Logistics: Robbing Korea to Pay Iraq


October 7, 2005: The U.S. Army is under extreme stress, with over 250,000 personnel deployed in 120 countries around the world. The deployments represent a quarter of the Army's approximately one million people (including National Guard and Reserves). Since 1989, the army has had 43 major deployments, including ongoing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Kosovo, and Bosnia.

The Army has assumed it would have troops out of Iraq at least twice, the first time after the end of major combat operations and the second point would have had U.S. forces out of Iraq by the end of 2005. Currently, the Army has 17 combat brigades in Iraq and may put more troops into the country for the run up to elections. The stress has been constant for the last three years.

Equipment stocks have also taken a beating. All the services, but most especially the Army, have depleted their stocks of heavy weapons, Humvees, spare parts, and ammunition stored around the globe, in order to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The biggest problems have been found in South Korea, with anywhere from half to 80 percent of M1A1 tanks, howitzers, and Bradley Fighting vehicles being described as not "fully mission capable" because of the diversion of resources to Iraq.

Until 2003, the Army had at least four brigade sets of tanks, armored vehicles, and other gear designed to support 3,000-5,000 soldiers stored around the globe. By last year, the Army was down to one set and is currently at two sets. The Army plans to increase that to six sets by 2007. The Marine Corps has used the majority of equipment from five of 16 pre-positioned ships overseas and the Air Force has used 43 percent of its base sets needed to setup airbases in remote locations. It will take between $4 to $5 billion to replenish Army and Marine Corps stockpiles.

The Pentagon is taking aggressive steps to improve the situation in South Korea, but many pieces of gear have been stripped off of equipment for Iraqi use. For example, at least fifty .50 caliber machine guns have been removed from Korean-based tanks and sent to Iraq. Humvees have been taken out of stocks and shipped to Iraq to replace losses. The Army has spent $34 million over the past six to seven months and assigned 90 mechanics, 60 inspectors, and 20 quality control personnel to bring the South Korean equipment back up to standards by the end of September 2005.

Commanders are worried that if hostilities broke out in Korea, it would require a surge of maintenance workers to repair and fix all the gear, delaying the use of it for days. Army Materials Command blames some of the problem on an undersized and less-costly South Korean work force to manage the upkeep of the gear, but the GAO says there's a problem with a dysfunction system for managing the global stockpiles.


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