MoD highlights Iraq supply snags

As attacks on coalition forces in Iraq continue, the government has admitted inadequate IT systems contributed to delays in...

As attacks on coalition forces in Iraq continue, the government has admitted inadequate IT systems contributed to delays in delivering equipment to British troops in the campaign to topple Saddam Hussein's regime.

A report on the war published by the MoD last week highlighted the need for a common tracking system to keep tabs on equipment. It revealed that, although most kit was sent out to the Gulf in time, difficulties with tracking sometimes led to distribution problems.

Parts of a radio frequency identification-based Total Asset Visibilty system that is used by US troops to track kit were purchased by the MoD before the start of the war. But there was little time to integrate it.

"Integrating this system into the UK's supply chain and providing sufficient training for operators in the space of three months was a challenging undertaking," the report said.

This meant that only a limited part of the system's capacity was used.

The government admitted that the tracking system was unavailable for the early phases of the deployment and full visibility of stores only reached as far as forces' entry point into Kuwait. These factors, combined with limited logistics information systems, meant it was difficult to track specific equipment in the field and decide when to send spares.

An MoD spokesman confirmed that the ministry will be looking closely at the issue of equipment tracking over the coming months, although he described the war as a logistical success. He said, "It was a successful campaign in terms of logistics but there are areas that need to be looked at."

However, he added that the Total Asset Visibilty system, which monitors pallets and containers of equipment, was a leap forward in forces' tracking abilities. It also proved particularly valuable in the later stages of the operation, according to the report.

With about 46,000 UK troops involved, Whitehall has cited logistics as a major factor in the success of the campaign. In total, a similar size land force was deployed in less than half the time achieved during the 1991 Gulf war.

Peter Spens-Black, IT director and former Royal Navy IS programme manager, said tracking thousands of pieces of equipment in a military campaign is extremely difficult. "You have to look at this in context - we are talking about hundreds of thousands of tonnes of equipment. The MoD has done quite well within the context of what taxpayers can afford," he said.

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