Navy and Marine Corps Training:

Further Planning Needed for Amphibious Operations Training

GAO-18-212T: Published: Dec 1, 2017. Publicly Released: Dec 1, 2017.

Additional Materials:


Cary B. Russell
(202) 512-5431


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

What GAO Found

Navy and Marine Corps units that are deploying as part of an Amphibious Ready Group and Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG-MEU) completed their required training for amphibious operations, but other Marine Corps units have been limited in their ability to conduct training for other amphibious operations–related priorities. GAO found that several factors, to include the decline in the fleet of the Navy's amphibious ships from 62 in 1990 to 31 today limited the ability of Marine Corps units to conduct training for other priorities, such as recurring training for home-station units (see figure). As a result, training completion for amphibious operations was low for some but not all Marine Corps units from fiscal years 2014 through 2016. The services have taken steps to address amphibious training shortfalls, such as more comprehensively determining units that require training. However, these efforts are incomplete because the services do not have an approach to prioritize available training resources, evaluate training resource alternatives, and monitor progress towards achieving priorities. Thus, the services are not well positioned to mitigate any training shortfalls.

Trends in the Size of the Navy's Fleet of Amphibious Ships

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The Navy and Marine Corps have taken some steps to improve coordination between the two services, but have not fully incorporated leading collaboration practices to improve integration of the two services—naval integration—for amphibious operations. For example, the Navy and Marine Corps have not defined and articulated common outcomes for naval integration that would help them align efforts to maximize training opportunities for amphibious operations.

The Marine Corps has taken steps to better integrate virtual training devices into operational training, but gaps remain in its process to develop and use them. GAO found that for selected virtual training devices, the Marine Corps did not conduct front-end analysis that considered key factors, such as the specific training tasks that a device would accomplish; consider device usage data to support its investment decisions; or evaluate the effectiveness of existing virtual training devices because of weaknesses in the service's guidance. As a result, the Marine Corps risks investing in devices that are not cost-effective and whose value to operational training is undetermined.

Why GAO Did This Study

This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's September 2017 report, entitled Navy and Marine Corps Training: Further Planning Needed for Amphibious Operations Training (GAO-17-789).

For more information, contact Cary Russell at (202) 512-5431 or

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