Contingency Operations

Providing Critical Capabilities Poses Challenges Gao ID: NSIAD-00-164 July 6, 2000

Since the end of the Persian Gulf War in 1991, U.S. Armed Forces have been involved in more than 50 contingency operations overseas--all operations other than war, including peacekeeping and no-fly zone enforcement. Although the military has been able to provide the forces and equipment necessary for contingency operations, some unique capabilities have been in high demand. In fulfilling the missions, the rotational deployments from assigned home stations have resulted in some personnel exceeding the services' goals for an individual's maximum number of deployment days in one year. In some instances, this high demand can degrade readiness, cause training opportunities to be lost, and adversely affect the quality of life for personnel in the affected units. To look at the services' ability to continuously meet these operational needs, GAO used a series of case studies to examine six military assets that have been heavily used in contingency operations: (1) Army divisions (about 10,000-15,000 soldiers each); (2) Army civil affairs units, which provide the infrastructure needed to bring government services to the civil population; (3) EA-6B aircraft, which have the only available U.S. military capability to electronically jam enemy antiaircraft radar; (4) Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, which provide airspace surveillance and battlefield management for all airborne aircraft in an assigned area; (5) U-2 aircraft, which gather intelligence and provide surveillance; and (6) specialized F-16 aircraft, the CJ model, which suppress enemy air defenses primarily by targeting air defense radar with sophisticated missiles. Except for the Army divisions, these forces and assets are few in number and comprise a small part of U.S. military forces. Planned actions by the Defense Department (DOD) and the military services should reduce the level of stress on these critical assets. But many of the DOD actions will not be completed for at least 2 to 7 years; and the services' planned actions will require assessment of previous actions and additional training, among other factors.

GAO noted that: (1) the military assets GAO examined in the case studies continue to be in high demand relative to their numbers; (2) this has resulted in deployments in excess of deployment goals; (3) to ease the strain on these assets, the Department of Defense and the military services are taking a number of actions, which are described below along with GAO's assessment of them; (4) four of the Army's 10 active divisions and 1 of its 8 National Guard divisions were being affected by operations in the Balkans as of January 2000; (5) the Army has begun to use National Guard divisions to relieve the strain on active divisions and allow them to focus on their primary mission of being prepared for major war; (6) however, preparing the first Guard division that deployed to Bosnia required considerable effort, including the conversion of substantial numbers of Guard personnel to full-time status; (7) the Army does not have enough active-duty civil affairs capability to meet current requirements with its one 208-person active-duty unit, and until recently, there were concerns about having enough reserve civil affairs personnel to meet requirements in the Balkans; (8) the Navy and the Marine Corps each have four land-based EA-6B squadrons; (9) however, these squadrons together are unable to meet all requirements without exceeding their deployment goal of having twice as much at home station as the amount of time deployed; (10) the Air Force could meet current requirements for Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft and crews without exceeding its 120-day annual deployment goal if all 40 of its staffed crews were fully trained and available for worldwide deployments; (11) however, only 27 of its 40 crews are fully trained, and increasing this supply is problematic because of inadequate simulator training capabilities; (12) the Air Force has only 40 of its 54 authorized U-2 pilots fully trained; (13) this shortage of fully trained pilots has led to historically high deployment rates; (14) the Air Force has relayed certain requirements to attract and keep its U-2 pilots, however challenges remain and continued careful management of the use of these aircraft will be needed; (15) F-16CJ squadrons, particularly those stationed in the United States, have been one of the most utilized fighter squadrons for the past few years; and (16) however due to its part-time nature, the F-16CJ reserve component squadron unit will be able to cover only about 30 days of the rotation between it and the older squadron of less capable aircraft.


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