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Evaluation of the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI) DODIG-2017-111

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Objective:

To evaluate the extent to which the European Reassurance Initiative (ERI), focused on the Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR) countries of Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia:  

•   increased the OAR countries’ responsiveness, interoperability, and sustainability through capacity building and increased U.S. military exercises and training activities;  

•   improved the OAR countries’ infrastructure necessary to deploy, train, and sustain their respective military forces;  

•   established metrics to assess the OAR countries’ progress against the ERI’s Exercise and Training, Improved Infrastructure, and Build Partner Capacity lines of effort; and  

•   has been coordinated and integrated with other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military capabilities.  

Findings:

The United States European Command’s (USEUCOM) use of ERI funding augments the State Partnership Program (SPP).  The SPP enhances cooperation among U.S., allied, and partner-nation militaries to build defense and security capabilities, a key ERI focus.   This enhanced cooperation occurs because the ERI funded U.S. National Guard units, through SPPs, to maintain training relationships with USEUCOM allied and partner nations, including the six OAR countries.  Embassy-assigned U.S. Military Bilateral Affairs Officers (BAOs) coordinated and facilitated U.S. National Guard training resources in support of ERI-funded training opportunities.  As a result of ERI support for the SPP, USEUCOM, component headquarters, and U.S. Embassy country teams, through the BAOs, maintained oversight and status of host-nation military proficiency, and gained support of U.S. National Guard subject-matter experts to help meet increased ERI training requirements.  

The sustainability of ERI is at risk because support for ERI imposes new requirements on USEUCOM and its subordinate commands without an equivalent increase in force authorizations, stressing USEUCOM’s diminishing personnel resources.  Additionally, ERI funds, which are Overseas Contingency Operations appropriations, are normally planned for only one year, versus the DoD’s 5-year Future Years Defense Program planning cycle, which identifies the immediate base budget priorities and the future projections for the next four fiscal years.  As a result, USEUCOM and OAR countries may be unable to sustain ERI’s contribution to allied and partner military capabilities.  

OAR countries do not yet have procedures or transportation infrastructure in place to allow timely U.S., allied, and partner-nation military deployments.  In addition, U.S. agreements with OAR countries governing infrastructure use do not sufficiently clarify facility access, sustainment, and development plans.  These challenges exist for three reasons.  First, OAR countries lack movement agreements with other NATO countries, transportation infrastructure and related capacity evaluations, and experience with controlling military convoys and equipment belonging to multiple security forces.  This increases the risk of insufficient transport capacity to deploy U.S., allied, and partner-nation military forces rapidly to deter aggression against OAR countries.  Second, USEUCOM   has not completed host-nation facility agreements with OAR countries, which increases the risk of denial or delay of U.S. forces’ access to OAR country ERI-funded facilities, and risks inadequate OAR country facility sustainment.  Third, all ERI funds, including those subject to military statutes and regulations, are 1-year or 3-4-year appropriations rather than 5-year military construction funding, which increases the risk of an inability of OAR countries to commit to long-term ERI infrastructure budgets and plans.  

USEUCOM has not established specific metrics to assess the impact of ERI-funded activities supporting allied- and partner-nation exercises and training, improved infrastructure, and military capacity-building activities. This occurred because the existing USEUCOM-developed assessment processes do not isolate and therefore cannot measure the impact of ERI separate from that of all other U.S.-funded support for training, infrastructure, and capacity-building activities in NATO countries.   Without assessment of ERI results, it is difficult for the DoD to measure OAR-country progress and to justify to Congress the need for additional resources required to advance the five ERI lines of effort.  

OAR countries did not receive important NATO planning information related to deterrence training and programs funded by ERI.  For example, OAR countries did not receive advance notice of the Warsaw Summit 2016 decision to deploy NATO forces to the Baltics and relocate U.S. forces from the Baltics and Black Sea regions to Poland in early 2017.   Additionally, OAR countries did not receive details regarding the plans for integration of OAR country military forces with U.S. theater military operations.  This situation impeded OAR countries’ timely planning, building of necessary constituent support, and commitment of resources for future operations.  

Recommendations:

We recommend that the Director, Joint Staff, assess competing mission and personnel priorities relative to the ERI to determine whether USEUCOM and its subordinate commands have sufficient personnel resources to execute the ERI mission.  

We recommend that the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense develop options for changes to the ERI budgeting cycle to better align with and support allied and partner-nation training and capacity-building activities.  

We recommend that the Commander, United States European Command:  

•   ensure that future infrastructure facility improvements meet U.S. and NATO operational requirements and, at a minimum, meet NATO infrastructure-related standards.  

•   complete the assessment and survey of transportation networks to determine how to enhance the responsiveness of U.S. and OAR country forces in Europe.  

•   conclude agreements with host nations to address the access, use, and long-term maintenance and sustainment of ERI-support infrastructure.  

•   request an ERI funding authorization that supports multiyear infrastructure construction and improvements.  

•   consider developing and establishing command processes to assess the impact of ERI funds on exercises and training, infrastructure improvement, and activities in support of building allied and partner capacity.  

•   integrate the newly deployed U.S. Armored Brigade Combat Team and the four North Atlantic Treaty Organization Enhanced Forward Presence battalions in the OAR countries’ exercises and training, to ensure continued ERI collaboration and interoperability.  

•   complete theater-wide operations plans to inform decisions for ERI support to fill training gaps in the national military plans of OAR countries, and to convey a coordinated and unified message to allied and partner countries.  

Management Comments and Our Responses:

The Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Director, Joint Staff, and the Deputy Commander, United States European Command, agreed with our recommendations to:  

•   determine whether USEUCOM has sufficient personnel resources to execute the ERI mission (Recommendation B.1);  

•   develop ERI budgeting-cycle options to better align and support allied and partner-nation training and capacity building (Recommendation B.2);  

•   ensure that future infrastructure facility improvements meet U.S. and NATO operational and design standards (Recommendation C.1);  

•   request an ERI funding authorization that supports multiyear infrastructure construction and improvements (Recommendation C.4);  

•   establish processes to assess the impact of ERI funds on allied and partner-nation exercises and training, infrastructure, and capacity building (Recommendation D); and  

•   complete theater-wide operations plans that inform decisions for ERI support to fill training gaps in allied and partner-nation military planning. (Recommendation E.2).  

These recommendations are resolved, but they remain open.  To close these recommendations, we request that:  

•   The Director, Joint Staff, provide an update on findings from the Joint Staff’s April 2017 assessment of competing mission and personnel priorities in USEUCOM;  

•   The Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense provide an update on development of ERI budget-cycle options; and  

•   The Deputy Commander, USEUCOM, provide:  

         o   an update on the synchronization of U.S. and NATO operational requirements and design standards inUSEUCOM’s revised Support to NATO CONPLAN;  

         o   a copy of the Military Construction portions of the FYs 2018 and 2019 Five Year Defense Plans submitted by USEUCOM to facilitate long-term, multiyear infrastructure funding when complete;  

         o   a copy of USEUCOM’s FY 2019 budget request for additional ERI assessment capabilities once prepared; and  

         o   an update on USEUCOM’s planning, coordination, and messaging efforts to assist allies and partners to fill gaps in their national military plans.

This report is a result of D2016-D00SPO-0144.00.