Afghanistan Drawdown Preparations:

DOD Decision Makers Need Additional Analyses to Determine Costs and Benefits of Returning Excess Equipment

GAO-13-185R: Published: Dec 19, 2012. Publicly Released: Dec 19, 2012.

Multimedia:

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Cary B. Russell
(202) 512-5431
russellc@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

In summary,

  • The military services and DOD agencies have applied some, but not all, of the relevant lessons learned from the Iraq drawdown to their planning for equipment reductions in Afghanistan. For example, the drawdown from Iraq demonstrated the importance of early planning for equipment drawdown, and the military services have already issued guidance and orders outlining the processes and procedures for drawing down equipment in Afghanistan. However, not all relevant lessons learned from the Iraq drawdown have been applied in Afghanistan. For example, during the Iraq drawdown, the Army identified that contractor equipment must be inventoried and entered into an automated records accounting system, yet inventories in Afghanistan did not include this equipment. We note, however, that USFOR-A officials told us they are establishing a Contractor Drawdown cell that would improve visibility of contractor equipment in Afghanistan.
  • DOD has planned for the reduction of equipment from Afghanistan in that it has (a) established command structures and guidance; (b) made efforts to improve property accountability; and (c) established and expanded transportation options, but challenges still remain. Command structures and guidance, property accountability, and transportation options are three areas that we have previously identified as important for drawdown operations. Concerning command structures and guidance, CENTCOM has established USFOR-A as the supported command for retrograde operations, and USFOR-A has published a base closure and transfer guide that outlines processes for the handling of equipment during transition. Regarding planning for property accountability, in September 2011, USFOR-A directed an inventory of all the equipment in Afghanistan to identify items not previously accounted for in DOD's systems of record. However, as described in Objective 1, DOD officials acknowledge that they lack visibility over contractor equipment. In the area of transportation options, DOD has established and increased the potential capacity of transportation routes out of Afghanistan. However, some of the transportation options have limited operational capability for the return of equipment due to the region's complex geopolitical environment.
  • Consistent with DOD's supply chain materiel management policy, DOD has issued additional guidance requiring the services to analyze the costs and benefits of transferring or destroying equipment. However, there is no specific guidance requiring the military services to assess and document the costs and benefits associated with the return of equipment from Afghanistan, and they have not done so. Some services told us that they conduct informal cost-benefit analyses to support the return of major end items from Afghanistan. However, none of the services was able to provide us with documentation of these cost-benefit analyses. As a result, the extent to which these analyses are being performed is uncertain. Based on our analysis, this is particularly problematic when considering whether or not to return equipment that is excess to current requirements. When an excess item is returned without consideration of the costs and benefits, there is increased risk of unnecessary expenditures on transportation and storage of unneeded items.

In conclusion, the military services can return major end items without documentation of cost and benefit considerations or analyses used in the decision-making process. Because the services have not consistently performed and documented analyses to support decision making concerning the return of excess major end items from Afghanistan, there is a risk that the costs of returning excess items may outweigh the benefits of returning them.

Why GAO Did This Study

In June 2011, the United States announced plans to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The remaining U.S. forces will work to support the U.S. objective of a transition to Afghan-led security by December 2014. The Department of Defense (DOD) has begun planning for this reduction and, as part of its planning, has identified more than 750,000 major end items--equipment important to operational readiness to support the combat forces, such as weapons and vehicles--that can be returned from Afghanistan (to DOD inventories), transferred to another U.S. government agency or another country, or destroyed in theater. According to DOD, this equipment, estimated to be worth more than $36 billion, has accumulated during a 10-year period. DOD officials also estimate that it could cost $5.7 billion to return or transfer equipment from Afghanistan.

We initiated this review to provide Congress with information concerning DOD preparations for the drawdown of equipment in Afghanistan, and prepared this report under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative. We provided a briefing of our preliminary observations to the House Armed Services Committee on October 10, 2012. We also provided this briefing to the Senate Armed Services Committee on October 24, 2012, and to the Senate and House Defense Appropriations Subcommittees on November 14, 2012.

This report formally transmits the information developed for that briefing and provides information on the preparations for the Afghanistan drawdown, specifically the extent to which DOD has (1) applied relevant lessons learned from the Iraq drawdown in its planning for equipment reductions in Afghanistan; (2) planned for the reduction of equipment in Afghanistan by establishing command structures and guidance, property accountability, and transportation processes; and (3) considered costs in its planning for equipment reductions in Afghanistan.

What GAO Recommends

To reduce the risk of returning excess major end items from Afghanistan without full consideration of costs and benefits, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense ensure that the Service Secretaries and the Commander, U.S. Central Command, conduct and document analyses to support the decisions to return excess major end items by taking the following two actions:

1) Conduct and document analyses to compare the costs of returning excess major end items with the benefits of returning them. These analyses might include considerations of factors such as:

  • Repair;
  • Transportation and storage;
  • Handling;
  • Condition of the item; and
  • Sensitivity of the item.

2) Use these cost-benefit analyses as a key factor in decision making concerning the return of excess major end items.

For more information, contact Cary Russel at (202) 512-5431 or russellc@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendations, in August 2013 DOD issued guidance to ensure that the services conducted analyses comparing the costs of returning items from Afghanistan with the benefits of returning them. The Marine Corps and Army also conducted and used analyses to make decisions regarding the return of items from Afghanistan. As a result, there is reduced risk that the services returned items from Afghanistan that incurred unnecessary expenditures.

    Recommendation: To reduce the risk of returning excess major end items from Afghanistan without full consideration of costs and benefits, the Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Service Secretaries and the Commander, U.S. Central Command, conduct and document analyses to compare the costs of returning excess major end items with the benefits of returning them. These analyses might include considerations of factors such as: (1) Repair; (2) Transportation and storage; (3) Handling; (4) Condition of the item; and (5) Sensitivity of the item.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to our recommendations, in August 2013 DOD issued guidance to ensure that the services conducted analyses comparing the costs of returning items from Afghanistan with the benefits of returning them. The Marine Corps and Army also conducted and used analyses to make decisions regarding the return of items from Afghanistan. As a result, there is reduced risk that the services returned items from Afghanistan that incurred unnecessary expenditures.

    Recommendation: To reduce the risk of returning excess major end items from Afghanistan without full consideration of costs and benefits, the Secretary of Defense should ensure that the Service Secretaries and the Commander, U.S. Central Command, use these cost-benefit analyses as a key factor in decision making concerning the return of excess major end items.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Oct 16, 2014

Oct 10, 2014

Oct 8, 2014

Sep 30, 2014

Sep 25, 2014

Sep 23, 2014

Sep 19, 2014

Sep 18, 2014

Sep 10, 2014

Sep 9, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here