GAO briefs lawmakers on Iraq battlefield logistics troubles

Although logistics operations during the early phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom were much improved over the previous Gulf War, major logistics support snafus surfaced as the war progressed, according to a new General Accounting Office briefing.

There were substantial logistics support problems in the theater, GAO said in the briefing sent to lawmakers last week. The problems included inadequate asset visibility, the duplication of requisitions and a discrepancy of $1.2 billion between the items shipped to Army units in the theater and the items units received.

At an Army distribution center in Kuwait, GAO found hundreds of pallets, containers and boxes of excess supplies and equipment without proper content descriptions or shipping documentation.

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

Although the Army used radio frequency identification tag technology, it did not use it effectively to track all materiel, GAO noted in a briefing sent to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. What's more, GAO told lawmakers, field personnel were not adequately trained to use asset-tracking tools.

DOD mostly agreed with GAO's findings and said it is working to resolve some of the problems. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld has designated an undersecretary to serve as the Defense logistics executive with the authority to research and address all logistics and supply chain problems.

GAO made no recommendations as the audit agency is still developing a final report based on its visits to logistics facilities supporting warfighters in Iraq.

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