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Defense Logistics: Efforts to Improve Distribution and Supply Support for Joint Military Operations Could Benefit from a Coordinated Management Approach

GAO-07-807 Published: Jun 29, 2007. Publicly Released: Jul 10, 2007.
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During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Army and the Marine Corps experienced problems with the delivery of supplies to the warfighter. Such problems highlight long-standing weaknesses in the Department of Defense's (DOD) supply chain management. DOD has identified joint theater logistics as a key effort aimed at improving distribution and supply support. GAO was asked to examine DOD's efforts to develop and implement joint theater logistics. GAO assessed (1) the extent to which DOD's approach to managing joint theater logistics departmentwide encompasses sound management principles and (2) the progress DOD has made in implementing joint theater logistics initiatives. GAO reviewed DOD documents and interviewed officials from the Joint Staff, services, agencies, and geographic combatant commands.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To improve logistics and supply chain operations, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics), in his capacity as the Defense Logistics Executive, to develop and implement a coordinated and comprehensive management approach to guide and oversee efforts across the department to improve distribution and supply support for U.S. forces in a joint theater. This approach should encompass sound management principles, including developing specific strategies and goals, assigning accountability for achieving results, and using outcome-oriented performance measures, and should be aligned with the results of the ongoing joint capabilities portfolio management test, the proposed realignment of focused logistics capabilities, and the development of a "to be" roadmap. In considering options for implementing this recommendation, the Under Secretary should determine whether any changes should be made to DOD's organizational structure and control of resources for joint logistics support and identify the steps needed to make these changes, including changes to existing laws, such as Title 10.
Closed – Implemented
DOD concurred with our recommendation and in response, issued Joint Publication 4-09 "Distribution Operations" in February 2010. The department consolidated several other publications that addressed different distribution issues into a single source for joint doctrine. "Distribution Operations" serves several functions and addresses some of the challenges we identified. For example, it provides a doctrinal framework for planning, execution, and assessment of joint distribution operations during joint military operations. The publication sets forth doctrine governing joint activities to facilitate unity of effort during joint distribution operations, and describes authorities and responsibilities for those operations.
Department of Defense To make more economical and efficient use of shipping and storage facilities, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Director, Defense Logistics Agency, to evaluate existing storage and shipping arrangements within the geographic combatant commands and identify opportunities for consolidation.
Closed – Implemented
In December 2007, a DLA study team completed an assessment of opportunities to optimize theater distribution in U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. European Command, and briefed the Distribution Transformation Task Force on its recommendations. For example, in Pacific Command, the DLA study team recommended establishing a Theater Consolidation and Shipping point at the defense distribution depot, Camp Carroll, Korea; consolidating redundant inventories held by different organization at Camp Carroll; and implementing the Joint Regional Inventory Material Management strategy on Guam. In Europe, the study team recommended streamlining the distribution network to support the Army's plans for restructuring in Germany, the draw down of troops and equipment from Central Command, and the logistics requirements of the emerging U.S. African Command; reducing intermediate levels of theater held inventory; and altering the distribution funding and billing constructs used by DOD components and joint commands that frustrate initiatives to optimize the supply chain.

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