07 December 2009

Good news for those of you doing change-of-command inventories in Iraq

Are you in the middle of change-of-command inventories in Iraq, and in the dilemma of not being able to find a piece of government property? Do you fear having to pay for said piece of government property should you not be able to find it? Do you feel as if you have contributed to the cycle of waste which permeates our government?

Well fear not. Even if you did find that item, there's a good likelihood that it was probably going to have been left in Iraq anyway. Government accountability offices are increasing the limit of government property which the US military can leave behind in Iraq from $2 million per base to $30 million per base, based on the fact that many pieces of equipment are too expensive to move anyway. If your commander wonders where that widget went, just let him know that you sped up the process.

Says the Washington Post (registration required):

BAGHDAD -- Even as the U.S. military scrambles to support a troop surge in Afghanistan, it is donating passenger vehicles, generators and other equipment worth tens of millions of dollars to the Iraqi government.

Under new authority granted by the Pentagon, U.S. commanders in Iraq may now donate to the Iraqis up to $30 million worth of equipment from each facility they leave, up from the $2 million cap established when the guidelines were first set in 2005. The new cap applies at scores of posts that the U.S. military is expected to leave in coming months as it scales back its presence from about 280 facilities to six large bases and a few small ones by the end of next summer.

Some of the items that commanders may now leave behind, including passenger vehicles and generators, are among what commanders in Afghanistan need most urgently, according to Pentagon memos.

Officials involved say the approach has triggered arguments in the Pentagon over whether the effort to leave Iraqis adequately equipped is hurting the buildup in Afghanistan. Officials in the U.S. Central Command, which oversees both wars, have balked at some proposed handovers, and previously rejected an approach that would have granted base commanders even greater leeway.

U.S. commanders in Iraq say they have been judicious in assessing what equipment to earmark for donation. Alan F. Estevez, a deputy undersecretary of defense, wrote in an e-mail that "an important and vital goal is to leave behind fully functioning bases to the Government of Iraq to enable Iraq's civil capacities."

But a U.S. military official critical of the process said the new regulations allow too much latitude to commanders, provide little oversight and fail to account for the urgent need of American forces in Afghanistan, which need the same kinds of items that the troops in Iraq are leaving behind

"How can a generator or an SUV or a relocatable building be excess if you are buying the very same thing and sending it to Afghanistan?" said the official, who is involved in the process and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"In Iraq, people drive around in new Yukons, Suburbans, Envoys and new pickups," the official said. "In Kandahar, you find troops from the same U.S. Army driving around in broken-down, 15-year-old, right-hand-drive clunkers with bald tires."

That last paragraph only further reinforces the popular belief that the best minds, the most attention and the largest sums of money went to Iraq instead of Afghanistan.

But it was the last few paragraphs of the article that really caught my eye:

Some U.S. military officials worry that much of the equipment left behind could be looted.

A U.S. officer whose unit turned over a Joint Security Station in Baghdad to the Iraqi army this summer said Iraqi soldiers looted the facility within hours of their official departure.

"When we returned to the outpost the next morning, most of the beds had already been taken, wood walls and framing had been pulled and several air-conditioning units had been removed from the walls, leaving gaping holes," said the officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the event reflects negatively on the Iraqis.

Weeks later, the Caterpillar generator the Americans left behind was barely working, the officer said.

Brig. Gen. Bayer said he was not aware of looting at facilities turned over to the Iraqis.

"Once it's transferred," he said, "it's the government of Iraq's responsibility."

Have we learned nothing from operating in 3rd World Countries?

There's much you can learn from a book about life in the Developing World, but they rarely talk about the driving habits, the poverty, and some of the more bizarre (and amusing) aspects of life in the Third World. Fortunately, I learned many lessons about the Developing World from my time in Honduras, many of which came about due to my love of alcohol, and my tendency to find myself in what are, without a doubt, the most ridiculous situations possible.

Seriously, it's time for Captain [Starbuck]'s undeniable rules about life in 3rd World Countries:

  1. Anything that is not bolted to the ground will be stolen.
  2. A good number of things that actually are bolted to the ground might still get stolen anyway.


SJ said...

Reminds me of the Ted Rall cartoon they posted on War is Boring today.


J. said...

"Have we learned nothing from operating in 3rd World Countries?"

Not a question of "learning." Sure, they knew and we knew what was going to happen. But it ends up that it's easier to leave certain lower-cost items behind than to ship them, and you get credit (good marks) for "supporting the development of Iraq," so where's the bad side? As soon as it's off your inventory, whether in transit or under someone else's control, it's not your problem anymore.

Hey, it's not like we're being called to account for the money we blow over there.