Pentagon watchdog cites corrosion, maintenance problems at Europe supply caches
By JENNIFER H. SVAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 23, 2018
Army and Marine Corps combat stocks intended to supply thousands of troops in an emergency or conflict showed signs of corrosion and poor upkeep at multiple sites in Europe, a Pentagon watchdog said.
The Defense Department Inspector General’s findings “raise potential concerns” that at least $204 million worth of equipment isn’t being properly stored and maintained, since the maintenance protocols observed at four sites apply at other locations, according to a report published Thursday.
The report did not specify how many total storage sites there are in Europe.
“Without adequately managed pre-positioned equipment, the Army and the Marine Corps may not be able to fully support a request to provide immediate crisis response when the need arises in Europe or Africa,” said the report.
The Pentagon has beefed up stocks of tanks, armored vehicles, heavy artillery and other equipment across Europe in the wake of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
Having those pieces in place gives EUCOM the ability to respond to a developing crisis in a fraction of the time it would take to move the supplies from the United States.
But the audit found that some equipment may not be serviceable quickly enough. In some cases, humidity levels weren’t controlled, causing equipment to corrode. There was also a lack of maintenance documentation on some weapons and vehicles.
The problems were noted at four of five sites reviewed: at the Leghorn Army Depot at Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy, and at three caves in Norway where the Marine Corps stores and maintains equipment in partnership with the Norwegians.
A site visit was also conducted at Zutendaal, Belgium. The findings were not included because the location only recently began receiving equipment.
The Army and Marine Corps didn’t dispute the findings. They agreed to implement some of the inspectors’ recommendations but didn’t respond to others, according to the report.
At Leghorn Army Depot, where 65 weapons valued at nearly $1 million are stored, the required air systems inspections, along with humidity and temperature data, were never completed or recorded for more than three years, the audit found. Though no corrosion of weapons was found, the inspectors did see signs of corrosion on 53 of 104 vehicles, valued at $23.4 million, according to the report.
Pentagon inspectors also found that relative humidity wasn’t controlled at the Bjugn, Frigaard and Tromsdal caves in Norway, where the Marines keep large stocks.
Marine Corps guidance says the rate of corrosion increases exponentially when relative humidity exceeds 50 percent.
During a three-year period, humidity readings exceeded the recommended range for more than 1,500 days collectively at the three caves, according to the report.
Marines have identified corrosion as an issue in the caves, the report said.
Most of the equipment in Norway is maintained by Norwegian civilians, with oversight by the Norwegian military and Marines.
Also, routine maintenance was not performed on more than 100 vehicles inspected at the caves. Leaks were observed on 16 of 53 mission-essential vehicles, including an armored bridge vehicle, the report said.
Inspectors recommended the Marines assess equipment corrosion, develop maintenance requirements for certain weapons and work out better procedures for recording completed maintenance.