Iraqi Defense Ministry woefully unprepared

Tuesday, November 23, 2010; A17

After the United States has doled out about $24 billion during almost eight years of recruiting, training and mentoring, and furnishing weapons and equipment, "the Iraq Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, and the army and police units they support do not have a supply system capable of maintaining operational readiness of the Iraq Security Forces."

That's one finding of a Defense Department inspector general's report released last week that assessed U.S. efforts to develop the logistical sustainment capability of the Iraq Security Forces.

The details are depressing. The report says the Defense Ministry is "generally dysfunctional" when it comes to "planning, programming, budgeting and execution processes."

Although the Interior Ministry has "matured" in its budgeting processes, it "could not effectively plan and contract to procure repair parts to support the Iraqi police vehicle fleet." For example, when the Interior Ministry requested the purchase of a $200 million helicopter fleet, it did not provide for spare parts, maintenance support or required infrastructure facilities.

With about $10 billion in military equipment on hand by end of 2011, Iraq would need about $600 million annually to maintain it, according to the defense IG. In 2010, however, the Iraq Defense Ministry allocated only $40 million for maintenance. Its processes for "identifying requirements, budgeting and executing contracting were broken," the report concluded.

Take the Iraqi army's system for allocating fuel to its commands.

The division commanders do not send their broken vehicles for repair, nor do they report those that are destroyed, because fuel is supplied based on the quantity and types of vehicles on their books. A local commander told the IG investigators that "it was more advantageous to keep unserviceable vehicles in order to continue receiving full fuel allocations and have enough fuel to operate the rest of his fleet."

American mentors are trying to get the Defense Ministry to change the fuel allotment policy so that it's based on operational needs rather than equipment.

The Iraqi army headquarters also provides an equal level of logistics support to all Iraqi divisions no matter what their operational needs. Thus, the 7th Division in Anbar province with an operational area of 160,000 square kilometers receives the same allocation of fuel and other logistics as the division stationed in Baghdad, which has an area of 100 square kilometers. As result, the 7th Division "could not carry out its mission to secure al-Anbar province because the fuel allocation was insufficient to operate division vehicles for the whole month," according to the IG report. The 7th Division commander requested a 200 percent increase in his fuel allocation, but there was no response from Baghdad while the DOD team was there.

In another issue, defense investigators found that Iraqi army commanders are also reluctant to send vehicles, such as armored personnel carriers, to repair facilities for fear that they won't be returned for a year or more, and then that they may not be working or may be stripped of parts.

Spare parts are also problematic. The Iraqi army's Joint Repair Parts Command stocked about 19,000 line items of which 3,000 were considered critical. However, all 3,000 were at zero balance when the DOD's IG team reviewed the command in March, though at the time, it had more than 11,000 requests for these items. The requests went unfilled.

"The end result was that 75 to 80 percent of the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] vehicle and weapons inventory was not adequately supported for repair parts through a functional requirements-driven process," the report said. It also noted that Baghdad had given no logistics support over the past five years to the Iraqi navy, which had to buy low-quality spare parts on the local market.

Locally, army maintenance managers didn't like to "expose what stock they had on hand to others outside their unit." In addition, "up to 80 percent of the stock did not service any type of equipment that they have on-hand."

The Joint Base Workshop at Taji National Depot overhauls armored personnel carriers and five-ton vehicles. Its depot that handles Soviet-era personnel carriers and T-72 Soviet-era tanks has 12 overhaul facilities. Salaries at these facilities totaled more than $1 million a month, but production of repaired or refurbished tanks was zero. The staff was not adequately trained on available equipment, the report said.

Officials at the Taji facility also can't decide where to locate maintenance for the U.S. Abrams tanks that have been introduced in Iraq. When two test stands for the Abrams were set up in one workshop, electrical power was not connected because no Iraqi army personnel had been trained to run it.

Some logistics problems have been overlooked. For example, the Interior Ministry's prized Federal Police Sustainment Brigade is supposed to conduct anti-insurgent and anti-terrorist operations. The ministry has provided only 25 percent of the logistics personnel the brigade is supposed to have. As a result, only one of its four divisions has a logistics group. Beyond that, the United States arranged for all trainers and mentors assigned to the brigade to leave last June, because it is a brigade and not a larger unit.

The DOD's IG recommended that the decision be reassessed.

The overall number of U.S. and coalition military trainers for the Interior Ministry's Iraqi police has begun to drop - from 643 last February to a planned 350, when the State Department takes over the job next June. Of those, the number specializing in logistics for the police has already been cut, from 43 to 10. When the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad takes over that training, it plans to increase that to 29 people.

There also will be an effort to introduce logistics training at the newly established Iraqi International Academy.

The U.S. military has plans to use the remaining time in Iraq to assist the Iraqi army in building "an enduring logistical sustainment capability," according to the report. About $3 billion is included in the fiscal 2010 supplemental and the fiscal 2011 budget to finance the effort.

"Not accomplishing the mission could have significant consequences with respect to ISF ability to provide for Iraq's internal and external defense," the report concludes.

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