Iraq Drawdown: Opportunities Exist to Improve Equipment Visibility, Contractor Demobilization, and Clarity of Post-2011 DOD Role
The drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and the transition from a U.S. military to a civilian-led presence after December 2011 continue amid an uncertain security and political environment. This report is one in a series of reviews regarding the planning and execution of the drawdown. Specifically, this report assesses the extent to which DOD has planned for, begun to execute, and mitigated risk associated with (1) transferring and removing personnel and equipment from remaining bases in Iraq; (2) curtailing unneeded contract services, transitioning expiring contracts, and providing adequate contract oversight; and (3) facilitating and supporting the transition to a civilian-led presence in Iraq. GAO examined relevant DOD planning documents, attended drawdown-related conferences, interviewed State officials and DOD officials throughout the chain of command in the United States, Kuwait, and Iraq, and visited several locations in Kuwait and Iraq to observe drawdown operations.
DOD has robust plans and processes for determining the sequence of actions and associated resources necessary to achieve the drawdown from Iraq, which is well underway with a significant amount of equipment removed from Iraq and bases transitioned, among other things. However, several factors contribute to making this phase more challenging than the previous drawdown phase. First, DOD will have less operational flexibility in this phase of the drawdown, yet will need to move a greater amount of equipment than in prior drawdown phases. Second, DOD is closing the largest bases with fewer available resources left on site, which creates a set of challenges and risks greater than what DOD faced during the prior drawdown phase. Although DOD's plans and processes create flexibility and mitigate risk, it has limited visibility over some equipment remaining in Iraq and does not track equipment found on transitioning bases that is not listed on any property accountability record. Without addressing these issues, DOD may miss opportunities to make the drawdown more efficient. DOD has taken action to improve its management of contracts in Iraq, such as enhancing contract oversight and assigning Contracting Officer's Representative responsibilities as a primary duty, although concerns, such as lack of experience among contract oversight personnel, remain. As the drawdown progresses, DOD may face further challenges in ensuring that major contracts transition without gaps in key services. To ensure the continuity of key services while continuing to reduce these services, some units are exploring the option of using local contractors to provide certain services since local contractors do not require extensive support, such as housing, and will not have to be repatriated to their country of origin at the end of the contract, although GAO has previously reported on challenges associated with hiring such firms resulting in the need for greater oversight. Some units also intend to replace contractor personnel with servicemembers to ensure continuity of certain services, such as guard security and generator maintenance. Despite various steps to ease contractor demobilization, DOD faces challenges in demobilizing its contractors, including operational security-driven limits on exchanging information such as base closure dates and ensuring accurate contractor planning. Without taking additional steps to address these challenges, DOD may be unable to effectively implement its demobilization guidance and ensure the effective reduction of contract services to appropriate levels and ultimate demobilization of all its contractors. As the U.S. presence in Iraq transitions to a civilian-led presence, although DOD and State interagency coordination for the transition began late, both agencies have now coordinated extensively and begun to execute the transfer or loan to State of a wide range of DOD equipment, while DOD has taken steps to minimize any impact on unit readiness of such transfers. DOD also has agreed to potentially provide State with extensive contracted services, including base and life support, food and fuel, and maintenance, but State may not have the capacity to fund and oversee these services. GAO recommends that DOD take further action to (1) acquire and maintain real-time visibility over contractor-managed government- owned equipment; (2) collect data on unaccounted-for equipment found during base transitions; (3) work with contractors to gather and distribute information needed to demobilize their workforces; and (4) officially clarify the scope of DOD's role in post-2011 Iraq, to include the privileges and immunities to be afforded all DOD government personnel. DOD concurred with all of GAO's recommendations.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||To help ensure that DOD will be able to complete the orderly and efficient retrograde and transfer of its equipment and transition of its bases in Iraq by minimizing unanticipated requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, in conjunction with the Secretary of the Army and the Commander, U.S. Central Command, to approve and implement, as appropriate, a process, to include associated policy and training, for acquiring and maintaining real-time visibility of CMGO equipment before it is delivered to the U.S. government that meets the needs of operational forces while retaining oversight features inherent to DOD's current accountability processes.||
DOD concurred with the recommendation and stated in its formal response in the report that U.S. Forces Iraq developed the Base Transition Smart Book that defines CMGO procedures and provides a series of templates, instructions, and operating procedures that cover the entire base transition process. DOD officials stated in June 2017 that these actions satisfy the intent of the recommendation. We concur with this assessment, and are closing the recommendation as implemented.
|Department of Defense||To help ensure that DOD will be able to complete the orderly and efficient retrograde and transfer of its equipment and transition of its bases in Iraq by minimizing unanticipated requirements, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Forces-Iraq to take steps to collect accurate data on equipment that is found during the large base closure process but not recorded in any property book, and, as appropriate, refine the projection for equipment needing to be retrograded and transferred based on these data.||
DOD concurred with the recommendation and stated in its formal response in the report that the Base Transition Smart Book provides guidance on how to manage found equipment and update projections for closure. DOD officials stated in June 2017 that these actions satisfy the intent of the recommendation. We agree with this assessment, and are closing the recommendation as implemented.
|Department of Defense||To maximize its ability to achieve an orderly and efficient drawdown of contracted services in Iraq, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Forces-Iraq, to (1) assess the risk of providing all contractors, including their subcontractors, with the information--such as base transition dates--required to descope services and demobilize their workforces, against the risk of contractors' inability to meet milestones without it and take the appropriate actions based on this assessment; (2) take appropriate measures, such as enforcement of guidance laid out in the template to be developed by the office of the Senior Contracting Official-Iraq, to ensure robust contractor planning associated with demobilization; and (3) engage contractors to ensure that total personnel headcounts accurately reflect all personnel, including those working under subcontracts.||
This recommendation has been overcome by events as it pertains to the drawdown of contracted services in Iraq. However, DOD officials stated in June 2017 that the department will continue to minimize risk by conducting vigorous vetting and security background checks; and continue to conduct the periodic contractor census and use SPOT as a tool in the management of contractors. We have determined that these actions satisfy the intent of the recommendation and are closing the recommendation as implemented.
|Department of Defense||To ensure that the U.S. government activities in Iraq after December 2011 reflect the appropriate unity of effort and focus DOD and State's efforts on implementing a coordinated approach to defining and implementing the activities to be undertaken by the Office of Security Cooperation - Iraq, the Secretary of Defense should issue a memorandum clarifying the command structure of any DOD elements remaining in Iraq post-2011 and the scope of DOD activities authorized in post-2011 Iraq in accordance with an approved engagement model, including guidance regarding actions or decisions that will be taken in the event adequate privileges, exemptions, and immunities are not obtained for such DOD elements.||
DOD issued a classified memorandum in July 2012 to address this recommendation. DOD officials stated in June 2017 that these actions satisfy the recommendation. We agree with this assessment, and are closing the recommendation as implemented.