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COCOMs' contribution to DoD joint requirements important, but overly burdensome

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Combatant commands say their contribution to the development of joint, Defense Department requirements is important, but question "the value of what they described as a resource-intensive and time-consuming process that is not always responsive to their more immediate capability needs," says a recent Government Accountability Office survey and report (.pdf).

COCOMs also doubted of the usefulness of their reports to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, because JROC merely advises on acquisition and budget processes that are largely driven by service investment priorities. Even if JROC's feedback is considered in purchasing decisions, capabilities are likely years away from delivery due to slow development and acquisition cycles, COCOM officials told GAO.

The report was published May 20 and conducted following a congressional mandate that JROC seek COCOM input into the development of joint requirements, a process known as Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System, as cited in Sec. 841 of the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (.pdf).

"Four of the 10 COCOMs we surveyed reported that they were 'moderately satisfied' with JCIDS, four COCOMs reported that they were 'slightly satisfied,' and one COCOM reported that it was 'not at all satisfied,'" according to the report.

Officials from more than half of the COCOMs--the survey had 100 percent participation from COCOMs--said attending meetings and reviewing and commenting on capabilities documents put a strain on staff and resources. As a result, some COCOMs chose to focus more on capability documents that applied to their specific command and less on those that did not interest them, said GAO.

"One official told us that in a 1-year period, the command reviewed more than 1,000 JCIDS documents, but commented on 60 that were of interest to the command," wrote survey lead and report author John H. Pendleton, director of defense capabilities and management at GAO.

COCOMs reported a disconnect in reporting in that JCIDS focuses on long-term service-centric gaps, while COCOMs were being asked to flag more immediate operational gaps.  

The Joint Staff is reviewing the JCIDS process in order to identify areas where greater efficiency and responsiveness can be realized, but "it is too early to assess the extent to which this review of the JCIDS process will address COCOM concerns," wrote Pendleton.

Defense officials reviewed a draft of the report and provided some technical comments to GAO, but offered no formal response to COCOM concerns.

For more:
- see the GAO report (.pdf)
- see the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 (.pdf)

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