The National Guard program that pairs up states with partner countries for training needs to improve its record-keeping, according to the recommendations from a Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday.
The State Partnership Program implemented a new tracking database in 2021, according to the report, but partner countries haven’t been thorough in reporting of all of the training events they’ve completed with their National Guard counterparts. During fiscal year 2021, for example, 37 of 780 activities were marked as completed, just 5%.
It’s up to the National Guard Bureau to make sure that partners update their records, so that Congress can continue to appropriately fund the program, but GAO found that they haven’t been following up to make sure records are complete.
“If the NGB prioritizes ensuring that partner states are recording such information in a timely manner, DoD will be positioned to have reliable information for internal decision-making purposes and for reporting to Congress as the data system continues to evolve,” the report said.
The Defense Department agreed with GAO’s recommendation, but did not offer examples of how it plans to improve reporting. GAO will update its report when DoD has confirmed its next steps.
The report also found some confusion at both NGB and DoD about the legal authorities that govern SPP training and travel.
“While DoD has approved establishing a working group to review and clarify the use of statutory authorities for SPP activities, DoD has not ensured that the action plan describing this working group includes timelines,” the report noted.
SPP has been around since 1993, but has gotten more press in recent months, during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The California National Guard is Ukraine’s training partner, and much of Ukraine’s success in combat has been attributed to increased training since 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea.
“And when the invasion started, they started receiving phone calls: ‘Hey, we’re getting attacked,’ followed up by phone call shortly later that said, ‘Hey, here’s what we need,’ “ Army Gen. Dan Hokanson, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters in April. “And because we have these long-term relationships and trainee relationships, it showed that not only was the National Guard working here at home, also supporting our combatant commanders, but we’ve been working very closely with our allies and partners.”
Illinois is teamed up with Poland, Alabama with Romania, Tennessee with Bulgaria and so on, with Texas and Egypt as the most recently created pairing, for a total of 93 countries.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.