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entitled 'Defense Logistics: Preliminary Observations on the 
Effectiveness of Logistics Activities During Operation Iraqi Freedom' 
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Report to the United States General Accounting Office:


Defense Logistics:


United States General Accounting Office:

Washington, DC 20548:

December 18, 2003:

The Honorable Jerry Lewis: 
Subcommittee on Defense: 
Committee on Appropriations: 
House of Representatives:

Subject: Defense Logistics: Preliminary Observations on the 
Effectiveness of Logistics Activities during Operation Iraqi Freedom:

Dear Mr. Chairman:

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.

You 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.

At the outset of this assignment, we agreed to keep you periodically 
informed of the status of our work. On November 6, 2003, we provided 
your office with a briefing on our preliminary observations of the 
effectiveness of logistics activities during OIF. As we emphasized at 
the briefing, these observations are based on the limited work we have 
done to date. As requested, we are transmitting the briefing (enc. I) 
in this report. In conducting our preliminary work, we relied on data 
gathered through our visits and interviews with military logistics 
personnel deployed to the theater of operations. We visited logistics 
support activities in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, but we did not visit 
activities in Iraq. We also met with senior officials at DOD and 
military service headquarters and logistics support activities in the 
United States and Europe. We also reviewed the military services' and 
DOD's "after-action" reports, "lessons learned" studies, and other 
similar documents. The scope of our work included all types of supplies 
and equipment used during OIF, including such items as repair parts, 
food, clothing, and construction material.

Although we have done some limited analysis, we have not verified all 
of the data and plan to more fully address the issues identified in 
this briefing in subsequent work. We expect to complete our work and 
issue a report, including recommendations for executive action, during 
2004. In addition, we are planning to provide DOD with a short letter 
of inquiry concerning a serious condition we came across relating to 
the return of materiel from units in the theater, which we believe 
warrants DOD's immediate attention. A copy of the draft letter will be 
provided to you, and the response from DOD will also be provided.


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:

* a backlog of hundreds of pallets and containers of materiel at 
various distribution points due to transportation constraints and 
inadequate asset visibility;

* 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;

* 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;

* 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 

* the duplication of many requisitions and circumvention of the supply 
system as a result of inadequate asset visibility; and:

* 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. Such factors include the following:

* Poor asset visibility. DOD did not have adequate visibility over all 
equipment and supplies transported to, within, and from the theater of 
operations in support of OIF. For example, although the U.S. Central 
Command issued a policy requiring, whenever feasible, the use of radio 
frequency identification tags to track assets shipped to and within the 
theater, these tags were not used in a uniform and consistent 
manner.[Footnote 1] In addition, units operating in the theater did not 
have adequate access to, or could not fully use, DOD's logistics and 
asset visibility systems in order to track equipment and supplies 
because these systems were not fully interoperable and capable of 
exchanging information or transmitting data over required distances. 
Furthermore, DOD and military service personnel lacked training on the 
use of radio frequency identification tags and other tracking tools, 
which also adversely affected asset visibility.

* Insufficient and ineffective theater distribution capability. DOD did 
not have a sufficient distribution capability in the theater to 
effectively manage and transport the large amount of supplies and 
equipment deployed during OIF. For example, the distribution of 
supplies to forward units was delayed because adequate transportation 
assets, such as cargo trucks and materiel handling equipment, were not 
available within the theater of operations. The distribution of 
supplies was also delayed because cargo arriving in shipping containers 
and pallets had to be separated and repackaged several times for 
delivery to multiple units in different locations. In addition, DOD's 
lack of an effective process for prioritizing cargo for delivery 
precluded the effective use of scarce theater transportation assets. 
Finally, one of the major causes of distribution problems during OIF 
was that most Army and Marine Corps logistics personnel and equipment 
did not deploy to the theater until after combat troops arrived, and, 
in fact, most Army personnel did not arrive until after major combat 
operations were underway. In addition, logistics personnel were not 
adequately trained in various logistics functions, such as operating 
material handling equipment and managing theater distribution centers.

* Failure to apply "lessons learned" from prior operations. The failure 
to effectively apply lessons learned from Operations Desert Shield and 
Desert Storm and other military operations may have contributed to the 
logistics support problems encountered during OIF. Our prior reports, 
as well as DOD and military service after-action reports and other 
studies of prior military operations, have documented some of the same 
problems that appear to be occurring in OIF. For example, our September 
1992 report concluded that accountability and asset visibility were 
lost during Operation Desert Storm due to the lack of container 
documentation and an inadequate transportation system to distribute 
these supplies.[Footnote 2] DOD's April 1992 report to Congress on the 
conduct of the Persian Gulf War reported that, in addition to a lack of 
asset visibility and poor materiel distribution, the logistics effort 
was weakened by the long processing time for supply requisitions, which 
resulted in the loss of confidence and discipline in the supply system, 
the abuse of the priority designation process, and the submission of 
multiple requisitions.[Footnote 3] In addition, DOD's after-action 
report from the more recent operation in Kosovo concluded that military 
leaders had limited visibility over supplies because the communications 
support needed to fuse data from multiple collection points was 
inadequate.[Footnote 4] Based on the preliminary observations from our 
current work, it appears that the same or similar problems continue to 
exist in OIF.

* Other Logistics Issues. DOD and military service officials raised a 
number of other logistics-related issues with us during our review. 
Although these issues need to be explored further, they are included in 
this report because they may have contributed to the recent logistics 
problems. There were indications of the following:

* At times there were shortages of some spares or repair parts needed 
by deployed forces. Military personnel we spoke with noted shortages of 
items such as tires, tank track, helicopter spare parts, and radio 
batteries. As a result, units resorted to cannibalizing vehicles or 
circumventing normal supply channels to keep equipment in ready 

* Army prepositioned equipment used for OIF was not adequately 
configured to match unit needs. For example, parts inventories 
contained in the prepositioned stocks were not sufficient to meet the 
needs of the units that relied on them.

* DOD contractors used for logistics support during OIF were not always 
effective. For example, we were told that some commercial shippers were 
unable to provide "door-to-door" delivery of supplies to units in the 
theater, as was required by their contracts.

* Physical security at ports and other distribution points in the 
theater was not always adequate to protect assets from being lost or 
taken by unauthorized personnel. For example, Army officials noted 
cases where vehicles and expensive communications and computer 
equipment had been lost from various distribution points in Kuwait.

Scope and Methodology:

In developing these issues for this briefing, we held discussions with 
officials from key DOD and military service organizations responsible 
for logistics support and materiel management policies and procedures 
in the United States, Europe, and the OIF theater of operations in the 
Middle East. Our audit work primarily focused on Army and Marine Corps 
operations. In the theater of operations, we visited logistics support 
activities in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar, but we did not visit 
activities in Iraq. We also reviewed policies, procedures, and 
processes in place to maintain accountability and control over materiel 
as it moved to, within, and from the theater of operations. In 
addition, we reviewed lessons learned reports and other assessments of 
logistics support for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and 
other military operations, including OIF. We performed our review from 
April 2003 through December 2003 in accordance with generally accepted 
government auditing standards.

Agency Comments:

In providing oral comments on the briefing slides, DOD representatives 
from the Office of the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense 
(Supply Chain Integration) and other military logistics officials 
stated that they generally concurred with the observations we 
presented. They pointed out that the problems we identified were ones 
that they were also familiar with and noted that DOD was already taking 
a number of actions that address some of them. For example, they stated 
that the Secretary of Defense has designated the Under Secretary of 
Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics) as the Defense 
Logistics Executive with the authority to address all logistics and 
supply chain issues. In addition, the Secretary of Defense designated 
the U.S. Transportation Command as a single distribution process owner 
to address problems with the distribution process that hampered DOD's 
ability to optimally support deployed forces. Finally, the DOD 
representatives noted that, in October 2003, DOD issued a policy 
directing the use of radio frequency identification technology as a 
standard business process across the department to address visibility 

We are sending copies of this report to the Chairmen and Ranking 
Minority Members of other Senate and House committees and subcommittees 
that have jurisdiction and oversight responsibilities for DOD. We are 
also sending copies to the Secretary of Defense and the Director, 
Office of Management and Budget. Copies will also be available at no 
charge on our Web site at

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-8365 or e-mail me at Key 
contributors to this report were Kenneth Knouse, Cary Russell, Gerald 
Winterlin, Jason Venner, Kenneth Daniell, Tinh Nguyen, and Nancy Benco.

Sincerely yours,

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

Signed by William M. Solis: 


[End of section]

Enclosure I:

[See PDF for images]

[End of section]



[1] Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are used to track 
shipping containers and pallets and their contents while in transit. 
These tags identify what items are in a container or pallet and 
continuously transmit that information through radio signals, which can 
be read electronically using hand-held scanners or fixed interrogators 
placed at various points along supply routes.

[2] U.S. General Accounting Office, Operation Desert Storm: Lack of 
Accountability Over Materiel During Redeployment, GAO/NSIAD-92-258 
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 23, 1992).

[3] Department of Defense, Conduct of the Persian Gulf War: Final 
Report to the Congress (Washington, D.C.: April 1992).

[4] Department of Defense, Kosovo/Operation Allied Force After-Action 
Report: Report to the Congress (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 31, 2000).