Pentagon faulted for shortage of critical war supplies

GAO says poor planning, lagging funding, ineffective distribution lead to delays.

GAO said the military services have taken several steps since the war began to improve supply chain operations. Auditors said a key step was assigning the U.S. Transportation Command to be the sole Defense agency responsible for supply chain management.

Poor planning, lagging funding and an ineffective distribution system have led to delays in getting supplies to troops in Iraq, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

The agency found the Defense Department spent more than $60 billion supplying troops with 2 million tons of equipment, spare parts and other items before, during and after major combat operations in Iraq from October 2002 to September 2004.

"Despite these expenditures, there have been widespread reports of serious shortages of critical items needed by U.S. troops," the report (GAO-05-275) stated.

Specifically, GAO cited shortages of batteries, tires, vehicle track shoes, body armor, meals ready to eat (MREs), Humvees with extra armor, and add-on armor kits for Humvees. Auditors found that those items were not available for five reasons that it called "systematic supply system deficiencies."

Those deficiencies were:

  • Inaccurate and inadequate funding of Army war reserve requirements. Auditors found that the Army has not fully funded its war reserve supplies for years, and even today, only about 24 percent of those reserves are funded.
  • Inaccurate supply forecasts. Army computer models used to forecast supply levels during peacetime did not have a mechanism for forecasting needs during a war. As a result, managers had to make manual forecasts that were often inaccurate due to unreliable data.
  • Insufficient and delayed funding. Officials at the Army Materiel Command often asked for more money to move more supplies to the theater, but the funding was delayed.
  • Acquisition delays. Some items were in short supply because vendors lacked key production materials or because long lead times were needed to produce them. For example, a lack of key materials was cited as the reason in delays in manufacturing body armor.
  • An ineffective distribution system. Auditors found improper packaging of air shipments, insufficient supply and transportation personnel, and poor tracking systems in Iraq.