
preferred force structure and operational
                                                        DOD guidance notes that the threats SSA products address are
approach. DOD officials stated that the lack of         examples of the types of threats U.S. joint forces are expected to be able
a common analytic starting point for all of the         to address with acceptable risk. 21 However, the guidance states that the
services also meant that senior leaders had
difficulty getting beyond debates about the
services’ respective assumptions during
discussions on force structure priorities. As a         17
                                                           DOD Directive 8260.1, Data Collection, Development, and Management in Support of
result, the Secretary of Defense had no                 Strategic Analysis (Dec. 6, 2002) (superseded by DOD Directive 8260.05, Support for
objective basis by which to decide whether,             Strategic Analysis (SSA) (July 7, 2011)).
for example, a Navy proposal to buy more
ships or an Air Force proposal to buy more              18
                                                          Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum, Support for Strategic Analysis Process
fighter aircraft was the best way for the               (Nov. 14, 2014). See also DOD Directive 8260.05; Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice
department to use its limited resources to
                                                        Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum, FY 2018 Defense Analytic Guidance
support strategic priorities.
                                                        (June 10, 2018); OUSD (Policy), Guidance for the Use of Support for Strategic Analysis
Source: GAO analysis of DOD information. I GAO-19-385
                                                        Products (May 6, 2013).
                                                        19
                                                           OUSD (Policy), Guidance for the Use of Support for Strategic Analysis Products (May 6,
                                                        2013).
                                                        20
                                                             DOD Directive 8260.05.
                                                        21
                                                         OUSD (Policy), Guidance for the Use of Support for Strategic Analysis Products (May 6,
                                                        2013).




                                                        Page 9                                                      GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
forces described in the products are not intended to constitute DOD’s
force structure requirements. Instead, analysis using these products is
intended to help senior leaders establish force structure requirements that
balance risk across a range of threats, within fiscal constraints. Table 2
identifies the three SSA products that are intended to form the common
starting point for analysis for a given plausible threat, along with the lead
Tri-Chair for each product type.

Table 2: Support for Strategic Analysis (SSA) Product Summary

    SSA product
    (lead Tri-Chair)                    Product description
    Defense Planning                    •     High-level description of a plausible threat, the strategic
    Scenario                                  approach to address it, and assumptions that should be
    (OUSD (Policy))                           used to guide Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and
                                              force development, including information on adversary
                                              capabilities and the strategic objectives
                                        •     Least detailed product
    Concept of Operations               •     Description of the operational approach to address the
                          a
    (CONOPS) and Forces                       threat identified in the Defense Planning Scenario and
    (Joint Staff)                             the major force structure elements (e.g., ships and
                                              fighter squadrons) used in that approach
                    b
    Detailed View                       •     Refined estimate of the numbers and types of units
    (CAPE)                                    needed to support the CONOPS
                                        •     Developed to support the services’ analytic processes
                                        •     Most detailed product
Source: GAO analysis of Department of Defense information. | GAO-19-385

Note: As designed, the common starting point for analysis in SSA for a given threat includes these
three products. The services support the Tri-Chairs in developing these products.
a
In this report, we refer to the SSA Concept of Operations and Forces product collectively as
CONOPS.
b
 Department of Defense documents and officials refer to this product as a baseline or a detailed view.
For ease of presentation, we refer to it as the Detailed View in this report.


According to DOD guidance, the military services are to support the Tri-
Chairs in developing the SSA products and, according to DOD officials,
are the primary users of these products. 22 The guidance requires that the
services use SSA products as common starting points for studies
evaluating their force structure needs for implementing the defense
strategy and supporting their budget development, among other things.
Although the starting points are common across the department, each
service uses its own analytic process to evaluate its specific force

22
     DOD Directive 8260.05.




Page 10                                                                    GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
structure needs for implementing the strategy and supporting its budget
development (see app. I for further details on each service’s analytic
process).

The services may examine any plausible threat in the SSA library that
they believe may help them understand their force structure needs.
However, the 2018 National Defense Strategy identifies several key
threats and the principal priorities for the department that the services
must prioritize when developing their force structures. Specifically, the
unclassified summary of the strategy calls for the department to increase
and sustain investments towards the long-term strategic competitions with
China and Russia, and to concurrently sustain its efforts to deter and
counter rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran, defeat terrorist
threats to the United States, and consolidate gains in Iraq and
Afghanistan with a more resource-sustainable approach. Further, budget
guidance—in particular the Defense Planning Guidance—directs each
service on which threats it must focus as part of its budget development
process. 23 Figure 2 provides a generalized overview of how the SSA
process was designed to operate.




23
   The Defense Planning Guidance is “by exception” guidance, stating that, unless
otherwise directed, DOD components should maintain investments and other resourcing
activities in accordance with other official fiscal, planning, and programming guidance.




Page 11                                                      GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
Figure 2: Support for Strategic Analysis (SSA) Process as Designed




                                        Note: The figure does not represent DOD’s full SSA product library.
                                        a
                                         The Tri-Chairs are OUSD (Policy), the Joint Staff, and CAPE.




                                        Page 12                                                               GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
                            SSA has not provided senior leaders with the analytic support they need
DOD’s Analytic              to evaluate and make fully informed decisions regarding the force
Approach Has Not            structure needed to implement the National Defense Strategy. DOD has
                            recognized this and attempted to reform SSA for several years, including
Provided Senior             exploring alternative options for providing senior leaders with better
Leaders with Needed         decision-making support. However, DOD has not fully developed these
                            approaches and it is unclear whether they will provide the analytic support
Support for Major           needed.
Force Structure
Decisions and
Alternative
Approaches Are
Incomplete

Support for Strategic       To date, SSA has not provided the analytic support senior leaders need
Analysis Has Not Provided   to evaluate and determine the force structure required to implement the
                            defense strategy. DOD senior leaders have documented concerns with
Senior Leaders with
                            SSA in relevant guidance. For example, DOD’s 2016 Defense Analytic
Needed Analytic Support     Guidance stated explicitly that there were cracks in the department’s
Due to Three Interrelated   analytic foundation, many of which originate within SSA. 24 Further, CAPE
Challenges                  and the Joint Staff had disengaged from the SSA process by this time
                            but, as of September 2018, the services were still using SSA products for
                            their force structure analyses and budget development.

                            Based on our analysis, we believe that SSA has not yielded the analytic
                            support that it was intended to provide owing to three interrelated and
                            persistent challenges: (1) cumbersome and inflexible products, (2) limited
                            analysis that tends not to deviate from the services’ programmed force
                            structures and has not tested key assumptions, and (3) an absence of
                            joint analysis evaluating competing force structure options and cross-
                            service tradeoffs.

SSA Products Are            DOD has not kept the SSA products complete and up to date because
Cumbersome and Inflexible   they are cumbersome and inflexible. DOD guidance states that SSA

                            24
                             Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
                            Memorandum, FY 2018 Defense Analytic Guidance (June 10, 2016).




                            Page 13                                                    GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
products are to be common starting points for analyses, including key
threats identified in strategic guidance. 25 DOD guidance also states that
SSA products should retain consistency with DOD strategy and current
intelligence and should incorporate operational approaches effective at
mitigating future threats. 26 Credible independent analysis of an issue
requires a detailed, well-understood, up-to-date common basis for that
analysis. 27

As of September 2018, DOD’s library of products was incomplete and
outdated. Specifically, the Detailed View was not available for any of the
threats, and Joint Staff officials told us they stopped producing joint
CONOPS through SSA in 2015. Moreover, the Joint Staff retired all of the
existing SSA CONOPS in March 2018 because they were outdated
and/or not aligned with the 2018 National Defense Strategy—though they
were still available for the department to access. Service officials also told
us that many of the approved Defense Planning Scenarios and CONOPS
for the key threats identified in the 2018 National Defense Strategy do not
reflect up-to-date military objectives and adversary capabilities. 28
Additionally, the 2018 National Defense Strategy outlines a new force
posture and employment model that could have major implications for




25
     DOD Directive 8260.05
26
   Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Memorandum, FY 2018 Defense Analytic Guidance (June 10, 2016); OUSD (Policy),
Guidance for the Use of Support for Strategic Analysis Products (May 6, 2013).
27
  This principle of analysis is discussed in GAO, GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment
Guide, GAO-09-3SP (Washington, D.C., March 2009). Although the basic principle is
described in the context of cost estimation, it also applies to analysis in a broader context
and amplifies what DOD states in its guidance on SSA. Standards for Internal Control in
the Federal Government also note that quality information is appropriate, current,
complete, accurate, accessible, and provided on a timely basis.
28
  According to OUSD (Policy) officials, they did not develop or update scenarios when
they were working on the National Defense Strategy from May 2017 through January
2018 in order to ensure that changes aligned with the strategy. In August 2018, OUSD
(Policy) provided short updates to three Defense Planning Scenarios, stating that it was
providing only the bare minimum strategic assumptions for the services to use for analysis
to specifically inform fiscal year 2020 budget requests and fiscal year 2021 force planning
analysis. However, these scenarios have not yet been formally approved for further use.
Further, officials from all four services told us that the service analysis conducted in
support of the fiscal year 2020 budget request was completed before the August 2018
scenario updates.




Page 14                                                         GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
future CONOPS. 29 However, DOD is still developing these concepts and,
as such, they are not yet reflected in any SSA products. Specific details
on the status of key SSA products were omitted because the information
is classified.

One of the key reasons DOD did not keep the products complete and up
to date was that developing and approving highly detailed and complex
SSA products was cumbersome, taking a significant level of effort and
time. Tri-Chair officials told us that developing the CONOPS and Detailed
View, in particular, was difficult because there was a desire to gain
consensus with all of the stakeholders and because the services wanted
these products to have high fidelity detail in order to run their campaign
models. 30 For example, CAPE and Joint Staff officials told us that it took
between 1 and 2 years to build and approve the Detailed View for one
threat scenario. The officials added that the level of detail included made
the product inflexible and difficult to vary. CAPE and Joint Staff officials
agreed that this product became far too detailed and time-consuming and
used a substantial amount of the department’s analytic capacity. As a
result, the officials told us that CAPE abandoned building additional
Detailed Views in 2012. The lack of agreed-upon details about the forces
required has had other effects. For example, OUSD (Policy) and Joint
Staff officials told us that the services still wanted the comprehensive
information that the Detailed View was supposed to provide for use in
their campaign models. Without CAPE producing Detailed Views, the
officials noted that some of the detailed information migrated into the
higher level CONOPS, making developing and analyzing that product
more difficult and time-consuming as well.



29
  The unclassified summary of the 2018 strategy states that force posture and
employment must be adaptable to account for the uncertainty that exists in the changing
global strategic environment and states that the department will do so through Dynamic
Force Employment and a modernized Global Operating Model. Specifically, the
unclassified strategy summary states that the new concept of Dynamic Force Employment
will prioritize maintaining the capacity and capabilities for major combat, while providing
options for proactive and scalable employment of the joint force. It also notes that a
modernized Global Operating Model of combat-credible, flexible theater postures will
enhance DOD’s ability to compete and provide freedom of maneuver during conflict,
providing national decision-makers with better military options.
30
  The Joint Staff defines a campaign as a framework to orchestrate and synchronize
simultaneous activities and operations aimed at, among other things, accomplishing or
enabling policy aims and guiding the joint forces’ informed application of force. Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning (Mar. 16, 2018).




Page 15                                                       GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
                                 However, all four military services told us that they need and continue to
                                 use the SSA products—specifically, the Defense Planning Scenarios and
                                 CONOPS—to support program and budget formulation. Service officials
                                 also told us they have adapted CONOPS, as individual services or with
                                 other services, to better reflect the operational environment (e.g.,
                                 updating intelligence estimates on adversary capabilities). However,
                                 CAPE and OUSD (Policy) officials told us that this results in the services’
                                 analyses no longer being common and comparable across the
                                 department. The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for
                                 Fiscal Year 2019 reiterates that OUSD (Policy) must, in coordination with
                                 the other Tri-Chairs, develop planning scenarios by which to assess joint
                                 force capabilities, among other things. 31

                                 Until the Tri-Chairs determine the analytic products needed and the level
                                 of detail that is sufficient to serve as a common starting point but also
                                 flexible enough to allow for variation of analysis, and ensure these
                                 products are updated, the military services will likely continue to generate
                                 budget requests based on analysis that is not comparable. As DOD’s
                                 2016 Defense Analytic Guidance noted about the fiscal year 2017 budget
                                 review, the lack of a common basis for their analysis hampers the
                                 department’s ability to understand the relationship between future
                                 warfighting risks identified in analysis and the services’ programmatic
                                 decisions.

SSA Analysis Does Not            Although DOD’s guidance stated that SSA will facilitate a broad range of
Significantly Deviate from the   analysis exploring innovative force structure approaches for mitigating
Services’ Programmed Force       future threats identified in the strategy, SSA has not done so. 32 Innovative
Structures or Test Key           force structure approaches could include, for example, alternative
Assumptions                      CONOPS and deviations from programmed forces. The 2018 National
                                 Defense Strategy stated that DOD’s operational approach largely dates
                                 from the immediate post-Cold War era when U.S. military advantage was
                                 unchallenged and the threats were rogue regimes, which is no longer the
                                 case. OUSD (Policy) officials told us that SSA CONOPS also reflect this
                                 outdated approach that depends on overwhelming force for success,
                                 which is unrealistic against advanced adversaries. Similarly, DOD’s 2016
                                 Defense Analytic Guidance called for SSA to emphasize analyzing and
                                 assessing risk against key threats rather than on defending

                                 31
                                      Pub. L. No. 115-232, § 902 (2018).
                                 32
                                   Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum, Support for Strategic Analysis Process
                                 (Nov. 14, 2014).




                                 Page 16                                                  GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
predetermined force levels or capabilities. Rather, the 2018 strategy
stated that the department must relentlessly pursue innovative solutions
and devise insurmountable dilemmas for future adversaries and that
incrementalism or evolutionary progress is inadequate.

However, Tri-Chair and service officials told us the services have been
reluctant to conduct or share these types of boundary-pushing analyses
through SSA for fear that they will jeopardize their forces or limit their
options. 33 Tri-Chair officials also told us that the services have leveraged
their participation in developing SSA products to ensure their favored
major force structure elements are included in the common starting point.
Joint Staff officials noted that they were able to do this because SSA did
not constrain what force structure the services could use for their
analysis. That is, if the force structure was programmed, they could use it
because the goal was to overwhelm the adversary. However, by not
significantly deviating from the starting points, the services were able to
ensure that their analytic outcomes support the need for the already-
programmed force.

Additionally, several questionable assumptions underpin the analysis.
Sensitivity analysis examines the effects that changes to key assumptions
have on the analytic outcome and are helpful to understand risk. 34 It can
therefore provide insight to decision makers of how risk levels would
change if conditions did not match the assumptions. 35 However, Tri-Chair
officials told us that the services, using SSA products as a starting point,
generally have not conducted sensitivity analyses on key operational

33
  Tri-Chair and service officials also identified classification restrictions as a significant and
growing impediment to sharing analyses across the department.
34
 GAO, GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide, GAO-09-3SP (Washington, D.C.:
March 2009).
35
  GAO-09-3SP’s discussion of sensitivity analysis is in the context of cost estimating but
the basic definition and principles apply to analysis in a broader context. Further,
sensitivity analyses done in the context of analyzing force structure requirements would
undoubtedly have significant associated cost implications. Best practices for the analysis
of alternatives process similarly notes that failing to conduct a sensitivity analysis to
identify the uncertainties associated with different assumptions increase the chances that
the team conducting the analysis of alternatives will recommend an alternative without an
understanding of the full impact of that choice. See appendix I of GAO, Amphibious
Combat Vehicle: Some Acquisition Activities Demonstrate Best Practices; Attainment of
Amphibious Capability to be Determined, GAO-16-22 (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 28, 2015).
Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government also note the importance of
decision-makers fully understanding risk.




Page 17                                                           GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
assumptions or on factors that may not be static (or at least have some
uncertainty) and, if varied, may raise or lower the risk of completing
assigned tasks or missions. According to these officials, as well as our
past work, certain questionable assumptions have not been analyzed
through sensitivity analysis as part of SSA. 36 For example, all four
services tend to assume that their readiness for a conflict will be high,
consistent with the level directed in guidance. However, we reported in
2018 that at the individual service level, the military services continue to
report readiness challenges and readiness rebuilding is anticipated to
take 4 years or more. 37 Specific details of service-specific assumptions
that are problematic were omitted because the information is classified.

The services have been reluctant to independently examine a broad
range of innovative force structure options and conduct sensitivity
analysis on key operational assumptions through SSA because,
according to service officials, due to competing priorities they believe they
can generally only affect marginal changes in their budgets from year to
year and have limited analytic capacity. Service officials noted how the
majority of their service’s budget each year is constrained by must pay
bills, including personnel costs, supporting existing force structure,
established contracts, sustaining the industrial base, and statutory
mandates. As such, unless directed to by senior leaders, service officials
told us that they typically do not use their limited analytic resources to
conduct sensitivity analysis or explore alternative approaches. The
sensitivity analyses they have been directed to conduct have generally
been focused on smaller force structure changes, but have provided
useful insights. For example, the Air Force conducted an analysis for its
fiscal year 2019 budget request of how risk would be affected with various
F-35 buy-rates and investments in munitions and base defense. The Air
Force found that it could reduce risk by keeping its F-35 buy-rate steady
instead of increasing it and could use the resulting savings to bolster its
munitions stocks.

DOD stated in its 2016 Defense Analytic Guidance that SSA is not
adequately exploring innovative approaches to meet future challenges,
and called for OUSD (Policy) to identify key operational assumptions for

36
 See, for example, GAO, Army Readiness: Progress Made Implementing New Concept,
but Actions Needed to Improve Results, GAO-17-458SU (Washington, D.C.: June 2017).
37
 GAO, Military Readiness: Update on DOD’s Progress in Developing a Readiness
Rebuilding Plan, GAO-18-441RC (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 10, 2018) (SECRET).




Page 18                                                 GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
                               the services to use to conduct sensitivity analyses. 38 However, the
                               direction provided by the department has thus far been limited and has
                               generally not provided specific guidance requiring the services to explore
                               a range of innovative force structure approaches or identified key
                               assumptions on which the services must conduct sensitivity analyses. For
                               example, the three Defense Planning Scenarios updated in 2018 for the
                               purposes of analysis in support of the fiscal years 2020 and 2021 budget
                               requests included a number of parameters for further analytic
                               exploration. 39 However, the guidance encourages, but does not require,
                               the services to conduct these analyses. As previously discussed, officials
                               said the services are reluctant to conduct or share this analysis and are
                               unlikely to do so without specific direction. As a result, SSA analysis
                               largely reflects the services’ programmed force structures and has not
                               driven any significant changes to force structure or resource allocation
                               within DOD and lacks credibility with senior leaders, as documented in
                               DOD guidance. Until DOD provides specific guidance requiring the
                               services to explore a range of innovative force structure approaches
                               relevant to the threats identified in the 2018 National Defense Strategy,
                               including identifying key assumptions for sensitivity analyses, DOD senior
                               leaders may not have full visibility into the risks in the joint force’s ability
                               to execute the missions set out in the National Defense Strategy.

DOD Lacks Joint Analytic       A key stated goal of SSA was to create a common analytic foundation so
Capabilities to Assess Force   that the services’ force structures could be evaluated as a joint force—as
Structure                      it would fight. However, SSA has not resulted in this type of joint analysis.
                               Specifically, DOD guidance states that SSA is intended to facilitate the
                               comparison and evaluation of competing force structure options and
                               cross-service tradeoffs. DOD guidance also states that assessments of
                               the aggregate capacity of the joint force can provide an analytic




                               38
                                Further, section 902 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
                               Year 2019 also directs OUSD (Policy), in coordination with the other Tri-Chairs, to develop
                               specific objectives that the joint force should be ready to achieve.
                               39
                                  As noted earlier, OUSD (Policy) provided short updates to three Defense Planning
                               Scenarios in August 2018, stating that it was providing only the bare minimum strategic
                               assumptions for the services to use for analysis to specifically inform fiscal years 2020
                               and 2021 force planning analysis and budget requests. However, these scenarios have
                               not yet been formally approved for further use. Further, officials from all four services told
                               us that the service analysis conducted in support of the fiscal year 2020 budget request
                               was completed before the August 2018 scenario updates.




                               Page 19                                                         GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
foundation to identify risk and understand tradeoffs across competing
demands for the force. 40

According to the services, SSA products provide a valuable resource and
are critical to informing programmatic decisions. However, DOD’s 2016
Defense Analytic Guidance noted that there was a dearth of joint analysis
at the operational and strategic levels; the department lacks a body or
process to conduct or review joint force analysis; and the department’s
SSA efforts were focused on developing, versus analyzing, the common
starting points. Accordingly, it reiterated the need for SSA to free up time
and resources to conduct joint analysis and review competing analyses. 41
Tri-Chair officials told us that DOD currently compares and makes
decisions on force structure options primarily through the budget process;
however, such budget reviews are typically limited to specific areas of
interest. The officials added that program and budget review is not the
best place to evaluate joint force structure tradeoffs because the kinds of
issues examined in the budget process are more limited in scope and
generally do not include comprehensive cross-service comparisons.

Lacking joint analytic capability to assess force structure needs could be
problematic as the department moves forward to implement the 2018
National Defense Strategy. The John S. McCain National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 directed OUSD (Policy), in
coordination with the other Tri-Chairs, to conduct assessments of the
capabilities of the joint force to achieve required objectives. 42 However,
Tri-Chair officials also told us that, as of 2018, there was not a
mechanism in place for DOD to routinely assess joint force needs and
force structure tradeoffs across the military services. As previously
discussed, in 2016 this was identified as an issue, and limited progress
has been made since then to ensure adequate joint analysis to support
senior leader decision-making. Further, OUSD (Policy) officials told us
that SSA has not been responsive to senior leaders because it has not
provided timely and comprehensive answers to important questions that
only joint analysis can provide, such as the extent to which the joint force
can successfully meet a campaign’s overall objectives (e.g., win the war)

40
   OUSD (Policy), Guidance for the Use of Support for Strategic Analysis Products (May 6,
2013).
41
   Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Memorandum, FY 2018 Defense Analytic Guidance (June 10, 2016).
42
     Pub. L. No. 115-232, § 902 (2018).




Page 20                                                      GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
                             or the extent to which cross-service tradeoffs would affect a specific
                             campaign. As a result, force structure decisions in the department based
                             on SSA have remained largely relegated to marginal changes through
                             program and budget review, according to DOD. 43 The department’s gap
                             in a joint analytic capability is particularly problematic in light of the
                             National Defense Strategy’s call for urgent change at a significant scale
                             and recent proposals by the services to greatly expand their force
                             structure—including the Navy’s plan to grow the fleet by as much as 25
                             percent and the Air Force’s plan to grow squadrons by 24 percent. 44

                             Based on our discussions with officials and our analysis, there are a
                             number of different options the department has for conducting such joint
                             analyses, including establishing a separate body with these capabilities or
                             specifying the organizational responsibilities and processes for
                             conducting these comparisons and analyses. Until the department has an
                             approach for conducting joint analyses or comparing competing analyses,
                             DOD senior leaders will not have a robust joint analytic foundation to rely
                             on to evaluate competing force structure options and cross-service
                             tradeoffs.


DOD Is Exploring Options     The department has recognized that SSA has shortcomings and made
for Revising Its Analytic    repeated efforts to address them, including specific intervention and
                             supplemental guidance promulgated in 2014 and 2016. 45 However, Tri-
Approach for Making
                             Chair officials told us that these prior efforts fell short, and the
Force Structure Decisions,   department’s struggles with SSA led to two of the three Tri-Chairs
but These Efforts Are        disengaging from the process—CAPE in 2012 and the Joint Staff in 2015.
Incomplete                   The Tri-Chairs agree that DOD continues to need a process and products
                             that are current, more responsive to senior leader needs, and able to
                             provide insights on alternative approaches and force structures that span
                             the joint force. In addition, Joint Staff officials noted that SSA was too

                             43
                              The Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 2016
                             memorandum states that, since the end of the Cold War, wars and major budget cuts—
                             not SSA—have prompted large shifts in resource allocation. Deputy Secretary of Defense
                             and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Memorandum, FY 2018 Defense Analytic
                             Guidance (June 10, 2016).
                             44
                                GAO, Air Force Readiness: Actions Needed to Rebuild Readiness and Prepare for the
                             Future, GAO-19-120T (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 10, 2018).
                             45
                               See Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum, Support for Strategic Analysis Process
                             (Nov. 14, 2014); Deputy Secretary of Defense and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of
                             Staff Memorandum, FY 2018 Defense Analytic Guidance (June 10, 2016).




                             Page 21                                                    GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
focused on force sizing, which is not consistent with the 2018 National
Defense Strategy’s focus on innovation, modernization, and readiness.

In order to address this, the Joint Staff is pursuing an alternative
approach to SSA that would largely eliminate a separate formal analytic
process. Instead, the Joint Staff believes that the Tri-Chairs and the
services can address senior leader needs more efficiently by continuing
to execute their existing statutory roles and responsibilities within their
own individual organizations in lieu of SSA. Since 2016, the Joint Staff
has reinvigorated its own analytic capability to support the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior DOD leaders, according to Joint
Staff officials. 46

Although officials from other DOD organizations have supported the Joint
Staff’s reinvigoration of its analytic support, they told us that this approach
is focused on the Chairman’s responsibility rather than on wider
departmental needs and does not address key shortfalls in providing
analytic support to senior leaders, including the need for a common,
flexible starting point. Further, the Joint Staff’s alternative approach would
rely on CAPE’s analysis in the budget process as the culminating point for
final DOD force structure decisions. CAPE officials told us that the
program review can assist DOD leadership in optimizing relatively limited
changes to DOD’s force structure by evaluating service budget
submissions and identifying alternatives for consideration. However,
budget cycle time constraints mean that little analysis occurs within
program review and, as a result, program review relies on the
foundational analysis SSA was intended to provide. As such, CAPE’s
annual program review is inadequate for comprehensively examining
needs and making major tradeoffs across the joint force, according to the
officials. Finally, the department originally created SSA as a separate
analytic process to address a shortfall not addressed by key DOD entities
pursuing their statutory responsibilities.

The Tri-Chairs have also undertaken an effort to identify an alternative
approach to SSA. Specifically, shortly after the new strategy was released
46
   Joint Staff produces the Chairman’s Net Assessments, which are focused on specific
threats. These assessments are based on a compilation of hundreds of existing analyses
from across DOD, the federal government, and outside organizations, according to Joint
Staff officials, including analyses by the services based on SSA products. Joint Staff
officials said the Chairman’s Net Assessments could be used for force planning. The Joint
Staff also develops the Joint Military Net Assessment, which is a compilation of numerous
Chairman Net Assessments as well as other DOD analyses.




Page 22                                                     GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
              in 2018, CAPE initiated a Tri-Chair “blank slate” review of DOD’s analytic
              process in order to thoroughly review—without preconceived solutions—
              how to best provide analytic support to senior leaders. According to Tri-
              Chair officials, this effort is in the early stages of development and has not
              yet identified solutions to the challenges that hampered SSA or
              documented any aspects of a new approach.

              While the department’s recognition of the challenges confronting SSA is
              promising, the two efforts underway to identify alternatives to SSA are not
              complete and it is unclear the degree to which these efforts will address
              the challenges that have been long-standing with SSA. Addressing these
              challenges is critical to being able to provide needed information for
              senior leaders to make decisions on how best to implement and execute
              the National Defense Strategy.


              The 2018 National Defense Strategy calls for the department to make
Conclusions   difficult choices to prioritize what is most important to field a lethal,
              resilient, and rapidly adapting joint force needed to address the growing
              threats to U.S. security. It also emphasizes that this environment
              demands analysis that accepts uncertainty and complexity and can drive
              innovation among rapidly changing threats. To prepare the joint force for
              the threats identified in the strategy, the department’s leadership needs to
              be supported by timely and comprehensive analyses.

              However, SSA—DOD’s current approach for providing such analytic
              support—has not provided the timely and comprehensive analyses that
              senior leaders need to make informed decisions about the joint force
              structure needed to implement the National Defense Strategy. Senior
              leaders have documented in relevant DOD guidance that there are cracks
              in the department’s analytic foundation, many of which originate with
              SSA. This is due in part to highly detailed and complex products that are
              difficult to produce and lack flexibility to analyze, insufficient guidance to
              overcome the interests of the services to protect their force structure
              equities, and the lack of a joint analytic capability. Congress, in the John
              S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019,
              required OUSD (Policy), in coordination with the other Tri-Chairs, to
              develop joint force objectives and conduct assessments of the joint
              force’s capability to meet those objectives. The department has
              demonstrated a desire to fix SSA’s deficiencies but has thus far been
              unable to overcome these challenges. Without determining the analytic
              products needed and updating them, issuing specific guidance requiring
              alternatives and key assumptions to be fully analyzed, and developing an


              Page 23                                              GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
                      approach for conducting joint analysis, DOD may not be providing its
                      leaders with the analytic support they need to prioritize force structure
                      investments that would best manage risk and address the threats outlined
                      in the National Defense Strategy.


                      We are making three recommendations to DOD as it reevaluates its
Recommendations for   analytic approach.
Executive Action
                      The Secretary of Defense should ensure that OUSD (Policy), the Joint
                      Staff, and CAPE—in consultation with the services—determine the
                      analytic products needed and the level of detail that is sufficient to serve
                      as a common starting point but flexible to allow for variation of analysis to
                      support senior leader decisions, and update these products to reflect
                      current strategy and intelligence estimates, as well as the anticipated
                      operational approaches needed to address future threats.
                      (Recommendation 1)

                      The Secretary of Defense should ensure that OUSD (Policy) provide
                      specific guidance requiring the services to explore a range of innovative
                      force structure approaches relevant to the key threats identified in the
                      National Defense Strategy, including identifying key assumptions on
                      which the services must conduct sensitivity analyses. (Recommendation
                      2)

                      The Secretary of Defense should establish an approach for comparing
                      competing analyses and conducting joint analyses for force structure to
                      support senior leaders as they seek to implement the National Defense
                      Strategy. This could include establishing a separate body with these
                      capabilities and/or specifying the organizational responsibilities and
                      processes for conducting these comparisons and analyses.
                      (Recommendation 3)


                      We provided a draft of the classified version of this report for review and
Agency Comments       comment to DOD. That draft contained the same recommendations as
and Our Evaluation    this unclassified version. In its written comments (reproduced in app. II),
                      DOD concurred with our three recommendations and noted that the
                      department has begun to address the recommendations with its new
                      Defense Planning and Analysis Community initiative. We also received
                      technical comments from DOD, which we incorporated as appropriate.




                      Page 24                                             GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
DOD provided comments on its concurrence with the three
recommendations. In its comments on the first recommendation, DOD
suggested that we revise the recommendation to include that the Tri-
Chairs consult with the services as they implement the recommendation.
Throughout our report, we identified the important role the services play in
providing analytic support to senior leaders, including supporting the
development and use of the analytic products that provide the foundation
of analysis in the department. As such, we agree with DOD’s proposed
revision and have incorporated it to further clarify the services’ important
role. In its comments on the second and third recommendations, DOD
advised that we replace the term “force structure” with “force planning” to
ensure that different audiences understand that we are referring to force
sizing, shaping, capability, and concept development. DOD correctly
stated that we were using the term “force structure” in a broad sense.
However, the term force planning is not interchangeable with force
structure because force planning is the act of analyzing and determining
force structure needs. In order to provide further clarification, we added a
note in the body of the report stating that when we refer to force structure
analysis, it includes the force planning elements identified by DOD (i.e.,
force sizing, shaping, capability, and concept development).

The department also provided some general comments on our report.
Specifically, DOD noted that it has reservations about some of the
report’s content because at times it seems to reflect statements based on
particular organizational perspectives. DOD therefore requested that we
acknowledge that Support for Strategic Analysis (SSA) suffered from poor
implementation rather than being fundamentally unsound. However, DOD
also stated that our report outlined that SSA failed due to overall
suboptimal management and unwieldy stakeholder execution, and that
the resulting failure to present analysis in a timely and responsive fashion
impeded the flow of quality information to senior leaders. We believe that
the three interrelated challenges we identified in our report adequately
reflect that SSA faced significant challenges in being implemented as
intended. Further, we identified that there are a broad range of views
within the department on what the challenges have been and how to best
address them. We continue to believe that it is important that these views
be presented in the report and have attributed them as appropriate.

DOD also commented that we reference a desire within the department to
gain “consensus” amongst SSA stakeholders, but thought that
“coordinated” was a more appropriate word than consensus, since
consensus was not required to produce SSA products. In the report, we
did not state that consensus was required, but noted that DOD officials


Page 25                                            GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
told us that the desire for consensus amongst SSA stakeholders was a
contributing factor in making SSA products cumbersome and inflexible.
Further, DOD’s 2016 Defense Analytic Guidance similarly identifies the
“degree of consensus” as an area requiring SSA process reform.

DOD’s final comment noted that the military services used SSA products
and routinely conducted sensitivity analysis for their internal use. We
recognize in the report that the services conduct a variety of analyses,
including some sensitivity analyses. However, we also identify important
assumptions that remain untested. As we reported, service officials told
us that they have limited analytic capacity and so tend not to do sensitivity
analyses on topics unless specifically directed to do so. Further, we noted
that the services have been reluctant to conduct or share boundary-
pushing analyses through SSA for fear that they will jeopardize their
forces or limit their options. As a result of this and the other challenges we
identified in this report, the quality of SSA products and analysis and the
information provided to senior leaders to inform decision-making has
been limited. As DOD moves forward with implementing our
recommendations, it will be important that it take the necessary steps to
ensure that any future analytic processes thoroughly examine and test
key assumptions and look across the joint force. Doing so would help
ensure any new process can overcome the constraints that limited the
effectiveness of SSA.




Page 26                                              GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
We are sending copies of this report to congressional committees; the
Acting Secretary of Defense; the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for
Personnel and Readiness; the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director, Cost Assessment and
Program Evaluation; the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy, and the Air
Force; and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. In addition, the report
is available at no charge on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact
me at (202) 512-3489 or pendletonj@gao.gov. Contact points for our
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on
the last page of this report. GAO staff who made key contributions to this
report are listed in app. III.




John H. Pendleton
Director, Defense Capabilities and Management




Page 27                                            GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
Appendix I: Military Services’ Analytic
              Appendix I: Military Services’ Analytic
              Processes for Assessing Force Structure
              Needs


Processes for Assessing Force Structure
Needs
              Each military service has its own process for determining its force
              structure requirements using national strategies, defense planning
              guidance, and Support for Strategic Analysis (SSA) products. Below is a
              description of each service’s process as of September 2018.

              •   Army. The process the Army uses for identifying its force structure
                  needs has two phases: (1) “Capability Demand Analysis” where the
                  Army uses SSA-approved Defense Planning Scenarios to determine
                  how large a force is needed to support the National Defense Strategy
                  and with what mix of units and (2) “Resourcing and Approval” where
                  senior Army leaders assess each capability within the Army to
                  determine where reductions and growth need to occur given available
                  resources. The Secretary of the Army approves changes to force
                  structure through the end of the Future Years Defense Program in a
                  decision memorandum, and these decisions are documented in an
                  Army Structure Memorandum.
              •   Navy. The process the Navy uses for identifying its force structure
                  needs begins with the identification of the Navy’s steady-state,
                  peacetime operations requirements. The Navy then conducts
                  campaign and warfighting risk analyses to determine the force’s ability
                  to fight and win SSA-approved Defense Planning Scenarios.
                  Specifically, the Navy tests each force element against the most
                  stressing Defense Planning Scenario, which provides the Navy with
                  its battle force warfighting—to include surge—requirements. These
                  warfighting requirements are compared with steady-state
                  requirements and the more stressing forms the basis of the Force
                  Structure Assessment, which establishes the long-term force structure
                  goals of the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan and aviation plan, and
                  informs the programming and budget processes, among other things.
              •   Air Force. The Air Force has a largely decentralized process for
                  identifying its force structure needs that is part of the Air Force’s
                  annual budget development process. The Air Force manages its
                  activities and budgets primarily across 12 Core Functions—the broad
                  capabilities the Air Force provides to the combatant commanders.
                  Much of the force structure analysis that informs budget decisions is
                  also conducted at the Core Function level. 1 The Air Force also

              1
               The 12 core functions are (1) Rapid Global Mobility; (2) Nuclear Deterrent Operations; (3)
              Education and Training; (4) Special Operations Forces; (5) Agile Combat Support; (6)
              Space Superiority; (7) Cyber Superiority; (8) Air Superiority; (9) Global Precision Attack;
              (10) Global Integrated Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; (11) Command
              and Control; and (12) Personnel Recovery.




              Page 28                                                       GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
                                             Appendix I: Military Services’ Analytic
                                             Processes for Assessing Force Structure
                                             Needs




                                                  conducts occasional leadership-directed studies on future capability
                                                  needs in certain mission areas (e.g., air superiority needs beyond
                                                  2030) as well as a unified risk analysis of its entire force structure that
                                                  is intended to inform senior leader budget decisions. The Air Force is
                                                  currently revising its approach to better integrate its capability
                                                  development and analysis earlier in the process.
                                             •    Marine Corps. The Marine Corps conducts service-level reviews of its
                                                  force structure at the discretion of the Marine Corps Commandant. A
                                                  Force Structure Review is typically directed as a result of major
                                                  service-level issues, such as end strength or capability changes.
                                                  Marine Corps Force 2025 is the most recent comprehensive
                                                  assessment of the Marine Corps’ force structure and organization.
                                                  This was a three-phased effort that relied on one Defense Planning
                                                  Scenario to develop alternative force structures and evaluate them
                                                  against a near-peer adversary. The Commandant directed this review
                                                  to emphasize growing information warfare capabilities. The Marine
                                                  Corps also conducts Force Optimization Reviews, which are biennial
                                                  reviews designed to optimize the current and planned future force,
                                                  taking into consideration new and emerging requirements.
                                             Table 3 shows some of the comparable elements of the individual service
                                             force structure development processes.

Table 3: Comparison of Service Force Structure Development Processes

                   Army                          Navy                    Air Force                      Marine Corps
Process name       Total Army Analysis           Force Structure         Strategy, Planning,         Force Structure
(final product)    (TAA)                         Assessment (FSA)        Programming, Budgeting, and Review/Force
                                                                         Execution (SPPBE)           Optimization Review
Frequency          Annual, tied to budget        When directed by        Annual, tied to budget cycle   Either as directed or a
(last completed    cycle (fiscal year 2019       leadership or when      (fiscal year 2019 budget       biennial assessment
assessment)        budget request)               strategic guidance or   request)                       (calendar year 2018)
                                                 assigned missions
                                                 change (calendar year
                                                 2016)
                                                                    a
Time frame         Fiscal year 2023 (end         Fiscal year 2030        Fiscal year 2023               Fiscal year 2025
assessed in last   of the Future Years                                   (end of the FYDP)
completed          Defense Plan (FYDP))
assessment




                                             Page 29                                                    GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
                                                              Appendix I: Military Services’ Analytic
                                                              Processes for Assessing Force Structure
                                                              Needs




                              Army                                Navy                          Air Force                           Marine Corps
Key analytic inputs           •     National strategies           •       National strategies   •   National strategies and         •    National strategies and
(main inputs into                   and Defense                           and Defense               Defense Planning                     Defense Planning
the service analytic                Planning Guidance                     Planning Guidance         Guidance                             Guidance.
process)                      •     Support for                   •       SSA Defense           •   SSA Defense Planning            •    SSA Defense Planning
                                    Strategic Analysis                    Planning Scenarios        Scenarios                            Scenarios
                                    (SSA) Defense                 •       Combatant             •   Air Force Program               •    Current force structure
                                    Planning Scenarios                    Commander Global          Objective Memorandum
                                                        b
                              •     Rules of allocation                   Force Management          integrated baseline
                              •     Current force                         requests              •   Air Force 30-year
                                    structure                     •       Theater Campaign          resource allocation plan
                                                                                c
                                                                          Plans
Documented key                •     None provided                 •       None provided         •   Comprehensive Core              •    Marine Corps Force
analytic outputs                                                                                    Capability Risk                      2025 (mission risk
(main analytic                                                                                      Assessment (C3RAF)—                  assessment of two force
                                                                                                                           d
outputs that were                                                                                   overview risk analysis               structure options
used to inform force                                                                            •   Enterprise Capability                against a near-peer
structure                                                                                           Collaboration Team                   competitor)
development and                                                                                     (ECCT) analysis (on             •    Doctrine, Organization,
budget decisions in                                                                                 electronic warfare and air           Training, Materiel,
support of fiscal                                                                                   superiority)
                                                                                                                 e
                                                                                                                                         Leadership/Education,
years 2018-2019                                                                                                                          Personnel, Facilities
budget requests)                                                                                                                         and Policy/Cost
                                                                                                                                                         f

                                                                                                                                         analysis
                                                                                                                                    •    Force 2025 instantiated
                                                                                                                                         in the February 2017
                                                                                                                                         Authorized Strength
                                                                                                                                                g
                                                                                                                                         Report
Source: GAO analysis of Department of Defense information. | GAO-19-385

                                                              Note: The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps may also conduct ad hoc analyses of discrete
                                                              topics at the request of their services’ senior leaders.
                                                              a
                                                               Due to the capital-intensive nature of the Navy’s force structure, to include associated procurement,
                                                              construction, and delivery timelines, the focal point of the Navy’s FSA is as far in the future as the
                                                              Intelligence Community and Campaign Analysis products can support, according to Navy officials.
                                                              b
                                                               Rules of allocation are quantitative statements about each type of unit’s capability, mission, and
                                                              doctrinal employment.
                                                              c
                                                               Theater Campaign Plans implement the military portion of national policy and defense strategy by
                                                              identifying those actions the Combatant Commanders will conduct on a daily basis. Designated
                                                              campaign plans direct the activities the command will conduct to shape the operating environment
                                                              and prepare for, mitigate, or deter crises on a daily basis.
                                                              d
                                                               The Air Force Core Functions also used to document their analyses of force structure needs and
                                                              options within their core functions in Core Function Support Plans. However, the Air Force stopped
                                                              producing these documents after the fiscal year 2017 budget cycle and does not document analyses
                                                              done at the Core Functions elsewhere, according to Air Force officials.
                                                              e
                                                               The Air Force conducted an Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team analysis on air superiority
                                                              needs in 2030 and beyond for the fiscal year 2018 budget cycle and analysis on future electronic
                                                              warfare needs in support of the fiscal year 2019 budget cycle.
                                                              f
                                                              According to Marine Corps officials, this analysis is an ongoing process and varies for each initiative
                                                              described.
                                                              g
                                                               According to Marine Corps officials, the Authorized Strength Report reflects force structure
                                                              (units/personnel/equipment) authorizations resulting from implementing guidance and direction.




                                                              Page 30                                                                GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
             Appendix II: Comments from the Department
             of Defense



of Defense




             Page 31                                     GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 32                                     GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 33                                     GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff
                             Appendix III: GAO Contact and
                             Staff Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  John H. Pendleton, (202) 512-3489 or pendletonj@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact name above, Patricia Lentini, Assistant Director;
Staff             Nicolaas Cornelisse; Martin De Alteriis; Carly Gerbig; Mae Jones; Amie
Acknowledgments   Lesser; Shahrzad Nikoo; Carol Petersen; and Alex Winograd made key
                  contributions to this report.




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                  Page 34                                             GAO-19-385 Defense Strategy
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