Defense Logistics:

Actions Needed to Improve the Availability of Critical Items during Current and Future Operations

GAO-05-275: Published: Apr 8, 2005. Publicly Released: Apr 8, 2005.

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GAO has identified spare parts supply as a long-standing Department of Defense (DOD) management problem. In December 2003, GAO reported on problems with Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) logistics support including shortages of spare parts and supplies in Iraq. This report expands on that effort by assessing (1) what supply shortages were experienced by U.S. forces in Iraq between October 2002 and September 2004 and what impact the shortages had on their operations, (2) what primary deficiencies in the supply system contributed to any identified supply shortages, and (3) what actions DOD has taken to improve the timely availability of supplies for current and future operations. To address these objectives, GAO judgmentally selected nine items based on lessons learned and after-action reports that represented possible shortages with operational impacts.

U.S. troops experienced shortages of seven of the nine items GAO reviewed. According to the 2004 National Military Strategy, U.S. forces expect to have sufficient quantities of the right items at the right time. However, demand for the seven items exceeded availability sometime between October 2002 and September 2004. The documented impact of these shortages varied between combat units. For example, while units in the 3rd Infantry Division reported that tire shortages reduced their operational capability, forcing them to abandon equipment, the 4th Infantry Division reported no similar effect. GAO identified five systemic deficiencies that contributed to shortages of the reviewed items, including inaccurate Army war reserve spare parts requirements and ineffective distribution. Annual updates of Army war reserve parts requirements have not been conducted since 1999. As a result, the war reserves did not contain enough track shoes, batteries, and tires to support U.S. forces during initial operations. Effective distribution relies on a seamless process to promptly move supplies from the United States to a customer. GAO found that conflicting doctrinal responsibilities for distribution management, improperly packed shipments, insufficient transportation personnel and equipment, and inadequate information systems prevented the timely availability of four of the items. While U.S. troops developed short-term solutions to manage item shortages during OIF, DOD and the services have begun to undertake systemic, long-term changes to fix some supply problems identified. While GAO did not evaluate their potential for success, the majority of the changes are focused on distribution, and not on the full gamut of systemic deficiencies GAO identified.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: To improve visibility over the adequacy of the Army's war reserves, Congress may wish to consider requiring the Secretary of Defense to provide it information that discloses the risks associated with not fully funding the Army war reserve. This report should include not just the level of funding for the war reserve, which is currently reported, but timely and accurate information on the sufficiency of the war reserve inventory and its impact on the Army's ability to conduct operations.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress did not require and the Army did not provide Congress with information on the risks of not fully funding its war reserves.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of DOD's supply system in supporting deployed forces for contingencies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to improve the accuracy of Army war reserve requirements and transparency about their adequacy by (1) updating the war reserve models with OIF consumption data that validate the type and number of items needed; (2) modeling war reserve requirements at least annually to update the war reserve estimates based on changing operational and equipment requirements; and (3) disclosing to Congress the impact on military operations of its risk management decision about the percentage of war reserves being funded. The department should also specify when these actions will be completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army took actions to improve the timeliness of its war reserve modeling. First, the Army changed its requirement modeling to coincide with the development of annual funding plans. Second, the Army improved the timeliness of its Army War Reserve Automated Process system from a biennial to an annual process to keep pace with the dynamic military operational guidance.

    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of DOD's supply system in supporting deployed forces for contingencies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to improve the accuracy of its wartime supply requirements forecasting process by developing models that can compute operational supply requirements for deploying units more promptly as part of prewar planning and providing item managers with operational information in a timely manner so they can adjust modeled wartime requirements as necessary. The department should also specify when these actions will be completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of the Army updated its war reserve models using Operation Iraqi Freedom consumption data validated by Tank and Automotive Command, Communications and Electronics Command, and other commands. Annual conferences have been scheduled to update war reserve requirements.

    Recommendation: To improve the effectiveness of DOD's supply system in supporting deployed forces for contingencies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army to reduce the time delay in granting increased obligation authority to the Army Materiel Command and its subordinate commands to support their forecasted wartime requirements by establishing an expeditious supply requirements validation process that provides accurate information to support timely and sufficient funding. The department should also specify when these actions will be completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Army has not taken and recorded action to improve operational supply requirements so that item managers can adjust their supply requirements models.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to improve the accuracy of the Marine Corps' wartime supply requirements forecasting process by completing the reconciliation of the Marine Corps' forecasted requirements with actual OIF consumption data to validate the number as well as types of items needed and making necessary adjustments to their requirements. The department should also specify when these actions will be completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marine Corps improved its war reserve forecasting process by making actual wartime usage, instead of peacetime averages or estimates, the basis of war reserve planning.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army and Director of the Defense Logistics Agency to minimize future acquisition delays by assessing the industrial-base capacity to meet updated forecasted demands for critical items within the time frames required by operational plans as well as specify when this assessment will be completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army issued a new regulation requiring a number of measures aimed at supporting war reserve and replenishment objectives and the Army's Critical List. The regulation also requires program managers to assess the industrial base's ability to support life cycle requirements, develop industrial preparedness planning lists for those items that need monitoring or action to ensure sufficient capacity, and perform surge planning to enable acceleration of program production and maintenance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Army and Director of the Defense Logistics Agency to provide visibility to Congress and other decision makers about how the department plans to acquire critical items to meet demands that emerge during contingencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army conducted a review of critical items and reported it in their Industrial Base: Capabilities Study and in their Annual Industrial Capabilities Report to Congress.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should revise current joint logistics doctrine to clearly state, consistent with policy, who has responsibility and authority for synchronizing the distribution of supplies from the U.S. to deployed units during operations. The department should also specify when these actions will be completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has taken a number of actions to clarify responsibilities for distribution within a theater of operations. Foremost among these has been DOD's efforts to formalize the role of U.S. Transportation Command as the department's Distribution Process Owner.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should develop and exercise, through a mix of computer simulations and field training, deployable supply receiving and distribution capabilities including trained personnel and related equipment for implementing improved supply management practices, such as radio frequency identification tags that provide in-transit visibility of supplies, to ensure they are sufficient and capable of meeting the requirements in operational plans. The department should also specify when these actions will be completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: TRANSCOM developed a plan and provided a schedule of exercises and training to improve supply receiving and distribution capabilities to support supply management practices in support of OIF.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should establish common supply information systems that ensure the DOD and the services can requisition supplies promptly and match incoming supplies with unit requisitions to facilitate expeditious and accurate distribution. The department should also specify when these actions will be completed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD established the Joint Deployment and Distribution Operations Center (JDDOC). It is a joint capability-based organization designed to satisfy the requirement to integrate strategic and theater force deployment execution and distribution operations within each geographic combatant commanders's operational theater. The JDDOCs goals are to improve end-to-end distribution and to facilitate the combatant commanders' ability to identify, monitor, and manage shipments at any point in the global distribution system. A JDDOC has now been created by the DPO in every geographic combatant command. This effort should improve DOD's visibility of supply distribution; however, it does not address the issue of incompatability of service requisition systems.

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