Report | March 31, 2021

Audit of the Impact of Coronavirus Disease–2019 on Basic Training (DODIG-2021-069)

Audit

Publicly Released: April 2, 2021

 

Objective

The objective of this audit was to determine whether the DoD established and the Military Services implemented procedures to prevent and reduce the spread of coronavirus disease–2019 (COVID‑19) at their basic training centers.

 

Background

COVID‑19 is an infectious disease that can cause a wide spectrum of symptoms. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID‑19 outbreak a pandemic, and on March 13, 2020, the President declared the COVID‑19 pandemic a national emergency. COVID‑19 can transmit from person to person within 6 feet when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.

Basic training is the initial period of training for new military recruits. During basic training, recruits obtain instruction that teaches military principles while preparing them for their careers. Disease outbreaks, such as COVID‑19, can occur while recruits live in close quarters during training.

Each Military Service develops and executes its own basic training program at training centers across the United States. To determine whether the Military Services followed guidance and implemented procedures to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID‑19, we selected six basic training centers to review: the Army’s largest basic training center and all of the basic training centers for the Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force. The six basic training centers selected for review were:

  • U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, South Carolina;
     
  • Marine Corps Recruit Depots, Parris Island, South Carolina, and San Diego, California;
     
  • Navy Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois; and
     
  • Air Force Basic Training Center Joint Base San Antonio–Lackland, Texas and Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi.

 

Finding

Despite the challenges with the global pandemic, the DoD and Military Services established procedures to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID‑19. However, we determined that the Military Services did not fully implement the procedures at six basic training centers. Specifically, the training personnel at the six locations reported that they had challenges with:

  • implementing DoD and Military Service-specific guidance issued to prevent and reduce the spread of COVID‑19;
     
  • the screening and testing of training personnel;
     
  • practicing preventive measures, such as wearing face masks, washing hands, cleaning common areas, and enforcing social distancing (6-feet); and
     
  • maintaining the quality of recruit training due to basic training modifications.

As a result, the potential for positive COVID‑19 cases among recruits and training personnel may increase. From January through August 2020, [REDACTED] of 99,106 recruits and [REDACTED] of 6,007 training personnel at the six basic training centers tested positive for COVID‑19. Any positive COVID‑19 case could impact the life and safety of military personnel and their families, as well as the DoD’s ability to accomplish its mission.

 

Recommendations

We recommend that the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Marine Corps Training and Education Command, Naval Education and Training Command, Naval Service Training Command, and Air Education and Training Command develop procedures to ensure compliance with the implementation of COVID‑19 guidance at basic training centers.

We recommend that the Marine Corps Training and Education Command and Air Education and Training Command develop procedures to ensure compliance with requirements for the screening and testing of recruits and training personnel. We recommend that the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command develop procedures to ensure compliance with the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

We recommend that the Marine Corps Training and Education Command, Naval Education and Training Command, Naval Service Training Command, and Air Education and Training Command develop procedures to ensure compliance with proper use of cleaning supplies necessary for basic training.

We recommend that the Naval Education and Training Command, Naval Service Training Command, and Air Education and Training Command assess manpower requirements for training personnel to ensure compliance with COVID‑19 procedures and take appropriate action.

 

Management Actions Taken

In response to the draft report, the Military Services’ training commands provided documentation that outlined actions taken during the audit that addressed several recommendations made in a draft of this report. If the documentation showed that the Military Services’ training commands took action before the issuance of a draft of this report, December 7, 2020, we considered those actions as actions taken during the audit. Specifically, the Army developed procedures to ensure compliance with the screening and testing of recruits and training personnel and the use of cleaning supplies necessary for basic training. In addition, the Army and Marine Corps identified additional training personnel requirements needed to support COVID‑19 procedures. The Navy developed screening and testing procedures for recruits and training personnel. The Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force used lessons learned to ensure compliance with the use of personal protective equipment.

 

Management Comments and Our Response

As a result of management comments and supporting documentation, we revised and renumbered the recommendations to acknowledge management actions taken during the audit. We deleted the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Marine Corps Training and Education Command, Naval Education and Training Command, Naval Services Training Command, and Air Education and Training Command from Draft Report Recommendations 1.b, 1.c, and 1.d, and renumbered these recommendations as Recommendations 2, 3, 4, and 5.

The Commanding General, U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training, U.S Army Training and Doctrine Command, agreed with the recommendation to ensure proper use of PPE and partially agreed with the recommendation to implement COVID‑19 guidance at basic training centers. The Commanding General’s comments addressed both recommendations and provided documentation of the actions taken to implement them. Both recommendations are closed.

The Audit Coordination and Liaison Head, Marine Corps, responding for the Executive Deputy, Marine Corps Training and Education Command, agreed with the recommendations to implement COVID‑19 procedures at basic training centers, ensure compliance with screening and testing, and ensure compliance with proper use of cleaning supplies. The comments addressed all recommendations. The recommendations are resolved but will remain open. We will close those recommendations once management provides documentation that the actions have been completed.

The Inspector General, Naval Education and Training Command, responding for the Commander, Naval Education and Training Command, agreed with the recommendation to ensure compliance with the proper use of cleaning supplies. The comments addressed the recommendation. The recommendation is resolved but will remain open. We will close this recommendation once management provides documentation that the actions have been completed. The Inspector General, Naval Education and Training Command, responding for the Commander, Naval Education and Training Command, agreed with the recommendation to assess manpower requirements. The comments addressed the recommendation. The recommendation is resolved but will remain open. We will close this recommendation once management provides documentation that the actions have been completed. The Inspector General did not agree with the recommendation to implement COVID‑19 procedures at basic training centers but the comments addressed the recommendation and management provided documentation of actions taken. Therefore, the recommendation is closed.

The Deputy Commander, Air Education and Training Command, partially agreed with the recommendations to implement COVID‑19 procedures at basic training centers, ensure compliance with screening and testing, ensure compliance with proper use of cleaning supplies, and assess manpower training personnel requirements. However, the comments addressed the recommendations and management provided documentation of actions taken. Therefore, the recommendations to implement COVID‑19 guidance and screen and test recruits and training personnel are closed. The two remaining recommendations are resolved, but will remain open. We will close the recommendations once management provides documentation that the actions have been completed.

 

This report is the result of Proj. No. D2020-D000RL-0118.000