US Army Struggles With War-Zone Inventory
WASHINGTON — As the Defense Department retrogrades mountains of equipment from Afghanistan, the US Army has failed to effectively report $419.5 million worth of equipment that may have gone missing, according to a recent DoD Inspector General’s (DODIG’s) audit.
Some 15,600 pieces of equipment lost from the Bagram and Kandahar property redistribution yards were not reported in a timely manner by the unit responsible for tracking it, the 401st Army Field Support Brigade, according to the Oct. 30 audit.
Once the inspectors made their initial report, the units involved took immediate corrective actions which have since been “inculcated [and] applied in Army-wide actions,” said Michael Cervone, chief of the supply directorate in the Army’s Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics.
While it is unlikely the equipment is all truly missing — most is likely in US hands somewhere in Afghanistan — the report highlights the Pentagon’s decades-long problem managing inventory, said William Greenwalt, a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
“Doing what Wal-Mart and UPS can do, obviously the Army hasn’t gotten that far,” Greenwalt said. “They should have world-class inventory tracking and management, even in the war zone, with scanners, with commercial technology. You scratch your head and ask, ‘Why hasn’t the US military adopted these long-standing practices you see at every retailer in America?’ ”
Officials with the 401st did not document the property as lost because they believed it would be found as forward operating bases closed for the drawdown of forces, the audit says. However, since 2010, 309 forward operating bases have closed and only 23 percent of the equipment has been recovered.
“Once the equipment was identified as lost, the 401st AFSB did not always correctly calculate and report the total loss to the US government,” an audit summary states.
Army policy recommends property losses be investigated within 75 days, but the 10 probes DODIG reviewed averaged 318 days. The brigade’s commander, Col. Matthew Ferguson, said investigators searching for missing items tended to delay investigations. The unit has since created a group of five lieutenant colonels trained to conduct investigations within the 30-day standard.
In a response to the audit, Ferguson attributed some of the problems to inadequate staffing and training, and said property accountability suffered as combat intensified.
“In order to re-establish property accountability, 401st AFSB had to go back to the basic concepts of property accountability,” Ferguson said. “The Property Accountable Processes and property management structure were revamped to improve property accountability. Unfortunately, the results of these changes would not be able to be realized until the 2013-2014 time frame.”
This is not the first time the DODIG has rapped the Army over lost gear. The Army lost $586.8 million in equipment over 12 months ending in May 2013, which spurred the Army to form a task force to account for its equipment as it leaves Afghanistan.
Nor is this the first time a watchdog agency has faulted DoD’s handling of equipment in the war zone. In 2013, DoD supply chain management made the Government Accountability Office’s “high risk list” for highlighting programs most vulnerable to fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement.
In the past year, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that while the Combined Security Transition Command purchased about $370 million in spare parts for the Afghan Army’s vehicles between 2004 and 2013, the command “could not account for about $230 million worth of spare parts and had ordered $138 million of additional parts without sufficient accountability.”
The US and Afghan governments have bungled record-keeping for more than 747,000 AK-47 rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers and other weapons for Afghan forces since 2004, worth about $626 million. There is “real potential for these weapons to fall into the hands of insurgents,” says a SIGAR report published in July.
The US was flooding Afghanistan with small arms, some 112,000 more than Afghan forces needed, said the report. Record-keeping suffered from incompatible databases, missing serial numbers and poor inventory processes. The Government Accountability Office also found that the Army and Marine Corps may have wasted more than $100 million in one year by returning vehicles from Afghanistan they didn’t need.
The question is whether fiscal hawks in the new Congress will track the issue. Greenwalt said lawmakers should focus on whether the problems are systemic and whether DoD has a plan to fix them.
“This is another one of these gotcha reports, and we know this is a problem,” he said, “but how do you solve it? So Congress will be asking, ‘What is the solution?’ ” ■
By Joe Gould
Article tiré de DefenseNews.com
Article relayé par A.L.