Defense Dept. begins new effort to better track military supplies.

Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Position:UP FRONT - Department of Defense's logistics

The Defense Department expects to unveil this month its latest plan to improve the management and distribution of combat supplies, repair parts and materials that make up the Pentagon's $162 billion logistics chain.


The plan seeks to fix what congressional critics deem wasteful inefficiencies in the way supplies are managed and to improve the timeliness of deliveries to troops in the field.

Since the beginning of the war in Iraq, the Defense Department has made "noticeable progress" in managing its enormous supply chain, Sen. George V. Voinovich, R-Ohio, told defense officials at a hearing of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

But the improvements achieved so far are not enough, Voinovich said. The Defense Department's "supply chain management" has been on the Government Accountability Office's list of high-risk programs since 1990, he noted. The Pentagon "wastes 5 percent of its budget--more than 20 billion dollars a year at current budget levels--on redundant and outdated business practices," Voinovich said. "Based on my experience as a former mayor and governor, I believe it's more like 10 percent rather than 5 percent."

In December 2006, the Defense Department asked the GAO to remove supply management from its "high risk" list on the basis that the Pentagon had improved its logistics operations, but GAO declined.

Pentagon officials frequently stress the complexity of military logistics. For the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the job of moving troops and equipment can be daunting, even by Pentagon standards.

For the first five months of this year, the Defense Department arranged transportation for 80,000 troops and 280,000 tons of materials. On an average day, it processes 6,000 requisitions from deployed Army and Marine Corps forces, said Jack Bell, deputy undersecretary of defense for logistics and materiel readiness. At the hearing, Bell noted that these requisitions typically take 16 days to fulfill--compared to 24 days two years ago. "Where possible, key commodities and components are now stocked forward and delivered as soon as they're made available," Bell said.

The next phase in the Defense Department's efforts to bring more efficiency into logistics operations is the introduction of new technologies that can help track inventories and make more economical use of transportation assets.

In charge of executing the plan is the U.S. Transportation Command. "Our goal is to publish the...

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