Armed Forces News

The armed services could do a more thorough job of tracking the practice of borrowed troops, according to the government’s chief watchdog agency.
As the term suggests, borrowing military personnel refers to the practice of using them for tasks normally performed by civilians. Gate guard duty, firefighting and culinary jobs were cited as examples.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted the study at the request of Congress, after lawmakers expressed concerns about the effect the practice would have on readiness. The resulting Nov. 18 GAO report outlined discrepancies in the ways each service tracked the use of borrowed troops. For example, while the Army and Marines have issued guidance on the practice, the Army, Navy and Air Force do not keep statistics on it. The report summarized each service’s approach:

* The Army uses borrowed troops in jobs that cannot be filled otherwise, and does not do so for non-military tasks unless doing so is the most cost-effective approach. Such duties – to include gate guard, service school instruction and supporting medical activities – are limited to 90 days in duration.

* The Marine Corps uses borrowed troops to perform tasks such as weather forecasting, fire and rescue and air traffic control under its Fleet Assistance Program. Most of the jobs closely follow military occupational specialties.

* While the Navy has no formal program, sailors could be called upon to augment security and force protection, fire and emergency services, ambulance and culinary services – all while on shore duty.

* The Air Force also has no formal program. In some instances, airmen have been used to augment security forces. The service rarely uses airmen to perform jobs outside of their military occupational specialties.

The report noted that the Defense Department and each service opt not to track the use of borrowed troops because they each consider the impact on readiness to be minimal.