GAO Concerned About Special Ops Budget Metrics

By Jon Harper
The Defense Department is not effectively assessing how much it spends on special operations forces, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report.

In fiscal year 2014, U.S. Special Operations Command received $9.8 billion in base and supplemental funding. But SOCOM relies heavily on the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines to provide logistical, maintenance, manpower and intelligence support to its missions, which costs the services money, U.S. officials have noted.

“Information on funding to support SOF exists, but funding data are tracked and managed across various organizations in a decentralized manner, and neither DoD nor the military services have systematically collected, estimated or reported total SOF funding needs,” GAO said in a July report titled, “Special Operations Forces: Opportunities Exist to Improve Transparency of Funding and Assess Potential to Lessen Some Deployments.”

Lawmakers and Pentagon officials need to have a better idea of the resources that are being devoted to SOF, particularly in a constrained budget environment, the report said: “Until DoD has more complete information on the total funding necessary to support SOF, decision makers will be unable to effectively identify and assess justification materials for future funding needs, or weigh priorities and assess budget tradeoffs within anticipated declining resources.”

To fix the problem, GAO recommended that the secretary of defense direct the comptroller to develop a methodology to track and report funding used to support SOF, potentially as part of annual budget justification materials.

GAO also called on the Pentagon to do more to lessen the burden on commandos, noting the high operating tempo that they are enduring.

“The department has not taken steps to examine whether additional opportunities exist to reduce the high demand on SOF by sharing some activities with conventional forces,” the report said.

The watchdog also recommended that the joint staff be required to consider whether conventional forces could serve as an appropriate alternative before validating combatant commander requests for special operators.

In its official response to the GAO report, the Defense Department disputed the notion that it lacked sufficient visibility into SOF-related funding, but said it would “review the current methodology to track and report funding.”

The Pentagon largely dismissed GAO’s suggestion that it needs to better assess how it allocates special operations forces: “The department believes that the current Global Force Management process appropriately balances assignments of missions and requirements between SOF and conventional forces.”

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, Special Operations-Low Intensity Conflict

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