Joint Training

Observations on the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Exercise Program Gao ID: NSIAD-98-189 July 10, 1998

The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Exercise Program is the Defense Department's primary vehicle for training its forces and staff in joint operations. Recently, the Secretary of Defense and Congress have raised concerns about the program's impact on the high rate of U.S. force deployments. This report reviews the Exercise Program and determines the (1) number and the type of exercises conducted and planned from 1995 to 2002, (2) basis for DOD's estimates of exercise costs for the same period, and (3) availability of DOD data to estimate the impact of exercises on deployment rates.

GAO noted that: (1) DOD cannot determine the impact of the CJCS Exercise Program on overall deployment rates because DOD does not have a system that accurately and consistently measures overall deployment rates across the services; (2) without such a system, DOD cannot objectively assess the extent to which the program contributes to deployment rate concerns; (3) from fiscal year (FY) 1995 to 2002, 1,405 exercises were or are planned to be conducted as part of the program at the 5 regional commands; (4) the objectives of these exercises are to: (a) ensure that U.S. forces are trained to conduct their highest-priority mission contained in regional command contingency plans; (b) provide joint training for commanders, staff, and forces; and (c) project a military presence worldwide and support commitments to U.S. allies; (5) some exercises focus on just one of these objectives, whereas others focus on more; (6) about 37 percent of the exercises during FY 1995 through 2002 are directly related to executing contingency plans, 60 percent are intended to provide joint training benefits, and about 44 percent are primarily directed toward engagement activities with foreign nations' military forces and U.S. allies; (7) the Joint Staff maintains data on transportation-related expenses but does not monitor and track the complete costs of the program; (8) before the FY 1998 National Defense Authorization Act, DOD was not required to determine total program costs; (9) in DOD's February 1998 mandated report to Congress, the Joint Staff used a combination of actual and estimated costs to estimate that the total program would cost between $400 million and $500 million annually from FY 1995 to 2000; (10) DOD does not maintain the data that would enable it to determine the extent to which military personnel deployments associated with the program contribute to overall DOD-wide personnel or unit deployment rates; (11) the services use various methods to track individual or unit deployments and collect some data on the numbers of personnel or units that participate in CJCS exercises and the length of personnel deployments associated with the exercises; and (12) the services' ability to measure overall personnel or unit deployment rates is still evolving; as a result, the impact of the CJCS Exercise Program on deployment rates remains unknown.

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