Report: Defense fails to set strategic goals for securing bases

The Defense Department plans to spend $10 billion next year to safeguard military installations from terrorism, but it has not set performance goals to guide how this money should be spent, according to a new report from the General Accounting Office.

The lack of an overarching strategy for base security could waste resources and hamstring efforts to assess security across military installations, GAO concluded in its report (GAO-03-14). Base security efforts include reducing the number of access points to installations, beefing up security patrols at high-risk targets and arming all security personnel.

Defense has developed 31 standards to help the services protect their installations and has issued guidance for bases on assessing the vulnerability of their facilities. But the department has not set long-term performance targets that would help services fund base security in a strategic way, according to GAO.

"Without a results-oriented management framework to evaluate antiterrorism initiatives…the services and commands may not be efficiently allocating the significant resources currently applied to antiterrorism efforts or effectively assessing progress in safeguarding military personnel and assets," the report said.

Two commands-the Army's Forces Command and the Navy's Atlantic Fleet-have set long-term goals for security at their installations. The Atlantic Fleet has even developed performance measures to assess the results of various security measures. These efforts were initiated at the command level and have not been picked up by their parent services, according to GAO.

Indeed, among the military services, only the Air Force has published long-term goals for installation security. But officials at the Air Combat Command and the Air National Guard were not aware of these goals when GAO contacted them.

Additionally, the services do not evaluate whether base commanders assess security vulnerabilities on their bases in a consistent way.

Defense is crafting a departmentwide strategy for installation security that should be finished by January, said Marshall Billingslea, principal deputy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, in response to the report. Many command officials told GAO they wanted to see this guidance before setting their own long-term goals to avoid any conflicts with Defense's departmentwide strategy.

Commands also noted that the strategic approach advocated by GAO-which is based on the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act-does not apply to specific activities such as antiterrorism. But GAO argued that the law provides a good template for making strategic decisions about security.

"The Results Act offers a model for developing an effective management framework to improve the likelihood of successfully implementing initiatives and assessing results," said the report.

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