Pentagon faulted for shortage of critical war supplies

By George Cahlink

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:

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.