Audit of Training Ranges Supporting Aviation Units in the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
(Source: US DoD Inspector-General; issued April 17, 2019)
Objective

The objective of the audit was to determine whether training ranges and airspace had the capability and capacity to support aviation readiness for units assigned to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM). We focused on rotary-wing (helicopter), fixed-wing (airplane), and unmanned aircraft systems that have offensive air support (use weapons to attack enemy assets).

We defined capability as the ability of the range to provide realistic training conditions, targets, and threats. We defined capacity as the ability of the range size and airspace to accommodate the number and types of aircraft and training missions that need to be flown.

The United States Code defines a range as a designated land or water area that is set aside, managed, and used for DoD range activities and includes firing lanes and positions, maneuver areas, impact areas, electronic scoring sites (ranges with electronic scoring that assesses how accurately the operator or pilot shot the target or performed during the training event), and airspace areas designated for military use.1 We reviewed ranges located in Japan, South Korea, Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada, and Arizona.

Finding

We found that training ranges and airspace did not have the capability or capacity to support aviation readiness for units assigned to USINDOPACOM. Specifically, the training land, airspace, impact areas, and electronic warfare systems were more limited than what was required for training with ordnance and the aircrafts’ capabilities. For example, at the Fallon Range Training Complex, the size of the range limited the use of weapons. In another example, the range at the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex lacked modern electronic warfare systems, which limited training that pilots received.

The training ranges and airspace capability and capacity limitations occurred because:
-- land, airspace, and impact areas on training ranges were designed to meet mission needs of World War II and the Cold War;

-- training ranges in Japan and South Korea are shared with the host nation forces, which limited availability;

-- funds available for modernizing range capabilities, such as electronic warfare systems, were prioritized for operations in Southwest Asia, and limited by continuing resolutions;

-- protection of endangered species, safety considerations related to the use of weapons, and inclement weather limited the activities on the ranges; and

-- the Army and Air Force lacked a clear command structure to jointly operate and manage the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex.

As a result, the aviation units in the USINDOPACOM area of responsibility could not train as they would fight, which the National Defense Strategy states is essential for lethality and success in accomplishing theater campaign and operation plan objectives.

FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act

The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2019 requires the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a strategic plan to improve the capabilities of DoD training ranges and installations. The Act requires the Secretary of Defense to develop and implement a comprehensive strategic plan to identify and address deficits in the capabilities of DoD training ranges to support current and anticipated readiness requirements to execute the National Defense Strategy.

Recommendations

We recommend that the Under Secretaries of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and for Acquisition and Sustainment:

-- review the individual Services’ range plans, including the response provided to address the requirement of the National Defense Authorization Act, and determine whether Service solutions to training limitations can be accomplished across the DoD. The review should include live-virtual-constructive, and regionalization training; and

-- develop and implement a plan to field and sustain DoD-wide solutions to address training gaps, including addressing the airspace and impact area needs of advanced aircraft and weapons, such as the F-35; and the need to join neighboring airspace on a continuing basis.

Also, we recommend that the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness develop and implement plans to synchronize Army and Air Force range management and range use in Alaska for joint training events; individual through collective level training; and future F-35 training needs across the DoD ensure readiness and the ability to accomplish operation plans.

Management Comments and Our Response

** The Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Education and Training, responding for the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, concurs with our recommendation.

Comments from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Education and Training addressed all specifics of the recommendation. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but will remain open. We will close the recommendation when we verify that the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Education and Training developed and implemented a plan to field and sustain DoD-wide solutions to address training gaps, including the airspace and impact area needs of advanced aircraft and weapons, such as the F-35; and the need to join neighboring military airspace on a continuing basis.

** The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, responding for the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment:
-- agreed with the recommendation to review the individual Services’ range plans stating that the National Defense Authorization Act contains a new requirement for the DoD to develop a strategic plan to identify and address inadequacies at training ranges. He further stated that this ongoing effort includes Service assessments and plans.

-- partially agreed with the recommendation to develop and implement a plan to field and sustain DoD-wide solutions to address training gaps. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment stated that the strategic range plan will be comprehensive and cover all operating domains.

Comments from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment addressed all specifics of the recommendation. We agree that the actions to address the recommendation can be accomplished in one plan. Therefore, the recommendation is resolved but will remain open. We will close the recommendation when we verify that the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment developed and implemented a plan to field and sustain DoD-wide solutions to address training gaps, including the airspace and impact area needs of advanced aircraft and weapons, such as the F-35; and the need to join neighboring airspace on a continuing basis.

This report is a result of Project No. D2018-D000CF-0082.000.


Click here for the full report (69 PDF pages) on the DODIG website.


(EDITOR’S NOTE: This report was previously classified “Secret” and “Noforn” (No Foreign Eyes).

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