GAO Report on AFSOC’s Use of Guard / Reserve Units

The Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) has been busy the last two decades meeting the demands of operational requirements and mission overseas. The long-running conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere – as well as training missions and support to the theater SOCs – have placed all of the U.S. special operations forces in a state of continuing high operational tempo. AFSOC has needed to call up individuals or units from the Air Guard or Air Reserve to meet these mission requirements.

However the process of notifying and mobilization the individuals or units is not smooth and there are some improvements that need to be made. This has been explained in a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published in December 2019. The GAO report was provided to the Committee on Armed Services of the House of Representatives.

AFSOC relies increasingly on the Air Reserve Component (ARC), which is composed of the Air National Guard (ANG) and the Air Force Reserve (AFR). AFSOC accesses the capabilities of the ARC though either volunteers to specific taskings (referred to as volunteerism in the report) or involuntary mobilization to activate ARC units.

The House of Representatives tasked the GAO to assess the process that AFSOC and the Air Force uses to mobilize units or individuals for deployment. The GAO was instructed to take a look at AFSOC’s mobilization process, the communication of timely forecasts of utilization needs, and other aspects of AFSOC’s use of the ANG and AFR.

The GAO presents three recommendations in this report:

  • AFSOC should have the organizational capacity to effectively initiate, coordinate, and execute Air Reserve Component (ARC) mobilizations, to include ensuring timely and reliable notification of requirements to those units.
  • The ANG and AFR should develop a method of providing AFSOC with consolidated information regarding units available for immediate and future mobilizations to support special operations activities, such as the Air Force provides to its units with its force-generation model.
  • The ANG and AFR should develop a mechanism for tracking volunteer deployments to better manage ARC force utilization.

The Department of Defense concurred with one recommendation (the first one listed above) and partially concurred with two recommendations. With some changes, AFSOC – together with the ANG and AFR – should be able to provide advance notification to units or individuals so that they would have enough time to plan, coordinate, and conduct the mobilization processes and training to be able to fully accomplish the assigned mission.


Special Operations Forces: Additional Actions Are Needed to Effectively Manage Air Reserve Component
United States Government Accountability Office (GAO)
December 2019

Photo: Airman Prescott, a pararescue jumper assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 103rd Rescue Squadron monitors a patient during a training exercise conducted at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base at Westhampton Beach, New York. He is participating in a drill to help evaluate a casualty monitoring system being developed as part of the Air Force BATMAN program. Photo taken by Staff Sergeant Christopher Muncy, August 25, 2015.

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