Operation Desert Shield:

Problems in Deploying by Rail Need Attention

NSIAD-93-30: Published: Nov 13, 1992. Publicly Released: Nov 25, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated: (1) the effectiveness of rail operations at selected Army mobilization stations that deployed major combat units during Operation Desert Shield; and (2) whether the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Army had corrected previously identified problems concerning the availability of commercial rail cars and supply of rail-loading materials at mobilization stations.

GAO found that: (1) the Army transported unit equipment at six mobilization stations to ports as scheduled during Operation Desert Shield; (2) deteriorated rail facilities at some mobilization stations constrained outloading operations; (3) the Forces Command (FORSCOM) initiated a rail rehabilitation program in fiscal year 1986, but changed its guidance concerning repairs and redirected program funds to other projects; (4) DOD and the Army have not corrected many deployment problems previously identified; (5) the Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) has not accurately determined the number or types of commercial flatcars available to support deployment; and (6) FORSCOM has not determined the amounts of material and equipment needed for loading rail cars during deployment or taken sufficient action to distribute these items among mobilization stations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FORSCOM is now in the process of procuring flatcars that do not need these materials.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct FORSCOM to complete its reassessment of needs for rail-loading materials and equipment and distribute these items among mobilization stations as needed to meet requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Revisions to FORSCOM regulations are now under way since completion of revisions to MTMC inventory methodology during the third quarter of fiscal year 1993.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct the Forces Command to: (1) modify its regulations so that guidance on calculating the materials and equipment needed for loading rail cars during deployments accurately reflects the percentage of the flatcar fleet needing these materials; and (2) ensure that mobilization stations comply with regulations for determining the need for these materials and for stocking them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: MTMC completed revisions to its flat car assessment methodology during the third quarter of fiscal year 1993, and conducted the first triennial inventory shortly thereafter. The inventory was conducted as recommended by GAO and the results were forwarded to FORSCOM.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct MTMC to: (1) determine the percentage of the flatcar fleet needing special materials for securing vehicles during deployment as part of this command's periodic inventory of rail cars suitable for supporting deployment; and (2) provide this information to the Forces Command.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army directed FORSCOM to use multilevel flat cars for deployments and exercises, and this policy is now in effect.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct the Forces Command to require that mobilization stations: (1) develop plans for using multilevel flatcars for deployment; and (2) test these plans during exercises.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: MTMC completed inventory methodology revisions as recommended in the third quarter of fiscal year 1993, and performed a triennial inventory of militarily usable flat cars shortly thereafter.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct MTMC to periodically inventory the number and types of commercial flatcars available to support deployment. MTMC methodology for inventorying these cars should be revised to exclude those types of flatcars not readily suitable for deployment and to more accurately determine the size of the usable inventory.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army initiated a Transportation Engineering Agency review of rail outloading capacity at all major mobilization stations during 1992 and completed such a review at Fort Campbell in November 1992. Consequently, the Army initiated a $10-million project to directly access the main commercial rail line. This project is on hold pending funding availability.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should suspend the Fort Campbell project pending a review of the available alternatives for achieving the rail-loading capability needed by this installation. Special attention should be directed at resolving the interchange problem that currently restricts Fort Campbell's access to a main commercial rail line.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FORSCOM realigned responsibility for rail rehabilitation program execution to the Army Corps of Engineers.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should take actions to improve the rail rehabilitation program. Because of the serious program management issues identified, the Secretary should either: (1) direct Forces Command to improve its management of this program; or (2) consider designating another organization as its executive agent for managing Army rail rehabilitation projects. In particular, the program's direction, funding, cost-effectiveness, and general accountability need to be addressed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  8. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation no longer applies due to the Army's decision to purchase flatcars not needing blocking and bracing materials.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct the Forces Command to report the process for determining rail-loading equipment supply needs, their distribution, and practices regarding their storage as a material weakness in the Army's next assessment of internal controls, as required by the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

 

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