The military’s efforts to train up its units and tune up its equipment two decades into the Global War on Terror is faltering, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday.
Ground capabilities improved from 2017 to 2019, according to the report, while seapower was on the decline. It was a mixed bag for air, space and cyber.
“GAO found that reported domain readiness did not meet readiness recovery goals identified by the military services,” the report reads.
The report breaks readiness into 19 mission areas, including both the readiness of resources and mission-capability. While air, space and cyber infrastructure readiness increased from 2017 to 2019, those same domains saw a drop in their associated units capability to perform those missions.
“DoD has identified a wide range of challenges it faces as it seeks to improve readiness in each of the five domains,” according to the report. “For example, within the sea domain, the Navy identified limited maintenance capacity at private and public shipyards as the primary challenge for recovering ship and submarine readiness.”
The Navy has struggled in recent years to keep up with the maintenance needs of ships that are deploying more often and for longer stretches of time.
Surface ship maintenance continued its slide in 2020, according to a new annual report from the Board of Inspection and Survey.
While the Pentagon has a “Readiness Recovery Framework” it uses to track maintenance and units prepared to deploy, GAO has argued and is continuing to argue for a more precise set of goals, reiterating the same recommendations it made in a 2016 report on the same readiness issues.
Those include developing precise goals and metrics for progress, but also identifying external factors that may hinder those goals from being met and ensuring there is oversight for them.
All five have been “implemented,” according to the GAO’s tracking, but Tuesday’s report questions the extent to which those have been achieved.
“GAO has previously made five recommendations to improve DoD’s readiness recovery efforts that DOD has implemented,” according to Tuesday’s report. “GAO has also recommended that DoD establish metrics to measure readiness in each domain, which DoD has not done.”
In the Pentagon’s response to the GAO, the Pentagon’s acting assistant defense secretary for readiness concurred with GAO’s findings.