Defense Logistics:

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

GAO-04-305R: Published: Dec 18, 2003. Publicly Released: Dec 18, 2003.

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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. Congress 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.

Although major combat operations during the initial phases of OIF were successful, our preliminary work indicated that there were substantial logistics support problems in the OIF theater, as evidenced by (1) a backlog of hundreds of pallets and containers of materiel at various distribution points due to transportation constraints and inadequate asset visibility; (2) 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; (3) 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; (4) 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; (5) the duplication of many requisitions and circumvention of the supply system as a result of inadequate asset visibility; and (6) 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 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.

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