The Defense Department's military depots may not be able to repair future weapons systems because of poor strategic planning, a failure to hire new depot workers and delays in upgrading facilities and equipment, according to a recent General Accounting Office report. "Investments in facilities, equipment and human capital have not been sufficient in recent years to ensure the long-term viability of the services' depots. DoD's downsizing of its depot infrastructure and workforce since the end of the Cold War was done without sound strategic planning," said the report, "Defense Logistics: Actions Needed to Overcome Capability Gaps in the Public Depot System" (GAO- 02-105). The Defense Department spends about $15 billion a year to employ more than 60,000 workers at 19 Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps depots, which are in-house repair and overhaul centers for the military's warfighting equipment. Since 1987, the number of depots has been cut by half and all the military services have turned to private sector contractors to perform overhaul and repair work. GAO warned that the government's downsizing and poor management of depots may leave the Pentagon ill-prepared to handle a national emergency or new weapon systems that will need repairs over the next decade. "If the existing policy is not clarified and [if] current practices continue, the military depots will not have the equipment, facilities and trained personnel to work on and provide related logistics support on many of the weapon systems and related equipment that will be used by the military in the next five to 15 years," the report said. GAO recommended several steps Defense should take to address the problem, including better defining what future work will be done by military depots and the private sector, and developing short- and long-term strategies to make sure needed capabilities, personnel and equipment are in place. The Defense Department largely concurred with GAO's recommendations and, in several areas, said it will refine depot policy and develop strategic plans.
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