Defense Reform Initiative

Organization, Status, and Challenges Gao ID: NSIAD-99-87 April 21, 1999

In recent years, the Defense Department (DOD) has been working to reduce its infrastructure and support costs. The Defense Reform Initiative, announced in November 1997, is the military's latest effort to achieve this goal. DOD is relying on the initiative to make its organization and business practices more agile and responsive. DOD also hopes that the initiative will be a significant source of savings that can be used for weapon systems modernization. This report evaluates DOD's attempts to implement the initiative. GAO assesses (1) steps taken through the initiative's management structure to facilitate achieving the program's objectives and (2) DOD's progress in implementing specific reform initiatives.

GAO noted that: (1) by adopting proven management change concepts in implementing the DRI program, DOD has addressed some of the obstacles that have limited the success of past reform efforts; (2) the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense have shown strong support for the program and established an organizational framework to give additional structure and guidance to the effort; (3) this framework consists of a Defense Management Council, a Coordinating Group to support the Council, and a DRI Office to track implementation and identify issues that need management attention; (4) further, using special directives, performance contracts, and other planning guidance, DOD has sought to institutionalize and provide a sustained emphasis on the DRI; (5) this framework, taken in total, has helped create a Defense-wide focus on infrastructure reduction and provides a forum where problems caused by cultural barriers and parochial interests can be addressed; (6) because the DRI framework has been in place for just over a year, it is too soon for GAO to assess how effective it will be in the long term; (7) GAO did, however, identify several areas where DOD could build on its initial efforts and give even greater impetus to its goal of achieving a revolution in business affairs; (8) these include: (a) incorporating other major ongoing reform efforts in the DRI so it can develop a more comprehensive, integrated strategy for reforming Defense business and support activities; (b) more clearly delineating the funding requirements needed to achieve major reforms; and (c) enhancing the Department's ability to measure DRI results, particularly through financial management and related reforms; (9) each of the four DRI pillars include a variety of reform or reengineering initiatives, many of which were already ongoing before they were brought under the DRI umbrella; (10) DRI has given each of these initiatives increased visibility and top-level support within the Department and, in many instances, imposed new goals and milestones for accomplishing their objectives; (11) each initiative varies in its progress toward meeting its objectives and milestones; (12) many still face a variety of issues that could affect their ultimate success and will likely take longer to complete than the milestones established by the DRI; (13) the success of the DRI will depend largely on DOD's ability to maintain a high degree of emphasis on the initiatives over the long term; and (14) past reform efforts started out well but tended to lose momentum as the Department's leadership and priorities changed.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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