operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have made clear, failure to adequately plan for the use and role of contractors can impede the department’s ability to identify and mitigate the risks associated with relying on contractors. In addition, as our previous work has shown, DOD’s lack of understanding of its reliance on contractors can hinder the effective management and oversight of contractors, potentially resulting in negative impacts on military operations and unit morale. Further, the failure to fully identify contract support requirements in operation plans limits DOD’s ability to provide congressional decision makers with information on the department’s reliance on contractors to support future operations.
DOD’s challenges to integrating the potential use and role of contractors into its operation plans are exacerbated by shortcomings in guidance and a lack of institutionalization of the department’s organizational approach to requirements definition for contractors and developing and funding personnel with clear roles and appropriate expertise. A one-size-fits-all approach to defining Annex W requirements has contributed to an expectations mismatch between senior DOD leadership and combatant command planners regarding the level of information the annexes should contain. Similarly, a lack of specific guidance has enabled combatant commands to choose varying approaches with regard to what plans require Annex Ws. As a result, DOD senior leadership is unable to look across the combatant command plans and assess or address the department’s overall reliance on contractors to execute future operations. Similarly, the limited discussion of operational contract support in other sections of operations plans, including the base plan, limits the ability of combatant commanders and senior DOD leadership to evaluate and react to the potential risks of reliance on contractors. With contractor personnel equaling or at times outnumbering military personnel in current operations, the failure to include the likely use of contractors among base plan assumptions or the lack of discussion of the role contractors may play in the various phases of an operation could create significant risks in executing plans. In addition, with over 30 percent of contractor personnel in Iraq performing nonlogistics functions, the department must take steps to ensure that contract support considerations are addressed across the combatant command directorates. Furthermore, if the department fails to institutionalize and fund its initiatives to address contract support requirements in its operation plans, it will fail to meet the congressional mandate to develop an organization approach to requirements definition. Until such actions are taken, DOD will continue to struggle to recognize the centrality of operational contract support to the effective execution of its missions and will therefore be at risk of repeating the contractor- related problems it has faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.
GAO-10-472 Warfighter Support