Problems in first Gulf War spurred new system

In 1990 and 1991, more than 500 ships and 10,000 aircraft were unloaded in Southwest Asia to support 500,000 Operation Desert Storm troops. But much of the materiel never reached its intended destination.

'The documentation for many containers stated that the contents were general cargo,' the General Accounting Office reported in 1992. Thousands of 40-foot containers were backlogged at ports, buried under new arrivals and never delivered.

'Army officials stated that units did not receive their supplies and were requisitioning items that were already in-theater but could not be located,' GAO said.

Units in the field made do with what GAO in a 1991 report called flexibility and ingenuity. They borrowed, rebuilt, jury-rigged or cannibalized parts.

The handling of unused cargo didn't improve when it was returned to the United States after the war.

'Because the Army had virtually no oversight or control of in-transit assets, military teams at each port had to open most of the containers entering the United States to determine their contents and probable destination,' GAO reported.

To correct these problems, the Defense Department established Product Manager'Automatic Identification Technology in 1995.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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