Operation Desert Storm:

Army's Use of Water Purification Equipment

NSIAD-91-325: Published: Sep 26, 1991. Publicly Released: Oct 28, 1991.

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Henry L. Hinton, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Army's use of Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU) equipment during Operation Desert Storm, focusing on the: (1) production capability and performance of the equipment deployed to Operation Desert Storm; (2) Army's projections of ROWPU production capability during the operation; and (3) status of the Army's program to buy 3,000-gallon-per-hour (gph) ROWPU equipment.

GAO found that: (1) by mid-January 1991, the Army had deployed and set up sufficient ROWPU equipment to supply most of its water needs in Operation Desert Storm; (2) although the Army has a material conditions status reporting system available for reporting such data, it did not monitor the actual water production output of ROWPU equipment or collect and analyze data on the ROWPU equipment's performance during Operation Desert Storm; (3) without ROWPU performance data, the Army lacked important information it could have used to quickly detect and resolve any potential problems with ROWPU performance, production or parts availability; (4) the Army's projection of the ROWPU equipment's capability to produce water was based on assumptions that some ROWPU equipment would be operated at levels higher than the rated capacity of the unit, operational readiness would be maintained at a level unsupported by experience with the equipment, all required spare parts would be readily available, and trained and qualified Army personnel would be available to operate the equipment; (5) because the Army believed it had solved the technical problems with 3,000-gph ROWPU, it expedited production even though required testing was not completed; and (6) the Army is considering waiving the requirement that 3,000-gph ROWPU be capable of undergoing nuclear, biological, chemical decontamination because the system will not likely meet this requirement.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) stated that the Army Field Manual 10-52-1 outlines the requirement for monitoring the water purification data and production rates, and that the Army continues to emphasize the need for accurate data collection in training programs and with field commanders.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct the Army to use the material condition status reporting system in Army Regulation 700-138 during future deployments of ROWPU equipment to collect and analyze actual production and performance data. Such a system should facilitate the rapid identification and resolution of potential performance, production, or spare parts availability problems relative to this critical soldier support equipment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A waiver was requested and granted. The project manager for Petroleum and Water Logistics prepared and submitted a management plan to satisfy nuclear, biological, and/or chemical decontamination requirements for the 3,000 gallon unit and all other water related equipment.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should, if a waiver of the ROWPU nuclear, biological, chemical decontamination requirement is granted, develop a plan of action that compensates for the equipment's inability to satisfy that requirement.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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