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ARLINGTON, Va. — Almost four years into the Iraq war, troops in the U.S. Central Command theater of operations still lack critical equipment, a recent Defense Department Inspector General’s Office audit says.

The audit found shortages in items such as up-armored Humvees, electronic countermeasures and crew-served weapons — weapons, such as some machine guns, which require more than one person to fire them.

In 2005, DOD IG announced it would conduct the audit to see if troops deployed downrange had the equipment they need.

After interviewing about 1,100 servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan, the office concluded that there is no standard procedure to determine what equipment troops need and that some equipment was not available, the report’s executive summary says.

The audit also found that the Request for Forces process did not always ensure that troops performing nontraditional duties — such as detainee operations, explosive ordnance disposal and reconstruction — had the equipment they needed, the executive summary says.

Troops who carry out such missions include airmen and sailors sent to the CENTCOM area of operations to augment ground forces.

“As a result, Service members performed missions without the proper equipment, used informal procedures to obtain equipment and sustainment support, and canceled or postponed missions while waiting to receive equipment,” the executive summary says.

The audit recommends the Defense Department improve its equipping procedures and CENTCOM conduct a review of troops’ equipment needs within 60 days of new units rotating into theater, the executive summary says.

Shown a draft of the audit, the Defense Department and CENTCOM were “partially responsive,” agreeing with the audit’s recommendations; while the Army, which disagreed with the recommendations, was “nonresponsive,” the executive summary says.

CENTCOM issued a statement Tuesday evening saying it was aware of the DOD IG audit and was studying its recommendations.

“I can tell you that commanders in the field assess their ability to accomplish their mission while balancing their resources to ensure the greatest safety for the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines under their command,” the statement says.

Responding to the DOD IG audit, the Defense Department cited a report it made to Congress in September 2006, acknowledging some “deficiencies” in unit readiness, but saying they do not affect the outcome of combatant commanders’ missions.

Furthermore, DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Brian Maka said that all sailors and airmen deploying to the CENTCOM area of operations as “in-lieu-of” forces are properly equipped.

“When the ILO concept was initiated, there were equipment issues revolving around differences between the services issue and return procedures,” Maka said in a Tuesday e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “While these issues made the deployment/post-deployment process cumbersome, the issues were resolved and the troops deployed with the right equipment.”

He also said the Defense Department will develop a policy that addresses the inter-service responsibilities for funding and sustaining troops performing nontraditional duties.


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