GAO finds Iraq logistics problems
- By Frank Tiboni
- Dec 17, 2003
U.S. and coalition forces defeated Iraqi military and paramilitary forces earlier this year despite many logistics issues, concludes a new General Accounting Office report.
"Although major combat operations during the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom were successful, our preliminary work indicated that there were substantial logistics support problems in the OIF theater," said William Solis, GAO's director of defense capabilities and management, in a Dec. 18 report.
The 24-page document, which included material from a Nov. 6 GAO briefing to the House Defense Appropriations Committee, cited five logistics problems:
* Backlogs of hundreds of materiel containers at distribution points because of identification and transportation problems.
* Accounting discrepancies, such as a $1.2 billion difference between materiel shipped to Army forces in the region and materiel they received.
* Late fees incurred on leased or lost shipping containers because of distribution chokepoints or losses.
* Stripping usable vehicles because of lack of spare parts or poor container identification.
* Duplicating products and product requests because of bad management and accounting procedures and inadequate container identification.
GAO officials attributed the logistics problems to poor shipping container identification, ineffective distribution and transportation and ignorance of supply lessons from the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
"[The Defense Department] and military service personnel lacked training on the use of radio frequency identification tags and other tracking tools, which also adversely affected asset visibility," Solis wrote.
Logistics accounts for more than 50 percent of the war costs, Solis said. The Defense Logistics Agency reports that $14.2 billion in operating support costs and $4.9 billion in transportation fees represent the majority of the $28.1 billion DOD allocated for this year's Iraqi operations, he said.
DOD officials have corrected many logistics problems cited in the report, Solis said.
"DOD representatives noted that, in October 2003, DOD issued a policy directing the use of radio frequency identification technology as a standard business process across the department to address visibility problems," he said in the report.
GAO officials started work on the report in April using interviews with troops in Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq and DOD and military officials in the United States, Solis said. Congress' investigative office will issue another logistics report including recommendations for improvements in 2004, he said.