U.S. Atlantic Command

Challenging Role in the Evolution of Joint Military Capabilities Gao ID: NSIAD-99-39 February 17, 1999

With the approach of the 21st century, the United States faces the critical challenge of ensuring that its military can meet a full range of demands. Joint operations are key to meeting this challenge, and the U.S. Atlantic Command was designed to play a major role in advancing the evolution of joint operations. This report discusses (1) the Command's efforts to establish itself as the joint force trainer, provider, and integrator of most continental U.S.-based forces; (2) views on the value of the Command's contributions to joint military capabilities; and (3) recent expansion of the Command's responsibilities and its possible effects on the Command.

GAO noted that: (1) USACOM has advanced joint training by developing a state-of-the-art joint task force commander training program and simulation training center; (2) the Command has also progressed in developing other elements of joint training, though not at the same level of maturity or intensity; (3) however, USACOM has had to make substantive changes in its approach to providing and integrating joint forces; (4) its initial approach was to develop ready force packages tailored to meet the geographic commands' spectrum of missions; (5) this was rebuffed by the military services and the geographic commands, which did not want or value USACOM's proactive role and by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1993-97), who did not see the utility of such force packages; (6) by late 1995, USACOM reverted to implementing a force-providing process that provides the Command with a much more limited role and ability to affect decisions and change; (7) the Command's force integrator role was separated from force providing and also redirected; (8) the establishment of performance goals and measures would help USACOM assess and report on the results of its efforts to improve joint military capabilities; (9) Congress anticipated that the Government Performance and Results Act principles would be institutionalized at all organizational levels in federal agencies; (10) the Command's recently instituted strategic planning system does not include performance measures that can be used to evaluate its impact on the military capabilities of U.S. forces; (11) the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and USACOM believed the Command was providing an important focus to the advancement of joint operations; (12) the views of the geographic commands were generally more reserved, with some benefitting more than others from USACOM's efforts; (13) the Command's new authorities are likely to increase its role and capabilities to provide training and joint war fighting support and enhance its ability to influence decisions within the department; and (14) although USACOM's roles are expanding and the number of functions and DOD organizational elements the Command has relationships with is significant, its roles and responsibilities are still largely not spelled out in key DOD policy and guidance, including joint doctrine, guidance, and other publications.


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