Defense Logistics: Preliminary Observations on the Effectiveness of Logistics Activities During Operation Iraqi Freedom

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-12-18.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548

                                   December 18, 2003

                                   The Honorable Jerry Lewis
                                   Subcommittee on Defense
                                   Committee on Appropriations
                                   House of Representatives

                                   Subject: Defense Logistics: Preliminary Observations on the
                                   Effectiveness of Logistics Activities during Operation Iraqi Freedom

                                   Dear Mr. Chairman:

                                   Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) is one of the largest logistics supply and
                                   support efforts that the U.S. military has ever undertaken. For example, of
                                   the $28.1 billion that the Department of Defense (DOD) has obligated for
                                   OIF, the services and the Defense Logistics Agency have reported that
                                   $14.2 billion is for operating support costs and $4.9 billion is for
                                   transportation costs. This operation required the movement of large
                                   numbers of personnel and equipment over long distances into a hostile
                                   environment involving harsh desert conditions.

                                   You asked us to study a number of issues related to logistics support to
                                   deployed forces. In April 2003, shortly after the onset of OIF, we began
                                   work that focused on DOD’s accountability and control over supplies and
                                   equipment shipped to that theater of operation. Based on the early results
                                   of this work, we subsequently broadened our scope to include other
                                   logistical issues, such as the deployment of support units and the
                                   transportation of supplies and equipment.

                                   At the outset of this assignment, we agreed to keep you periodically
                                   informed of the status of our work. On November 6, 2003, we provided
                                   your office with a briefing on our preliminary observations of the
                                   effectiveness of logistics activities during OIF. As we emphasized at the
                                   briefing, these observations are based on the limited work we have done
                                   to date. As requested, we are transmitting the briefing (enc. I) in this
                                   report. In conducting our preliminary work, we relied on data gathered
                                   through our visits and interviews with military logistics personnel
                                   deployed to the theater of operations. We visited logistics support
                                   activities in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, but we did not visit activities in
                                   Iraq. We also met with senior officials at DOD and military service

                                   Page 1                                            GAO-04-305R Defense Logistics
              headquarters and logistics support activities in the United States and
              Europe. We also reviewed the military services’ and DOD’s “after-action”
              reports, “lessons learned” studies, and other similar documents. The scope
              of our work included all types of supplies and equipment used during OIF,
              including such items as repair parts, food, clothing, and construction

              Although we have done some limited analysis, we have not verified all of
              the data and plan to more fully address the issues identified in this briefing
              in subsequent work. We expect to complete our work and issue a report,
              including recommendations for executive action, during 2004. In addition,
              we are planning to provide DOD with a short letter of inquiry concerning a
              serious condition we came across relating to the return of materiel from
              units in the theater, which we believe warrants DOD’s immediate
              attention. A copy of the draft letter will be provided to you, and the
              response from DOD will also be provided.

              Although major combat operations during the initial phases of OIF were
Summary       successful, our preliminary work indicated that there were substantial
              logistics support problems in the OIF theater, as evidenced by

          •   a backlog of hundreds of pallets and containers of materiel at various
              distribution points due to transportation constraints and inadequate asset
          •   a discrepancy of $1.2 billion between the amount of materiel shipped to
              Army activities in the theater of operations and the amount of materiel
              that those activities acknowledged they received;
          •   a potential cost to DOD of millions of dollars for late fees on leased
              containers or replacement of DOD-owned containers due to distribution
              backlogs or losses;
          •   the cannibalization of vehicles and potential reduction of equipment
              readiness due to the unavailability of parts that either were not in DOD’s
              inventory or could not be located because of inadequate asset visibility;
          •   the duplication of many requisitions and circumvention of the supply
              system as a result of inadequate asset visibility; and
          •   the accumulation at the theater distribution center in Kuwait of hundreds
              of pallets, containers, and boxes of excess supplies and equipment that
              were shipped from units redeploying from Iraq without required content
              descriptions and shipping documentation. For example, at the time we
              visited the center, we observed a wide array of materiel, spread over many
              acres, that included a mix of broken and usable parts that had not been
              sorted into the appropriate supply class, unidentified items in containers

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    that had not been opened and inventoried, and items that appeared to be
    deteriorating due to the harsh desert conditions.

    We noted a number of factors that, in combination with other conditions,
    may have contributed to the logistics support problems we identified.
    Such factors include the following:

•   Poor asset visibility. DOD did not have adequate visibility over all
    equipment and supplies transported to, within, and from the theater of
    operations in support of OIF. For example, although the U.S. Central
    Command issued a policy requiring, whenever feasible, the use of radio
    frequency identification tags to track assets shipped to and within the
    theater, these tags were not used in a uniform and consistent manner.1 In
    addition, units operating in the theater did not have adequate access to, or
    could not fully use, DOD’s logistics and asset visibility systems in order to
    track equipment and supplies because these systems were not fully
    interoperable and capable of exchanging information or transmitting data
    over required distances. Furthermore, DOD and military service personnel
    lacked training on the use of radio frequency identification tags and other
    tracking tools, which also adversely affected asset visibility.

•   Insufficient and ineffective theater distribution capability. DOD did
    not have a sufficient distribution capability in the theater to effectively
    manage and transport the large amount of supplies and equipment
    deployed during OIF. For example, the distribution of supplies to forward
    units was delayed because adequate transportation assets, such as cargo
    trucks and materiel handling equipment, were not available within the
    theater of operations. The distribution of supplies was also delayed
    because cargo arriving in shipping containers and pallets had to be
    separated and repackaged several times for delivery to multiple units in
    different locations. In addition, DOD’s lack of an effective process for
    prioritizing cargo for delivery precluded the effective use of scarce theater
    transportation assets. Finally, one of the major causes of distribution
    problems during OIF was that most Army and Marine Corps logistics
    personnel and equipment did not deploy to the theater until after combat
    troops arrived, and, in fact, most Army personnel did not arrive until after
    major combat operations were underway. In addition, logistics personnel

     Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are used to track shipping containers and
    pallets and their contents while in transit. These tags identify what items are in a container
    or pallet and continuously transmit that information through radio signals, which can be
    read electronically using hand-held scanners or fixed interrogators placed at various points
    along supply routes.

    Page 3                                                      GAO-04-305R Defense Logistics
    were not adequately trained in various logistics functions, such as
    operating material handling equipment and managing theater distribution

•   Failure to apply “lessons learned” from prior operations. The failure
    to effectively apply lessons learned from Operations Desert Shield and
    Desert Storm and other military operations may have contributed to the
    logistics support problems encountered during OIF. Our prior reports, as
    well as DOD and military service after-action reports and other studies of
    prior military operations, have documented some of the same problems
    that appear to be occurring in OIF. For example, our September 1992
    report concluded that accountability and asset visibility were lost during
    Operation Desert Storm due to the lack of container documentation and
    an inadequate transportation system to distribute these supplies.2 DOD’s
    April 1992 report to Congress on the conduct of the Persian Gulf War
    reported that, in addition to a lack of asset visibility and poor materiel
    distribution, the logistics effort was weakened by the long processing time
    for supply requisitions, which resulted in the loss of confidence and
    discipline in the supply system, the abuse of the priority designation
    process, and the submission of multiple requisitions.3 In addition, DOD’s
    after-action report from the more recent operation in Kosovo concluded
    that military leaders had limited visibility over supplies because the
    communications support needed to fuse data from multiple collection
    points was inadequate.4 Based on the preliminary observations from our
    current work, it appears that the same or similar problems continue to
    exist in OIF.

•   Other Logistics Issues. DOD and military service officials raised a
    number of other logistics-related issues with us during our review.
    Although these issues need to be explored further, they are included in
    this report because they may have contributed to the recent logistics
    problems. There were indications of the following:

    •   At times there were shortages of some spares or repair parts needed by
        deployed forces. Military personnel we spoke with noted shortages of

     U.S. General Accounting Office, Operation Desert Storm: Lack of Accountability Over
    Materiel During Redeployment, GAO/NSIAD-92-258 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 23, 1992).
     Department of Defense, Conduct of the Persian Gulf War: Final Report to the Congress
    (Washington, D.C.: April 1992).
     Department of Defense, Kosovo/Operation Allied Force After-Action Report: Report to
    the Congress (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 31, 2000).

    Page 4                                                  GAO-04-305R Defense Logistics
                      items such as tires, tank track, helicopter spare parts, and radio
                      batteries. As a result, units resorted to cannibalizing vehicles or
                      circumventing normal supply channels to keep equipment in ready

                  •   Army prepositioned equipment used for OIF was not adequately
                      configured to match unit needs. For example, parts inventories
                      contained in the prepositioned stocks were not sufficient to meet the
                      needs of the units that relied on them.

                  •   DOD contractors used for logistics support during OIF were not always
                      effective. For example, we were told that some commercial shippers
                      were unable to provide “door-to-door” delivery of supplies to units in
                      the theater, as was required by their contracts.

                  •   Physical security at ports and other distribution points in the theater
                      was not always adequate to protect assets from being lost or taken by
                      unauthorized personnel. For example, Army officials noted cases
                      where vehicles and expensive communications and computer
                      equipment had been lost from various distribution points in Kuwait.

                  In developing these issues for this briefing, we held discussions with
Scope and         officials from key DOD and military service organizations responsible for
Methodology       logistics support and materiel management policies and procedures in the
                  United States, Europe, and the OIF theater of operations in the Middle
                  East. Our audit work primarily focused on Army and Marine Corps
                  operations. In the theater of operations, we visited logistics support
                  activities in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, but we did not visit activities in
                  Iraq. We also reviewed policies, procedures, and processes in place to
                  maintain accountability and control over materiel as it moved to, within,
                  and from the theater of operations. In addition, we reviewed lessons
                  learned reports and other assessments of logistics support for Operations
                  Desert Shield and Desert Storm and other military operations, including
                  OIF. We performed our review from April 2003 through December 2003 in
                  accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

                  In providing oral comments on the briefing slides, DOD representatives
Agency Comments   from the Office of the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense
                  (Supply Chain Integration) and other military logistics officials stated that
                  they generally concurred with the observations we presented. They
                  pointed out that the problems we identified were ones that they were also
                  familiar with and noted that DOD was already taking a number of actions

                  Page 5                                            GAO-04-305R Defense Logistics
that address some of them. For example, they stated that the Secretary of
Defense has designated the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition,
Technology, and Logistics) as the Defense Logistics Executive with the
authority to address all logistics and supply chain issues. In addition, the
Secretary of Defense designated the U.S. Transportation Command as a
single distribution process owner to address problems with the
distribution process that hampered DOD’s ability to optimally support
deployed forces. Finally, the 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.

We are sending copies of this report to the Chairmen and Ranking
Minority Members of other Senate and House committees and
subcommittees that have jurisdiction and oversight responsibilities for
DOD. We are also sending copies to the Secretary of Defense and the
Director, Office of Management and Budget. Copies will also be available
at no charge on our Web site at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please contact me
at (202) 512-8365 or e-mail me at solisw@gao.gov. Key contributors to this
report were Kenneth Knouse, Cary Russell, Gerald Winterlin, Jason
Venner, Kenneth Daniell, Tinh Nguyen, and Nancy Benco.

Sincerely yours,

William M. Solis
Director, Defense Capabilities and Management


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