Military Prepositioning: Observations on Army and Marine Corps Programs During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Beyond: GAO-04-562T

Solis, William M.
March 2004
GAO Reports;3/24/2004, p1
Government Documents
The importance of prepositioned stocks was dramatically illustrated during OIF. While they faced some challenges, the Army and Marine Corps relied heavily on prepositioned combat equipment and supplies to decisively defeat the Iraqi military. The following summarizes our preliminary observations and issues to consider for the future. • Army and Marine Corps officials reported that prepositioned stocks were a key factor in the success of OIF. Prepositioned stocks provided a significant amount of the combat equipment used by the Army and the Marine Corps. For the most part, the prepositioned combat systems were in good condition and reportedly maintained high readiness rates throughout the war. However, the Army's prepositioning program had some less-than-modern equipment and had shortfalls, such as trucks, spare parts, and other items. Moreover, the warfighters did not always know what prepositioned sustainment stocks were available in theater, apparently worsening an already overwhelmed theater supply-anddistribution system. While these challenges were not insurmountable to the units, they did slow them down. Fortunately, the long time available to build up forces allowed U.S. forces to fill many of the shortages and adjust to unfamiliar equipment. • Much of the prepositioned equipment is still being used to support continuing operations in Iraq. It will be several years—depending on how long Iraqi Freedom operations continue—before these stocks will be available to return to prepositioning programs. And, even after these stocks become available, much of the equipment will likely require substantial maintenance, or it may be worn out beyond repair. The Army has estimated that it has an unfunded requirement of over $1 billion for reconstituting the prepositioned equipment used in OIF. However, since most prepositioned equipment is still in Southwest Asia and has not been turned back to the Army Materiel Command for reconstitution, most of the funding is not required at this time. When the prepositioned equipment is no longer needed in theater, decisions will have to be made about what equipment can be repaired by combat units, what equipment must go to depot, and what equipment must be replaced with existing or new equipment to enable the Army to reconstitute the prepositioned sets that were downloaded for OIF. In the interim, both the Army and Marines have kept some land- or sea-based prepositioned stocks in the Pacific to cover a possible contingency in that region. • The defense department faces many issues as it rebuilds its prepositioning program and makes plans for how such stocks fit into the future. In the near term, the Army and the Marine Corps must necessarily focus on supporting ongoing operations in OIF. And while it may be several years before most prepositioned assets are available to fully reconstitute the Army's programs, opportunities exist to address shortfalls and selectively modernize the remaining stocks. For the longer term, the department may need to rethink its prepositioning programs to ensure that they are in sync with overall transformation goals and the evolving military strategy. Some changes are already underway. For example, the Army and Marine Corps are pursuing sea-basing ideas—where prepositioning ships could serve as floating logistics bases. Importantly, DOD needs to consider affordability. The drawdown of Army forces made prepositioning a practical alternative in recent years because the service had ample equipment. However, as the services' equipment is transformed or recapitalized, it may not be practical to buy enough equipment for units to have one set at their home station and another set in prepositioning. Consideration of the cost of various options will be critical as the department evaluates alternatives for transforming its force structure to achieve future mission objectives. Congress will have a key role in reviewing the department's assessment of the cost-effectiveness of options to support DOD's overall mission, including mobility and force projection. Group-Afloat, Goose Creek, South Carolina; and Blount Island Command, Jacksonville, Florida. At these locations, we interviewed officials familiar with prepositioning issues during OIF as well as plans for the future. We reviewed and obtained relevant documentation and performed analyses of reconstitution and options for the future. We also reviewed after-action reports on OIF and Operation Desert Storm. We obtained service estimates for funding prepositioned stocks requirements, but we did not validate these estimates. In addition, we drew on the preliminary results of our ongoing reviews of OIF lessons learned and OIF reconstitution and on our recent reports on OIF supply and distribution issues, Stryker deployment, and Army spare parts shortages. We also relied on our 2001 report on Army war reserve spare parts shortages, 1998 report on prepositioning in the Army and the Air Force, and early 1990s reports on Operation Desert Storm. We performed our work in March 2004 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.


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