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entitled 'Warfighter Support: Preliminary Observations on DOD's 
Progress and Challenges in Distributing Supplies and Equipment to 
Afghanistan' which was released on June 25, 2010. 

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Testimony: 

Before the Subcommittee on Defense, Committee on Appropriations, House 
of Representatives: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
GAO: 

June 25, 2010: 

Warfighter Support: 

Preliminary Observations on DOD's Progress and Challenges in 
Distributing Supplies and Equipment to Afghanistan: 

Statement of William M. Solis, Director:
Defense Capabilities and Management: 

A classified version of this statement (GAO-10-462C) was delivered to 
a closed session of the Subcommittee on Defense, Committee on 
Appropriations, House of Representatives, on March 4, 2010. 

GAO-10-842T: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-842T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Defense, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

In fiscal year 2009, the Department of Defense (DOD) reported that it 
spent $4 billion to move troops and materiel into Afghanistan, a 
mountainous, arid, land-locked country with few roads, no railway, and 
only four airports with paved runways over 3,000 meters. The terrain 
and weather in Afghanistan and surrounding countries pose further 
challenges to transporting supplies and equipment. In December 2009, 
the President announced that an additional 30,000 U.S. troops will be 
sent to Afghanistan by August 2010. 

Todayís testimony discusses GAOís preliminary observations drawn from 
ongoing work reviewing DODís logistics efforts supporting operations 
in Afghanistan, including (1) the organizations involved and routes 
and methods used to transport supplies and equipment into and around 
Afghanistan; (2) steps DOD has taken to improve its distribution 
process, based on lessons learned from prior operations; and 
(3) challenges affecting DODís ability to distribute supplies and 
equipment within Afghanistan, and its efforts to mitigate them. In 
conducting its audit work, GAO examined DOD guidance and other 
documentation relating to the processes of transporting supplies and 
equipment to Afghanistan and met with various cognizant officials and 
commanders in the United States, Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Qatar. 

What GAO Found: 

Movement of supplies and equipment into and around Afghanistan is a 
complex process involving many DOD organizations and using air, sea, 
and ground modes of transportation. DODís ability to provide timely 
logistics support to units deploying to Afghanistan or already in 
theater depends on its ability to synchronize all of these activities 
into one seamless process. For example, U.S. Transportation Command 
manages air and surface transportation from the United States to and 
around the U.S. Central Command area of operations; U.S. Central 
Commandís Deployment and Distribution Operations Center validates and 
directs air movements and monitors and directs surface movements 
within theater; the Air Forceís Air Mobility Division assigns and 
directs aircraft to carry materiel within the theater; and the Armyís 
1st Theater Sustainment Command monitors strategic movements of 
materiel and directly influences movements into theater. Most cargo in 
theater is transported commercially by ship to Pakistan and then by 
contractor-operated trucks to Afghanistan, but high-priority and 
sensitive items are transported by U.S. military and commercial 
aircraft directly from the United States and other countries to 
logistics hubs in Afghanistan. 

DOD has taken some steps to improve its processes for distributing 
materiel to deployed forces based on lessons learned from prior 
operations. For example, in response to lessons learned from problems 
with keeping commanders informed about incoming materiel in Operation 
Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Transportation Command established the Central 
Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center, which now helps 
coordinate the movement of materiel and forces into the theater of 
operations. Also, since GAO reported in 2003 that radio frequency 
identification tags were not being effectively used to track materiel 
in transit to, within, and from Iraq, DOD developed policies and 
procedures to increase tag use on cargo traveling through the U.S. 
Central Command theater of operations, including Afghanistan. 

Challenges hindering DODís ability to distribute needed supplies and 
equipment to U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan include difficulties 
with transporting cargo through neighboring countries and around 
Afghanistan, limited airfield infrastructure, lack of full visibility 
over cargo movements, limited storage capacity at logistics hubs, 
difficulties in synchronizing the arrival of units and equipment, lack 
of coordination between U.S. and other coalition forces for delivery 
of supplies and equipment, and uncertain requirements and low 
transportation priority for contractors. DOD recognizes these 
challenges and has ongoing or planned efforts to mitigate some of 
them; however, some efforts involve long-term plans that will not be 
complete in time to support the ongoing troop increase. DOD is also 
working to address these challenges through planning conferences to 
synchronize the flow of forces into Afghanistan. At these conferences, 
DOD officials stressed the need to balance and coordinate multiple 
requirements in order to sustain current operations in Afghanistan and 
Iraq, draw down forces and equipment in Iraq, and increase forces and 
equipment in Afghanistan. 

View [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-842T] or key 
components. For more information, contact William M. Solis at (202) 
512-8365 or solisw@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I appreciate the opportunity to provide a statement discussing 
Department of Defense (DOD) transportation and logistics issues in 
Afghanistan. As of February 2010, approximately 79,000 U.S. troops 
were deployed in Afghanistan. In fiscal year 2009, DOD reported that 
it spent $4 billion to move troops and materiel into Afghanistan in 
support of these operations: $2 billion for air transport, $120 
million for sealift, and the balance for port handling and ground 
transport. From February through August 2009, 16,000 troops and 5,300 
tons of gear were flown into Afghanistan, while 750,000 square feet of 
materiel--trucks and containers--were transported by sealift and then 
trucks. 

Afghanistan has been described as the "harshest logistics environment 
on earth." It is a mountainous, arid, land-locked country with poorly 
developed infrastructure, including few roads, no railway, and only 
four airports with paved runways over 3,000 meters. The terrain and 
weather in Afghanistan and surrounding countries pose further 
challenges to transporting supplies and equipment. Roads are narrow 
and often unpaved; some have one-way traffic alternating daily, and 
some are treacherous mountain passes. Winter weather, avalanches, and 
flooding often create obstacles and can cause delivery delays. 
Additionally, DOD does not have access to suitable areas nearby for 
staging and receiving equipment going into Afghanistan, such as those 
it has in Kuwait for operations in Iraq. While DOD relies on a 
combination of air and surface transportation modes to move supplies 
and equipment into and around Afghanistan, these austere conditions 
make airlift a vital part of this process. 

On December 1, 2009, the President announced that an additional 30,000 
U.S. troops would be sent to Afghanistan by August 31, 2010, with 
drawdown efforts in Afghanistan to begin in July 2011. Simultaneously, 
DOD plans to draw down forces and equipment from Iraq. From December 
2009 through August 2010, approximately 48,000 troops, 20,000 pieces 
of rolling stock, and 29,000 containers are planned to be pulled out 
of Iraq. Consequently, DOD's logistics support system will have to 
accommodate both operations, requiring extensive planning and 
coordination. In February 2009, we testified that DOD's ability to 
move equipment and materiel from Iraq may be constrained, affecting 
its ability to quickly deploy these resources in Afghanistan or 
elsewhere.[Footnote 1] Specifically, we reported that the limited 
availability of facilities in Kuwait and other neighboring countries 
may diminish the speed at which equipment and materiel can be moved 
out of Iraq. Further, we reported that the ability to transport 
personnel and equipment into Afghanistan will likely be constrained by 
the infrastructure issues and topography of Afghanistan. 

My statement today reflects our preliminary observations drawn from 
ongoing work reviewing DOD's logistics efforts supporting operations 
in Afghanistan. Specifically, I will (1) describe the organizations 
involved and the routes and methods used to transport supplies and 
equipment into and around Afghanistan; (2) highlight some of the steps 
DOD has taken to improve the distribution process based on lessons 
learned from prior operations; and (3) address challenges that affect 
DOD's ability to distribute supplies and equipment to forces within 
Afghanistan, as well as DOD's efforts to mitigate these challenges. 

These preliminary observations are based on the work we have performed 
to date. In conducting our audit work, we examined agency guidance, 
including DOD Joint Publication 4-0, Joint Logistics (July 18, 2008), 
which provides the doctrinal framework for how logistics are to be 
delivered to support joint operations across the range of military 
operations, and U.S. Central Command guidance on the use of supply 
routes to Afghanistan. In addition, we reviewed other documentation 
and briefings relating to, among other things, the processes of 
transporting supplies and equipment to Afghanistan from various DOD 
entities, plans for the ongoing troop increase, and assessments of 
airfield capabilities. We also analyzed commanders' comments from 
readiness reports prepared by 134 units deployed to Afghanistan as of 
January 2010, and selected certain examples to highlight challenges 
DOD faces with distributing supplies and equipment to forces within 
Afghanistan. However, we were unable to conduct an independent 
reliability assessment of the commanders' comment data from the 
readiness reports. We met with officials from several DOD 
organizations in the United States as well as the U.S. Central Command 
theater of operations, including Kuwait, Qatar, and Afghanistan. In 
the United States, we met with officials from U.S. Central Command, 
U.S. Transportation Command, the Defense Logistics Agency, Surface 
Deployment and Distribution Command, Air Mobility Command, and Air 
Force Central Command. During our trip to the theater of operations in 
December 2009, we met with officials from Army Central Command-
Forward, the Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations 
Center, Defense Logistics Agency-Forward, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, the 
Combined Joint Task Force-82, the Air Mobility Division, the 1st 
Theater Sustainment Command, and the 143rd Expeditionary Sustainment 
Command. We also attended U.S. Central Command-sponsored planning 
conferences in support of the troop increase in Afghanistan and 
drawdown of forces from Iraq. My statement is based on our reviews and 
analysis of DOD guidance, processes, and plans, and on interviews GAO 
staff members conducted with DOD officials in the United States, 
Kuwait, Qatar, and Afghanistan. We conducted our work from August 2009 
through March 2010 in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform 
the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. We believe that the evidence obtained provides a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. 

Summary: 

Movement of materiel, such as supplies and equipment, into and around 
Afghanistan is a complex process involving many DOD organizations and 
utilizing air, sea, and ground modes of transportation over various 
routes. DOD's ability to provide timely logistics support to units 
deploying to Afghanistan or already in theater depends on its ability 
to synchronize all of these activities into one seamless process. 
Numerous organizations play a role in distributing materiel. For 
example, U.S. Transportation Command manages air and surface 
transportation from the United States to and around the U.S. Central 
Command area of operations; the Central Command Deployment and 
Distribution Operations Center validates and directs air movements, 
and monitors and directs surface movements within theater; the Air 
Force's Air Mobility Division assigns and directs aircraft to carry 
materiel within theater; and the Army's 1st Theater Sustainment 
Command monitors strategic movements of materiel and directly 
influences movements into theater. There are also several means by 
which supplies and equipment are delivered to units operating in 
Afghanistan. While the majority of cargo in theater is transported 
commercially by ship to Pakistan and then by contractor-operated 
trucks to Afghanistan, many high-priority and sensitive items are 
transported by U.S. military and commercial aircraft directly from the 
United States and other countries to logistics hubs in Afghanistan. 

DOD has taken some steps to improve its processes for distributing 
materiel to deployed forces based on lessons learned from prior 
operations. For example, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, senior 
commanders were unable to prioritize their needs and make decisions in 
the early stages of the distribution process because they did not know 
what materiel was being shipped to them, resulting in an overburdened 
transportation and distribution system. In response, in January 2004, 
U.S. Transportation Command established the Central Command Deployment 
and Distribution Operations Center, in part to help coordinate the 
movement of materiel and forces into the theater of operations. This 
operations center enabled DOD to confirm the combatant commander's 
deployment and distribution priorities and to synchronize the forces, 
equipment, and supplies arriving in theater with critical theater lift 
and theater infrastructure limitations. Additionally, since we 
reported in 2003 that radio frequency identification (RFID) tags were 
not being effectively used to track materiel in transit to, within, 
and from Iraq, DOD has put additional policies and procedures in place 
to increase the use of tags on cargo traveling through the U.S. 
Central Command theater of operations, including Afghanistan. 

Several challenges hinder DOD's ability to distribute needed supplies 
and equipment to U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan. These 
challenges include: 

* difficulties with transporting cargo through neighboring countries 
and around Afghanistan; 

* limited airfield infrastructure within Afghanistan; 

* lack of full visibility over supply and equipment movements into and 
around Afghanistan; 

* limited storage capacity at logistics hubs in Afghanistan; 

* difficulties in synchronizing the arrival of units and equipment in 
Afghanistan; 

* lack of coordination, as well as competing logistics priorities, in 
a coalition environment; and: 

* uncertain requirements and low transportation priority for 
contractors. 

DOD recognizes these distribution challenges and is working to address 
them through various planning conferences to synchronize the flow of 
forces into Afghanistan. Additionally, through these conferences, DOD 
is working to balance and closely coordinate multiple requirements to 
sustain current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, draw down forces 
and equipment from Iraq, and increase forces and equipment in 
Afghanistan. DOD has plans in place to deliver the troops, supplies, 
and equipment to Afghanistan when required, but it acknowledges that 
there is a high level of risk involved in executing these plans. 

Many DOD Organizations Are Involved in Distributing Supplies and 
Equipment by Various Routes and Methods into and around Afghanistan: 

Distribution of materiel, such as supplies and equipment, into and 
around Afghanistan is a complex process involving many DOD 
organizations and utilizing both surface and air modes of 
transportation over various routes. DOD's ability to provide timely 
logistics support to units deploying to Afghanistan or already in 
theater depends on its ability to synchronize these activities into 
one seamless process. According to joint doctrine, distribution is the 
operational process of synchronizing all elements of the logistic 
system to deliver the "right things" to the "right place" at the 
"right time" to support the joint force.[Footnote 2] As the list below 
indicates, numerous organizations play an integral role in ensuring 
the delivery of materiel to support operations in Afghanistan: 

* U.S. Transportation Command is designated as the distribution 
process owner for DOD. As such, it coordinates transportation programs 
for all organizations involved in moving supplies and equipment into 
Afghanistan for DOD. It relies on its military service components--Air 
Mobility Command (Air Force), Military Sealift Command (Navy), and 
Surface Deployment and Distribution Command (Army)--to provide 
mobility assets, such as aircraft, ships, and trucks, and to execute 
the movement of materiel. In addition, U.S. Transportation Command 
collaborates with the combatant commanders, military services, defense 
agencies, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and Joint Staff to 
develop and implement distribution process improvements. 

* U.S. Forces-Afghanistan establishes priorities for movement of 
materiel for the Afghanistan theater. 

* Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan provides command and control 
of logistics efforts within Afghanistan to execute U.S. Forces-
Afghanistan priorities, including assisting with materiel reception 
and movement and with asset visibility. 

* Army Central Command's 1st Theater Sustainment Command provides 
command and control of logistics efforts within the U.S. Central 
Command area of operations by monitoring strategic movements of 
materiel and directly influencing movements into theater. 

* Air Force Central Command's Air Mobility Division plans, 
coordinates, tasks, and executes the movement of materiel using air 
assets within theater. 

* The Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center 
bridges the gap between strategic and theater distribution by 
validating and directing air movements and monitoring and directing 
surface movements within theater. 

A combination of surface and air transportation modes are used to move 
supplies and equipment into and around Afghanistan. According to U.S. 
Transportation Command officials, most supplies and equipment bound 
for Afghanistan are transported along surface modes, with the 
remaining supplies and equipment transported using airlift. The main 
surface route uses commercial ships to transport cargo to the seaport 
of Karachi, Pakistan, from which it is trucked by contractors into 
Afghanistan. Typically, materiel that crosses the northern border at 
Torkham is destined for the logistics hub at Bagram, while materiel 
that crosses the southern border at Chaman is destined for the 
Kandahar logistics hub. The distances from the port of Karachi to 
Bagram and Kandahar are approximately 1,210 miles and 690 miles, 
respectively. Unit equipment--such as specific vehicles and materiel 
owned by the unit and brought from home stations--and sustainment 
materiel--such as food, water, construction materials, parts, and fuel 
that are requisitioned by units already deployed--are transported 
through Pakistan. 

In May 2009, DOD began using an alternative surface route, known as 
the Northern Distribution Network, which relies on contracted ships, 
railways, and trucks to transport nonlethal sustainment items like 
construction materiel through western European and central Asian 
countries into Afghanistan. The cargo, originating in the United 
States and northern Europe, falls in with the normal flow of commerce 
that travels along several routes within the Northern Distribution 
Network. There are two main routes within this network: one starts at 
the Latvian port of Riga or the Estonian port of Tallinn and connects 
with Afghanistan via Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan; the second 
route starts at the Georgian port of Poti, bypasses Russia, and 
reaches Afghanistan through the terrains of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, 
and Uzbekistan. U.S. Transportation Command is currently considering 
the development of additional Northern Distribution Network routes to 
transport materiel into Afghanistan. 

Currently, the surface routes through Pakistan are used to a greater 
extent than those of the Northern Distribution Network because the 
latter is a less mature surface route and the Pakistani ground routes 
entail fewer limitations on the types of cargo that can be 
transported. For example, U.S. Transportation Command reported that 
from May through November 2009, more than 4,700 20-foot-equivalent 
units were transported into Afghanistan by way of the Northern 
Distribution Network, but more than 21,500 20-foot-equivalent units 
were transported using the Pakistani surface routes.[Footnote 3] The 
Northern Distribution Network could, however, support the movement of 
significantly more cargo, with a maximum capacity estimated at around 
4,000 20-foot-equivalent units per month. 

Military and commercial airlift are used to transport high-priority 
supplies and equipment, as well as sensitive items, such as weapon 
systems and ammunition, into and around Afghanistan. According to U.S. 
Forces-Afghanistan, as of December 2009, there were 24 airfields in 
Afghanistan, 4 of which could support C-5 aircraft and 6 of which 
could support C-17 aircraft. These aircraft are used to move large 
quantities of supplies and equipment. Cargo flown into Afghanistan is 
typically flown to a logistics hub, such as Bagram or Kandahar, that 
is capable of supporting most types of aircraft. According to Air 
Mobility Command data, during fiscal years 2008 and 2009, 
approximately 81,600 and 170,000 short tons of cargo, respectively, 
were flown into Afghanistan.[Footnote 4] 

Supplies and equipment shipped to the logistics hubs may subsequently 
be transported to units operating at other forward operating bases or 
combat outposts using a combination of surface and air transportation 
modes. Within Afghanistan, cargo is moved to forward operating bases 
primarily by means of contractor-operated trucks, though military 
trucking assets are used in some instances. High-priority and 
sensitive materiel, such as ammunition, that needs to be transported 
by air is loaded onto smaller aircraft and flown to a forward 
operating base or air-dropped to units throughout the country. 

DOD Has Taken Some Steps to Improve the Distribution Process Based on 
Lessons Learned: 

DOD has taken some steps to improve its processes for distributing 
materiel to deployed forces based on lessons learned from prior 
operations, such as Operation Iraqi Freedom. We reported in August 
2005 that two DOD initiatives for improving supply distribution 
operations--the establishment of the Central Command Deployment and 
Distribution Operations Center and the use of pure packing (that is, 
consolidation of cargo for shipment to a single user) for air 
shipments--were successful enough to warrant application to future 
operations.[Footnote 5] In conducting our ongoing work reviewing DOD's 
logistics efforts supporting operations in Afghanistan, we found that 
these initiatives continue to benefit supply distribution efforts in 
support of operations in Afghanistan. According to officials, both 
these initiatives have helped improve the flow of supplies into and 
around the Afghanistan theater of operations. 

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, senior commanders were unable to 
prioritize their needs and make decisions in the early stages of the 
distribution process because they did not know what materiel was being 
shipped to them, resulting in an overburdened transportation and 
distribution system. To address these issues, in January 2004, U.S. 
Transportation Command established the Central Command Deployment and 
Distribution Operations Center, in part to help coordinate the 
movement of materiel and forces into the theater of operations, 
including both Iraq and Afghanistan, by confirming the combatant 
commander's deployment and distribution priorities and by 
synchronizing the forces, equipment, and supplies arriving in theater 
with critical theater lift and theater infrastructure limitations. 
Based on the success of the Central Command Deployment and 
Distribution Operations Center, DOD created similar deployment and 
distribution operations centers within each of the geographic 
combatant commands.[Footnote 6] 

Pure packing has similarly improved DOD's efficiency. During the early 
stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the use of mixed pallets of cargo 
created inefficiencies because they had to be unpacked, sorted, and 
repacked in the theater of operations before they were shipped 
forward, thus lengthening the time it took to deliver supplies to 
troops. To avoid these extra processes, in January 2004, U.S. Central 
Command requested that all air shipments entering its area of 
responsibility be pure packed, meaning that all cargo in a pallet is 
addressed to the same customer location. To maximize pallet and 
aircraft utilization, cargo awaiting shipment can be held for up to 5 
days for the Army and up to 3 days for the Marine Corps. Cargo is 
palletized either when it reaches 120 hours of port hold time or when 
enough cargo is available to fill a pallet, based on size or weight 
limits. As we reported in April 2005, the use of pure packing 
potentially leads to longer processing times at the originating aerial 
ports, but it reduces customer wait time in theater, thus providing a 
significant advantage.[Footnote 7] 

DOD has also established policies and procedures to increase the use 
of RFID tags to improve in-transit visibility over cargo.[Footnote 8] 
In December 2003, we reported that DOD did not have adequate 
visibility over all supplies and equipment transported to, within, and 
from the theater of operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom, in part 
because RFID tags were not being used in a uniform and consistent 
manner.[Footnote 9] In July 2004, DOD issued policy directing all DOD 
components to use RFID tags on all cargo shipments moving to, from, or 
between overseas locations. Additionally, U.S. Central Command policy 
states that RFID tags must be attached to all unit and sustainment 
cargo transported to, within, and from U.S. Central Command's theater 
of operations. U.S. Central Command issued further guidance requiring 
RFID tags with intrusion-detection capabilities to be affixed to 
containers carrying unit equipment along the Pakistani ground routes. 
Some interrogators have been installed within Pakistan to obtain 
electronic information from RFID tags as privately contracted trucks 
transporting DOD cargo pass by. Officials told us that as a result of 
these policies and procedures, the use of RFID tags and DOD's 
visibility over cargo have increased significantly since early 
operations began in Iraq. However, we have found that DOD's visibility 
over surface movements of supplies and equipment into and around 
Afghanistan remains limited, as is discussed below. 

Several Challenges Hinder DOD's Ability to Distribute Supplies and 
Equipment to U.S. Forces in Afghanistan: 

Based on our preliminary observations, we note several challenges that 
hinder DOD's ability to distribute needed supplies and equipment to 
U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan. These challenges include: 

* difficulties with transporting cargo through neighboring countries 
and around Afghanistan; 

* limited airfield infrastructure within Afghanistan; 

* lack of full visibility over supply and equipment movements into and 
around Afghanistan; 

* limited storage capacity at logistics hubs in Afghanistan; 

* difficulties in synchronizing the arrival of units and equipment in 
Afghanistan; 

* lack of coordination, as well as competing logistics priorities, in 
a coalition environment; and: 

* uncertain requirements and low transportation priority for 
contractors. 

DOD has ongoing or planned efforts to help mitigate some of these 
challenges. In addition, DOD is working to address these challenges 
through planning conferences to synchronize the flow of forces into 
Afghanistan. While some of DOD's efforts will promptly improve its 
ability to efficiently distribute supplies and equipment to U.S. 
forces in Afghanistan, other efforts involve long-term plans that will 
not be completed in time to support the ongoing troop increase that is 
scheduled to occur by August 2010. 

Transporting Cargo through Neighboring Countries and within 
Afghanistan Poses Special Difficulties: 

The supply routes through Pakistan, along the Northern Distribution 
Network, and around Afghanistan each present unique difficulties in 
transporting supplies and equipment. DOD's ability to support both 
current operations and the ongoing troop increase in Afghanistan is 
challenged by restrictions on the number of trucks allowed to cross 
into Afghanistan daily. Because no U.S. military transportation units 
operate in Pakistan, DOD must rely solely on private contractors to 
transport supplies and equipment along ground routes through the 
country and to provide security of the cargo while in transit. 
Privately contracted trucks can transport cargo through Pakistan via 
two routes: the northern, which crosses into Afghanistan at the border 
town of Torkham, and the southern, which crosses at the border town of 
Chaman. While Pakistan does not limit the number of trucks that cross 
the border at Torkham, it does limit the number allowed to cross at 
Chaman to 100 total per day. U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and Surface 
Deployment and Distribution Command officials told us that they 
requested greater security at the Chaman border crossing after 
insurgent attacks occurred near the border crossing in 2009. In 
response, restrictions were placed on the number of trucks allowed to 
cross per day at Chaman, which include trucks transporting cargo in 
support of U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan. Officials added that 
there is often a backlog of trucks waiting to cross at the Chaman 
border because of the restrictions. As a result, these backlogged 
trucks may sometimes be unable to deliver their cargo and subsequently 
return to the port of Karachi to pick up additional supplies and 
equipment in a timely manner. The U.S. government is currently 
negotiating with the Pakistani government to increase the flow of 
trucks through the Chaman border crossing. 

The restrictions at the Chaman border crossing and the resulting 
impact on the number of available trucks in Pakistan help contribute 
to a regular backlog of cargo at the port of Karachi. According to 
Army Central Command, nearly half of the cargo waiting to be picked up 
at Karachi resides there for several weeks. Officials stated that unit 
equipment arriving at Karachi often receives the highest 
transportation priority. While unit equipment is essential for U.S. 
forces to conduct their mission, sustainment items are also necessary, 
as they enable forces to maintain and prolong their operations. If 
sustainment and other types of cargo become backlogged at Karachi, 
U.S. forces may not receive the supplies and equipment they need in a 
timely manner to complete or sustain their mission. According to U.S. 
Transportation Command, two methods for mitigating the effects of 
backlogs at the port of Karachi are prioritizing cargo flow and 
increasing the amount of supplies kept on hand in Afghanistan. 

Limitations on what items can be transported through Pakistan and the 
amount of damage sustained by cargo transiting through Pakistan also 
can delay the delivery of necessary supplies and equipment to U.S. 
forces in Afghanistan. Private trucking contractors do not transport 
sensitive equipment on the Pakistani ground routes. Instead, such 
equipment must be flown into Afghanistan and then be installed onto 
the vehicles in Regional Command-East. Additionally, according to Army 
Central Command, approximately 80 percent of cargo transiting through 
Pakistan arrives in Afghanistan with some level of damage, which, 
officials noted, can occur because of a number of factors, including 
poor roads, rough terrain, extreme weather, or insurgent and other 
individual attacks. For example, U.S. military vehicles may arrive 
with missing or damaged engines, slashed fuel lines and empty fuel 
tanks, broken mirrors or windows, and deflated tires, according to 
Army officials. The additional time needed to repair equipment 
arriving in Afghanistan further delays delivery to U.S. forces. 

A small percentage of cargo transported along the Pakistani ground 
routes is pilfered by insurgents and other individuals, but the exact 
amount of pilferage is difficult to determine because of limitations 
in the way it is reported.[Footnote 10]According to DOD officials, 
approximately 1 percent of cargo transported on the Pakistani ground 
routes is pilfered. While the percentage may be relatively small, 
officials stated that it represents a significant loss of money to DOD 
and a potential risk to the warfighter until replacements for the 
pilfered items can be requisitioned and delivered. Because of the lack 
of U.S. military transportation units operating in Pakistan, DOD 
cannot immediately address pilferage when and where it occurs in 
Pakistan. In cases where active RFID tags are damaged or removed when 
the cargo is pilfered, officials stated that DOD can attempt to 
determine the approximate area where the pilferage took place based on 
the last RFID tag signal obtained by an interrogator inside Pakistan. 
Additionally, some RFID tags have intrusion-detection capabilities 
that provide information on when and where the cargo has been broken 
into. With this information, DOD can negotiate with the private 
trucking contractors to avoid transporting cargo through locations 
inside Pakistan where equipment may be more susceptible to pilfering. 

The Northern Distribution Network is an important alternative to the 
surface routes through Pakistan, but several logistical and cargo 
clearance challenges exist that could limit the amount of cargo 
transported on its routes. For example, Northern Distribution Network 
route transit times, on average, exceed the Pakistani surface route 
transit times. Cargo transiting along the northern route takes 
approximately 86 days to travel from the source of supply in the 
United States or northern Europe to its destination in Afghanistan, 
and the southern route takes approximately 92 days. Comparatively, it 
takes only about 72 days to transport cargo along the Pakistani 
surface routes. Additionally, DOD and its contractors must request and 
obtain clearance before cargo can transit through Uzbekistan, a 
process that should take 20 days to complete. This has been shortened 
from 30 days to 20 days, and according to U.S. Transportation Command 
officials, they are working to make this delay shorter. Given the long 
lead times to deliver cargo and the 20-day notice needed to ship cargo 
through Uzbekistan, DOD must plan well in advance to ensure that the 
necessary supplies and equipment arrive in Afghanistan when they are 
needed to support the warfighter. Furthermore, there are restrictions 
on the types of cargo that can be transported through the countries 
along the Northern Distribution Network. Specifically, only nonlethal 
supplies and equipment can be shipped on the Northern Distribution 
Network, and DOD primarily transports nonlethal sustainment supplies 
on the route. These restrictions constrain DOD's ability to transport 
certain classes of supply or types of equipment on the Northern 
Distribution Network as an alternative to the more expensive airlift 
or the limited capacity of the Pakistani surface routes. 

Private trucking contractors operating under the Afghan Host Nation 
Trucking Contract carry the majority of U.S. supplies and equipment 
within Afghanistan, but officials told us that limitations on the 
available number of contractors and reliable trucks may impede DOD's 
ability to support the ongoing troop increase. Officials stated that 
approximately 90 percent of cargo is transported within Afghanistan by 
private contractors, and the remaining 10 percent by U.S. military 
trucks. In addition to affecting the time it takes to transport cargo 
to the warfighter, officials believe that limited contractor 
availability affects the quality of service. Contractors in 
Afghanistan may have little incentive to offer superior performance 
when they can expect to continue receiving contracts because of the 
high demand and limited supply of host nation trucking contractors. 
Additionally, officials told us that some privately contracted trucks 
may be unable to safely transport cargo because they are either in too 
poor a condition to operate or do not have the capability to transport 
the type or size of cargo. In cases where the contracted trucks are 
unable to provide adequate transportation, DOD must find an 
alternative method to deliver the cargo to its destination--for 
example, by using a different private contractor or by transporting 
the cargo on a U.S. military truck. Identifying an alternate mode of 
transportation could delay the delivery of needed supplies and 
equipment to U.S. forces. According to Army logistics officials in 
Afghanistan, DOD is in the process of increasing the number of 
contractors performing under the Afghan Host Nation Trucking Contract 
operating in southern and western Afghanistan. 

Attacks on cargo being transported through Pakistan and Afghanistan 
can also hinder DOD's ability to provide supplies and equipment to 
U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As noted above, DOD relies on private 
contractors to transport all cargo through Pakistan and most of the 
cargo transported through Afghanistan. There is no U.S. military- 
provided security for the transport of the cargo; shipping contractors 
provide their own security. Trucks moving along the ground routes 
through Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as those stopped at 
terminals and border crossings, can be targets for attack. For 
example, for 2 consecutive days in March 2009, militants attacked two 
truck terminals in Peshawar, Pakistan, damaging or destroying 31 
vehicles and trailers. Our previous work found that DOD reported that 
in June 2008 alone, 44 trucks and 220,000 gallons of fuel were lost 
because of attacks or other events.[Footnote 11] 

Limited Airfield Infrastructure within Afghanistan Constrains the 
Movement of Supplies and Equipment: 

Limited airfield infrastructure and capability within Afghanistan 
constitutes one of the most difficult challenges DOD faces as it 
deploys and sustains the increasing number of U.S. forces in the 
country, according to numerous DOD officials we interviewed. DOD 
airlifts into Afghanistan a significant amount of cargo, including 
high-priority items as well as sensitive equipment that cannot be 
transported through Pakistan or on the Northern Distribution Network. 
However, the small number of airfields in Afghanistan and the limited 
types of aircraft that can land at these airfields may constrain DOD's 
ability to deliver certain supplies and equipment within expected time 
frames. Bagram Airfield, Kandahar Airfield, and Bastion Airfield are 
the three primary airfield hubs in Afghanistan capable of handling 
large volumes of cargo and a variety of different types of aircraft. 
Bagram and Kandahar have the capability to land large C-5 and C-17 
aircraft as well as the smaller C-130 aircraft, while Bastion can land 
C-17s and C-130s. DOD often relies on large aircraft, such as the C-
17, to fly supplies and equipment directly from the United States, 
Kuwait, Qatar, and other major distribution points into Afghanistan, 
but it is limited to the small number of airfields where these 
aircraft can land. Instead of flying directly to a smaller airfield, a 
large aircraft must first land at an airfield hub, where its cargo is 
unloaded, reloaded onto a smaller aircraft, such as the C-130, and 
then flown to the smaller airfield. This process takes considerably 
more time than flying directly to the final destination and, as a 
result, may delay the delivery of supplies and equipment to the 
warfighter. Officials stated that the situation will likely grow more 
challenging as the demand for cargo increases along with the 
additional U.S. forces arriving in Afghanistan. According to U.S. 
Transportation Command, there are projects under way or that have been 
completed to expand airfield capacity in Afghanistan. For example, 
officials at Kandahar Airfield are planning to build ramp space that 
can park an additional two C-5 and eight C-130 aircraft. However, 
other planned or ongoing projects to expand airfield capacity will not 
be completed in time to support the ongoing troop increase, according 
to Air Force officials. 

Airfields also have only limited space available for aircraft to park 
after landing, and sometimes reach capacity. For example, Bagram has 
the capacity to park up to one C-5 equivalent and four C-17 
equivalents at the same time. Additionally, officials stated that the 
current number of aerial port workers and quantity of materiel-
handling equipment at the airfields in Afghanistan may be insufficient 
to keep pace with the increased amounts of cargo being flown into the 
country to support the ongoing troop increase. The number of aerial 
port workers and quantity of materiel-handling equipment at the 
airfield determine how quickly parked aircraft can be unloaded, have 
their cargo processed, and be serviced and refueled in order to depart 
the airfield and allow additional incoming aircraft to land. Ideally, 
airfields would have the capability to unload, process, and service 
and refuel all of the aircraft parked at the airfield at the same 
time, but this is not always the case. For example, Bagram has the 
capability to work on up to one C-5 equivalent and three C-17 
equivalents at a time, even though it has capacity to park one 
additional C-17. Consequently, aircraft that land and park at an 
airfield with limited aerial port worker and materiel-handling 
equipment availability may not have their cargo unloaded immediately 
upon arrival, resulting in delayed delivery of the airlifted supplies 
and equipment. Furthermore, aircraft waiting to be unloaded are unable 
to depart the airfield and pick up cargo elsewhere, thus potentially 
delaying the delivery of that cargo as well. According to DOD, it has 
sent additional aerial port workers and materiel-handling equipment to 
Bastion and Mazar-e-Sharif, and additional port workers have been 
requested for Bagram, Farah, Shindand, and Kabul. However, we have not 
been able to evaluate the impact on cargo processing and aircraft 
servicing times at these locations. 

Restrictions at airfields outside Afghanistan and competing demands 
for available landing times in Afghanistan may also affect the 
delivery of supplies and equipment to U.S. forces. Because of their 
limited capability to park and unload aircraft, airfields must closely 
manage the number of aircraft that land each day in order to avoid 
exceeding capacity on the ground, and aircraft bound for Afghanistan 
must ensure that they have available time and space to land at the 
airfield prior to departing from their originating locations. In some 
cases, aircraft may not be able to land in Afghanistan during an 
available time because they are restricted from departing their 
original locations. For example, officials stated that aircraft 
departing from Ramstein Air Base in Germany cannot fly during certain 
hours of the day because of host nation policy--even though, in order 
to arrive at Bagram during certain available landing-time windows, it 
would be necessary for aircraft to depart Ramstein during prohibited 
flying hours. As a result, aircraft must postpone their departure from 
Ramstein and coordinate another available landing time at Bagram that 
can be reached by departing Ramstein during normal flying hours. 
Consequently, delivery of an aircraft's cargo to the warfighter may be 
delayed, and the aircraft is not being fully utilized while it 
forfeits an available landing window and waits on the ground for a new 
departure time. An additional difficulty is the competition for 
available landing times in Afghanistan among U.S. and coalition 
airlift, passenger and cargo airlift, and inter-and intra-theater 
airlift. These numerous competing priorities cannot all be met 
simultaneously, which may result in delaying the delivery of U.S. or 
coalition cargo or personnel to Afghanistan. According to U.S. Central 
Command, to mitigate the effects of competing priorities, DOD is 
coordinating with coalition forces to establish a regional airspace 
control management organization that will manage landing slot times at 
airfields in Afghanistan. 

Limited Visibility over Surface Movements of Materiel May Hinder DOD's 
Ability to Efficiently Manage the Flow of Materiel: 

DOD's visibility over surface movements of supplies and equipment into 
and around Afghanistan is limited, and this limitation may hinder its 
ability to effectively manage the flow of supplies and equipment into 
the logistics hubs and forward operating bases. Although requirements 
are in place and methods are being used to maintain some visibility 
over the contractors and shipments while in transit, DOD lacks full 
visibility over surface movements of cargo because of a lack of timely 
and accurate information on the location and status of materiel and 
transportation assets in transit. According to DOD policies, 
components must ensure that all shipments moving to, from, or between 
overseas locations, which would include shipping transit points and 
theater, are tagged to provide global in-transit visibility. In-
transit visibility is provided using various methods, including active 
RFID tags attached to cargo containers or pallets, satellite tracking 
devices on trucks, and contractor reports. 

While visibility has been more consistently maintained on cargo 
transported via airlift, challenges remain with meeting requirements 
for visibility of surface-moved cargo. Because there are no U.S. 
military transportation units operating in the countries along the 
surface routes to Afghanistan, DOD must rely solely on in-transit 
visibility tools like RFID tags. However, these tools are not always 
effective in providing adequate visibility. For example, visibility 
over cargo being transported to Afghanistan along the Northern 
Distribution Network is limited because agreements with some 
countries, such as Russia and Uzbekistan, prevent the use of in-
transit visibility systems like RFID technology along the routes, 
according to officials. Therefore, DOD must rely on reports provided 
by the contracted carriers to track and obtain information about cargo 
location. According to Central Command Deployment and Distribution 
Operations Center officials, there are challenges with getting 
carriers to submit accurate shipment reports in a timely manner. If 
carriers do not submit their shipment data to DOD, or if there is a 
delay in report receipt, DOD's visibility of cargo as it moves along 
the Northern Distribution Network may be limited. 

With regard to cargo transported through Pakistan, visibility exists 
at the seaport of Karachi, where cargo is unloaded from ships and 
loaded onto contractors' trucks for surface movement through Pakistan 
and into Afghanistan. While satellite technology is used to track unit 
equipment, RFID technology is used to maintain visibility over both 
unit and sustainment cargo. However, visibility provided by RFID tags 
becomes more sporadic once cargo moves out of the port and along the 
ground routes. RFID interrogators throughout Pakistan can provide DOD 
with the cargo's RFID data and location if a truck passes within range 
of the interrogator. However, only a small number of these 
interrogators are along the ground routes between the port of Karachi 
and the borders with Afghanistan.[Footnote 12] Furthermore, since no 
requirements exist regarding the routes that drivers must take to the 
border crossings, a truck's route may not fall within range of an RFID 
interrogator until it arrives at one of the border crossings into 
Afghanistan. In addition, occasional errors in data downloaded onto 
the tags may cause erroneous information about the cargo to be 
reported to DOD. For example, data on a pallet's interim transit 
location may be incorrectly recorded as its final destination on the 
RFID tag. To mitigate these issues with electronic data tracking, DOD 
uses contract personnel to provide reports about shipments in transit 
through Pakistan. Contractors stationed at various points on the 
Pakistani routes provide real-time locality information on trucks 
transporting U.S. cargo that pass them. Officials reported that this 
has helped DOD collect more accurate information about asset locations 
and incidents along the routes. However, depending on the route taken, 
drivers may not always pass contractors' stations, and information 
about a truck and its cargo may not be available until the truck 
arrives at the Afghan border crossing. 

Visibility over shipments of supplies and equipment is also limited 
within Afghanistan. Although policies are in place to maintain 
visibility of materiel being transported, they have not been fully 
implemented. DOD's ability to track cargo locations using RFID 
technology is limited in Afghanistan because of a limited number of 
interrogators. Officials stated that to increase visibility over cargo 
transported within Afghanistan, all trucks that provide services under 
the Afghan Host Nation Trucking Contract are required to use satellite-
based, location-tracking technology to track their movements over 
ground routes. However, officials told us that most host nation truck 
drivers in Afghanistan are deterred from using the required tracking 
system by concerns that insurgents may be able to track their 
locations and target their trucks. As a result, they disable the 
technology while transporting cargo. Officials noted that the 
percentage of truck drivers who comply with the requirement to use the 
tracking technology has increased over time, and they expect it will 
continue to rise as the drivers become more educated about the 
contract requirement and the system's benefits. 

The lack of visibility over supplies and equipment transiting into and 
around Afghanistan causes inefficient management of the flow of 
incoming trucks to logistics hubs and forward operating bases. This 
may result in backlogs of trucks trying to access the bases and delays 
in customer receipt of cargo. Without adequate visibility, the arrival 
of trucks delivering cargo to bases cannot be effectively metered by 
DOD or contractors, resulting in long wait times at base entry control 
points. Because of space constraints, only a certain number of trucks 
can be allowed on a base at a time. If the available space is filled 
with incoming trucks, trucks awaiting entry onto the base must wait 
outside the base until space is available for them to enter. Officials 
stated that backlogs at Kandahar have resulted in drivers waiting up 
to 20 days to access the base. Even when a truck accesses the base, 
the lack of visibility over materiel being transported may continue to 
cause delays in the delivery of supplies and equipment. Because of 
minimal visibility over cargo location, customers awaiting delivery of 
a shipment may not be aware that their cargo has arrived at a base, 
which may cause delays in pickup of the cargo. At the logistics hub in 
Kandahar, if the customer is unable to retrieve the cargo in a timely 
manner--usually within hours--the driver must exit the base and repeat 
the entry process until there is room to unload cargo and the customer 
is available to receive it. 

Storage Capacity at Logistics Hubs in Afghanistan Is Limited and 
Sometimes Not Sufficient to Manage the Movement of Supplies and 
Equipment: 

Storage capacity at the primary logistics hubs is limited, and at 
times it is insufficient to manage the volume of inbound and outbound 
supplies and equipment moving into and around Afghanistan. While some 
mitigation plans are being implemented or are already in place to 
alleviate challenges with storage capacity and improve the flow of 
cargo, officials anticipate that there may be an ongoing lack of 
storage capacity as the number of troops deployed to Afghanistan and 
operations tempo continue to increase. For example, the confined 
operating space within the storage area at Bagram Airfield slows down 
the speed at which cargo can be processed. According to officials, 
outbound cargo storage yards at the base were temporarily shut down 
approximately 20 times for about 24 hours each time during periods of 
high operations tempo in the past year, because they could not receive 
outbound cargo until existing cargo was shipped out. Additionally, 
officials noted that cargo storage space at the Bagram logistics hub 
has decreased because of competing needs of expanding operations--for 
example, there is a need for more mail storage, and more airlift 
operations have required additional parking for aircraft. The limited 
storage space must further be shared among multiple coalition forces 
at some logistics hubs, creating competition for storage capacity and 
materiel-handling equipment. For example, at Kandahar, officials 
estimated that multiple coalition nations, such as the United States, 
Germany, and Great Britain, are sharing approximately 2 acres of 
storage space for cargo transitioning into and out of the base via 
air, causing some strain at times. Much of the unused surface area at 
Kandahar is uncleared terrain, making it unfeasible for storing cargo. 
Additionally, officials said that many units lack the appropriate 
materiel-handling equipment needed to move and store pallets and 
containers in and around the unfinished surfaces of Kandahar. These 
officials reported that as a result, they must share equipment, such 
as all-terrain forklifts, with other units and contractors, thereby 
further diminishing timely materiel-handling capability. Consequently, 
the limited availability of storage space, infrastructure, and 
materiel-handling equipment at the logistics hubs may hinder DOD's 
ability to manage the flow of supplies and equipment associated with 
the ongoing troop increase. 

DOD is developing plans to expand storage capacity at logistics hubs 
in order to better manage the flow of incoming supplies and equipment 
and to efficiently distribute cargo to support the warfighter. 
However, these plans will not be completed in time to support the 
ongoing troop increase because of the logistical challenges of base 
expansion. Officials told us that there are many time-consuming steps 
in the expansion process: they must determine the owners of the land 
around the base, acquire the neighboring real estate, clear away mines 
in the surrounding areas, and obtain the supplies needed to complete 
the expansion. While DOD has begun to implement plans to mitigate 
challenges, officials stated that there are no "perfect solutions" to 
recurrent storage problems at the supply hubs. They anticipate that 
storage issues will continue, and significant improvement may not be 
realized as troops continue to deploy to Afghanistan and military 
operations continue to expand. For example, at Bagram, aerial port 
personnel have built structures that enable them to double-stack 
pallets of incoming cargo, and they have stored their flatbed trucks 
on the flight line in order to make more room for storing supplies and 
equipment in the cargo receiving and shipping yards. However, 
officials told us that storage capacity for both inbound and outbound 
cargo in Bagram's storage yards remains limited. At Kandahar, 
officials said there are plans to establish a logistics base adjacent 
to the main base. In the first phase of the base's two-phase 
development, U.S. forces will use interim storage yards for incoming 
cargo containers and vehicles, and a transshipment yard for U.S. cargo 
flowing through Kandahar on its way to another forward operating base. 
At the transshipment yard, truck drivers will unload cargo so it can 
be readied for movement to its final destination, thus eliminating the 
in-gating and customer pickup process at Kandahar, which can take many 
days. According to officials, phase one of the logistics base 
development is scheduled to be operational in April 2010, and the 
construction of the entire forward operating base is scheduled for 
completion in summer 2010. Officials stated that this expansion will 
help alleviate storage issues at Kandahar, allowing the United States 
to better prioritize cargo shipments and improve DOD's ability to 
quickly issue supplies and equipment to the warfighter. These 
officials noted, however, that the logistics base will not yet be 
fully operational during the height of the troop increase. 

DOD Has Experienced Difficulties in Synchronizing the Arrival of Units 
and Equipment in Afghanistan: 

DOD experienced difficulties in synchronizing the arrival of units and 
their equipment in Afghanistan during the previous troop increase in 
2009, and the synchronization of units and equipment will likely 
continue to be a challenge during the ongoing troop increase. Units 
arriving in Afghanistan typically receive the equipment they need to 
perform their mission from three primary sources: unit-owned 
equipment, such as individual weaponry that is either brought with 
them or shipped separately from their home stations; theater-provided 
equipment, such as retrograde equipment from Iraq; and new production 
equipment, such as the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain 
Vehicle. DOD's complex task is to synchronize the arrival of units 
with the availability of their equipment, regardless of the source, to 
enable them to perform their mission as quickly as possible. However, 
according to Joint Sustainment Command-Afghanistan, the 2009 troop 
increase resulted in significant backlogs of equipment transported on 
the Pakistani surface routes and by airlift, leaving some units in 
southern Afghanistan waiting for as long as several months to receive 
the theater-provided equipment necessary to conduct their mission. As 
of December 2009, no unit deployed to southern Afghanistan during the 
troop increase in the spring and summer of 2009 had yet received all 
of the theater-provided equipment it was suppose to be issued. 
Additionally, officials stated that DOD underestimated the amount of 
time required to install vehicles with sensitive items and ensure that 
they received necessary maintenance prior to their being delivered to 
the warfighter. As a result, some U.S. forces arrived at their forward 
operating base or combat outpost without the vehicles necessary to 
perform their mission. 

Given the numerous challenges we have identified in delivering 
supplies and equipment to U.S. forces in Afghanistan, we believe that 
DOD will likely face the same difficulties in synchronizing the 
arrival of units and equipment during the ongoing troop increase. For 
example, one unit deployed in Afghanistan reported in a January 2010 
readiness report that it did not receive all of its equipment from its 
home station and had to perform an upcoming mission despite not having 
all military equipment available. Another reported that it lacked 
mission-essential equipment, such as bomb-disabling robots that were 
vital to protect soldiers from improvised explosive devices they 
encountered while conducting their mission. Another unit reported that 
it had arrived in theater in December 2009 and was still awaiting 
provision of theater-provided equipment as of January 2010. While DOD 
has taken steps to improve the synchronization of units and their 
equipment during the ongoing troop increase, at the time of our 
review, these steps were just being implemented and we were therefore 
unable to evaluate their effectiveness. 

Lack of Coordination and Competing Logistics Priorities in a Coalition 
Environment May Delay the Delivery of Supplies and Equipment to U.S. 
Forces in Afghanistan: 

At bases throughout Afghanistan, a lack of centralized coordination 
coupled with different and competing demands and priorities between 
U.S. and coalition forces may delay the delivery of supplies and 
equipment to U.S. forces. Additionally, limited processing and cargo- 
receiving capabilities may delay the delivery of supplies and 
equipment to U.S. forces. As aircraft carrying supplies and equipment 
land at coalition airfields, or host nation trucks arrive at entry 
control points with shipments for multiple coalition forces, logistics 
personnel at those locations have a limited ability to manage and 
prioritize the flow of all troops' cargo. Specifically, officials at 
Kandahar told us that they had waited for days to receive shipments of 
priority materiel that were waiting outside the base to be processed 
for entry onto the base, along with other coalition forces' cargo, 
because the coalition commander of Kandahar would not allow the U.S. 
forces' cargo to be prioritized to enter first at the control point. 
However, the officials noted that the planned construction of a U.S. 
logistics base adjacent to the existing coalition-run base will 
improve DOD's ability to manage and prioritize the flow of supplies 
and equipment and store cargo at Kandahar. 

In addition, coalition forces compete for limited amounts of materiel- 
handing equipment and storage facilities. Officials stated that when 
materiel-handling equipment, such as forklifts, is unavailable or 
unserviceable, coalition forces have to share what limited equipment 
is available to conduct supply operations. Because units sometimes 
have to wait to use the available materiel-handling equipment, supply 
delivery to U.S. troops may be delayed. Officials did note that 
efforts to share space have improved over the past year, indicating 
that coalition forces are better coordinating their operations to 
fulfill the mission in Afghanistan. However, there is the potential 
for a future increase in the number of coalition forces in 
Afghanistan, which could exacerbate the challenges we have identified. 

Uncertain Requirements and Low Transportation Priority for Contractors 
Create Additional Challenges: 

DOD's reliance on contractors to support its operations in Afghanistan 
creates additional challenges with regard to the distribution of 
supplies and equipment, as well as movement of contractor personnel. 
Contractors have become an indispensable part of the force, performing 
a variety of functions in Afghanistan, such as communication services, 
provision of interpreters who accompany military patrols, base 
operations support (e.g., food and housing), weapons systems 
maintenance, and intelligence analysis. DOD estimated that about 
104,000 contractor personnel were supporting operations in Afghanistan 
as of September 2009. Further, DOD anticipates that this number will 
grow as it increases troop presence in Afghanistan. As we have 
previously reported, troop increases typically include increases in 
contractor personnel to provide support.[Footnote 13] 

These contractors in Afghanistan rely on the same distribution routes 
and methods as do the military forces to deliver the supplies and 
equipment they need to perform their mission and sustain their 
operations. However, DOD's ability to manage the flow of materiel for 
contractors and military personnel into logistics hubs and forward 
operating bases, and balance the use of limited transportation assets 
and storage capacity between contractors and military personnel, may 
be hampered by its lack of good information on the number of current 
contractors and lack of good planning for the coming increase in both 
contractors and their requirements. These requirements include 
contractor access to materiel-handling equipment and storage space for 
the supplies and equipment contractors need to perform their mission 
as well as for life support, such as housing and food. Since 2003, we 
have reported that DOD lacked reliable data on the number of 
contractor personnel providing services in environments such as 
Afghanistan, and our work has found that DOD's current system for 
collecting data on contractor personnel in Afghanistan does not 
provide accurate data.[Footnote 14] Further, during our December 2009 
trip to Afghanistan, we found that there was only limited planning 
being done with regard to contracts or contractors. Specifically, we 
found that with the exception of planning for the increased use of the 
Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan had not 
begun to consider the full range of contractor services that might be 
needed to support the planned increase of U.S. forces.[Footnote 15] 
More importantly, the command appeared to be unaware of its 
responsibility to determine contracted support requirements or develop 
the contract management and support plans required by guidance. 
[Footnote 16] However, we did find some planning being done by U.S. 
military officials at Regional Command-East. According to planners 
from Regional Command-East, the command had identified the types of 
units that were deploying to its operational area in Afghanistan and 
was coordinating with similar units already in Afghanistan to 
determine what types of contract support the units relied on. 
Nonetheless, without a complete picture of the number of contractors 
in Afghanistan and their materiel requirements, DOD may not be in a 
position to effectively manage the flow of military and contractor 
cargo to ensure that all materiel is delivered to the right locations 
at the right time to enable both military units and contractors to 
perform their missions. 

Another challenge with regard to contractors is the timely movement of 
their people and supplies around Afghanistan. When traveling around 
Afghanistan, contractor personnel and their equipment are given a low 
priority for air transportation as compared with military personnel 
and materiel, and that prioritization can affect the contractors' 
ability to perform their contracts. Contractor personnel have 
difficulty obtaining military airlift within Afghanistan, and they 
spend lengthy amounts of time in passenger terminals hoping to catch 
the first available flight. For example, according to contractor 
personnel we spoke with, they fly military airlift at the lowest 
priority for seats on flights. A letter from a military commander is 
needed in order to fly with a higher priority--and obtaining one takes 
considerable time and effort. According to these contractor personnel, 
the time they spend waiting in passenger terminals can cost the U.S. 
government both in money paid and lost productivity. Officials from 
several contractors told us that they factor additional personnel into 
their workforce structures because of the difficulties in getting 
people to and from their work sites. The difficulty in moving 
contractor personnel and equipment may be compounded when the troop 
increase begins. While some efforts are under way to improve key 
infrastructure, such as passenger terminals, it may still take time to 
complete these projects. Currently, the passenger terminals in key 
airlift hubs such as Kandahar and Bagram are very small, and 
passengers may experience long wait times between their arrival in the 
terminal and boarding their flights. Without a rapid expansion of 
these facilities, it is likely that this overcrowding will be 
compounded by the troop increase. During our visit we spoke with 
multiple people, including military and contractor personnel, who had 
waited anywhere from a few days to a week to board a flight. 

DOD Planning Efforts Include Consideration of These Distribution 
Challenges: 

In addition to the efforts described above to mitigate each of the 
challenges we have identified, DOD is also working to address them 
through planning conferences intended to synchronize the flow of 
forces into Afghanistan. For example, in December 2009 and January 
2010, U.S. Central Command sponsored two conferences to (1) identify 
units and equipment available to deploy in support of the troop 
increase; (2) address ways in which distribution challenges could be 
overcome in order to deploy the troops and their required supplies and 
equipment by August 31, 2010; and (3) plan for the simultaneous 
drawdown of forces and equipment from Iraq. Officials from key 
organizations across DOD, including U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. 
Forces-Afghanistan, U.S. Forces-Iraq, and Army Central Command, 
attended both conferences. Throughout both conferences, DOD officials 
stressed the need to balance and closely coordinate multiple 
requirements in order to sustain current operations in Afghanistan and 
Iraq, draw down forces and equipment from Iraq, and increase forces 
and equipment in Afghanistan. 

Despite the challenges we have identified in this testimony, DOD has 
plans in place to deliver the troops, supplies, and equipment to 
Afghanistan when required. However, at the January 2010 planning 
conference, DOD officials acknowledged that there is a high level of 
risk involved in executing the plans for supporting the ongoing troop 
increase, but they assume that improvements to the distribution 
process will be made that address the challenges we have identified. 
DOD's transportation feasibility analysis indicated that it will be 
possible to execute both the ongoing troop increase in Afghanistan and 
the drawdown from Iraq within the planned time frames, but this 
analysis assumes that several distribution efficiencies will be 
achieved. 

Concluding Observations: 

Because of the unique challenges of Afghanistan, the movement of 
supplies and equipment in support of operations there is likely to be 
one of the most complex logistics operations the U.S. military has 
undergone in recent history. The challenges are daunting, and the 
transportation system is heavily strained in maintaining current 
operations. Now, with the addition of 30,000 more U.S. troops on the 
horizon, coupled with an increase in contractors and a potential 
increase in coalition forces, these challenges will only be magnified, 
and a system that is struggling to keep pace with current operations 
could be further strained. It will, therefore, be critical for DOD to 
develop adequate contingency plans to mitigate the effects of these 
and other unforeseen challenges, and to react quickly to overcome 
significant problems as they occur. Failure to effectively manage the 
flow of materiel could delay combat units' receipt of the critical 
items they need to perform their mission, and costly backlogs of cargo 
could accumulate throughout the supply system, risking loss of 
accountability and control over billions of dollars in assets. We 
expect to report more fully on these and other issues at a later date. 

Contacts and Acknowledgments: 

For further information about this statement, please contact William 
M. Solis at (202) 512-8365 or solisw@gao.gov. Contact points for our 
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on 
the last page of this statement. Individuals making key contributions 
to this statement include Cary Russell, Assistant Director; Vincent 
Balloon; John Bumgarner; Carole Coffey; Melissa Hermes; Lisa McMillen; 
Geoffrey Peck; Bethann Ritter; Michael Shaughnessy; Sarah Simon; 
Angela Watson; Cheryl Weissman; Stephen Woods; and Delia Zee. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] GAO, Iraq and Afghanistan: Availability of Forces, Equipment, and 
Infrastructure Should Be Considered in Developing U.S. Strategy and 
Plans, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-380T] 
(Washington, D.C.: Feb. 12, 2009). 

[2] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 4-0, Joint Logistics 
(July 18, 2008). 

[3] Twenty-foot-equivalent units are a standard unit of measurement 
for cargo capacity. One 20-foot--equivalent unit equals a standard 
container measuring approximately 20 feet long and 8 feet wide. 

[4] A short ton is equivalent to 2,000 pounds. 

[5] GAO, Defense Logistics: DOD Has Begun to Improve Supply 
Distribution Operations, but Further Actions Are Needed to Sustain 
These Efforts, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-775] 
(Washington, D.C.: Aug. 11, 2005). 

[6] For additional information on the joint deployment distribution 
operations centers within other geographic combatant commands, see 
GAO, Defense Logistics: Efforts to Improve Distribution and Supply 
Support for Joint Military Operations Could Benefit from a Coordinated 
Management Approach, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-07-807] (Washington, D.C.: June 29, 
2007). 

[7] GAO, Defense Logistics: Actions Needed to Improve the Availability 
of Critical Items during Current and Future Operations, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-05-275] (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 8, 
2005). 

[8] RFID technology is used on containers and major pieces of 
equipment for tracking shipments and their contents while they are in 
transit over long distances. Active RFID tags have transmitters that 
transmit information through radio signals that are read 
electronically. In addition, the tags hold relatively large amounts of 
data, so they are capable of storing detailed manifest and 
transportation data. 

[9] GAO, Defense Logistics: Preliminary Observations on the 
Effectiveness of Logistics Activities during Operation Iraqi Freedom, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-04-305R] (Washington, 
D.C.: Dec. 18, 2003). 

[10] There is a process whereby units can report pilfered cargo using 
a form; however, officials told us that units do not always file a 
formal report because of the level of effort involved. Sometimes units 
will informally report pilferage to Surface Deployment and 
Distribution Command by phone or e-mail, and sometimes pilferage may 
go unreported. As a result, officials told us that they calculate the 
percentage of cargo pilfered using both formal and informal reports, 
which may not account for all pilferage because not all incidents are 
reported. 

[11] GAO, Defense Management: DOD Needs to Increase Attention on Fuel 
Demand Management at Forward-Deployed Locations, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-09-300] (Washington, D.C.: Feb.20, 
2009). 

[12] Most interrogators in Pakistan are located either at the port of 
Karachi or along the border with Afghanistan. 

[13] GAO, Defense Management: DOD Needs to Reexamine Its Extensive 
Reliance on Contractors and Continue to Improve Management and 
Oversight, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-08-572T] 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 11, 2008). 

[14] GAO, Military Operations: Contractors Provide Vital Services to 
Deployed Forces but Are Not Adequately Addressed in DOD Plans, 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-03-695] (Washington, D.C.: 
June 24, 2003) and Defense Acquisitions: Further Actions Needed to 
Address Weaknesses in DOD's Management of Professional and Management 
Support Contracts, [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-39] 
(Washington, D.C.: Nov. 20, 2009). 

[15] The Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, commonly referred to as 
LOGCAP, provides worldwide logistics and base and life support 
services in contingency environments such as Afghanistan. 

[16] Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 4-10, Operational 
Contract Support (Oct. 17, 2008). 

[End of section] 

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