The General Services Administration (GSA) is doing something right, earning praise for its innovative efforts in supporting 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (1MEF) during Iraqi operations, and using France in the process.
Normally, 1MEF works with GSAs San Diego office to get discounted prices on commercial goods, typically by buying off of a pre-qualified/pre-negotiated "GSA Schedule" contracts. Before departing for the Gulf, the Marines made arrangements to place orders directly from overseas through the GSA Advantage web site. GSA staff also offered to take supply lists (items with brief descriptions) received as email and deal with filling out the web site forms. This was needed because web connections from Iraq are sometimes erratic, but email usually gets through..
Once the Invasion of Iraq commenced, GSA staff ended up handing all procurement, from sorting through vendors to filling out purchasing and shipping orders. The arrangement worked well enough that, from date of order to delivery, was often four to five days. Ordered items were frequently moved through discounted commercial air transport such as FedEx via France and Bahrain into Kuwait. France did not try to bar these supply flights, but probably didn't know what was going on, either. The GSA East Coast vendors and warehouses were often used, instead of those on the west coast, to cut shipping time. With military logistics into the Gulf jammed up with shipments of munitions and large equipment, the makeshift system worked well enough for 1MEF to continue to use it throughout its 2003 deployment.
Items ordered through this route included everything from building materials to toilet paper. For example, more than 70,000 pounds of zip ties were shipped to use as flex cuffs to restrain prisoners. Canned air to clean dust out of electronics and weapons was a popular item, but 24 cans of Silly String stood out. The foamy material was sprayed around unexploded ordnance to check for trip wires. -- Doug Mohney