If U.S. forces are going to leave Iraq in the near
future, the Iraqi Army must improve its long-term
force sustainment operations. Coalition force assistance has significantly improved the Iraqi Army’s non-kinetic and kinetic operations. However, no metric exists to determine the level of U.S. logistics support during joint operations, so we do not have a true sense of the Iraqi Army’s sustainment abilities.
One noticeable challenge to the Iraqi Army logistics posture is that it lacks resources and technical expertise, which is usually provided by noncommissioned officers and warrant officers. The most efficient way for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense (MOD) to overcome this shortfall is to create something similar to the U.S. Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) and contract a portion of its sustainment operations in the form of logistics support teams (LSTs). First used in 1992 to support operations in Somalia, LOGCAP employs civilian contractors to fill military sustainment capability shortfalls.
An example of a current initiative that supports the U.S. Army and benefits Iraqis is the Iraqi Trucking Network (ITN), which is sponsored theater wide by Multi-National Corps-Iraq. In this program, U.S. forces contract with local Iraqi contractors under the Iraqi First program to receive and deliver class I (subsistence), bottled water, and limited class VII (major end items) and class IX (repair parts) throughout the area of responsibility. ITN capabilities focus on strategic sustainment requirements that allow military assets to concentrate on tactical resupply missions. This initiative can be the backbone of Iraqi Army logistics of the future, providing a distribution capability for future economic development and increasing civil capacity.
Contractor Employment Within the Iraqi Army
LOGCAP-like operations could push LSTs to various Iraqi Army sustainment nodes. LSTs could provide strategic support to the Iraqi Army by transporting supplies and commodities, conducting second- and third-line maintenance, providing materiel management and accountability, and resetting Iraqi Army equipment. The LST should include mechanics, cooks, electronic and specialty maintenance technicians, water and fuel specialists, vehicle operators, and transportation movement coordinators.
LSTs at the motorized transportation regiment (MTR) should consist of 50 to 100 personnel who are trained and proficient in basic supply functions—receiving, storing, and issuing supplies and distribution planning and management. These contractors must also be familiar with the Iraqi Automated Maintenance Program.
LSTs must be embedded in the MTRs, repair and maintenance companies, and division G–4s to establish working relationships. An LST at each division would provide flexibility. A smaller group of logistics supervisory personnel should reside at the MOD in the Iraqi Logistics Operations Center and the Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics, section of the Iraqi Joint Headquarters.
Better Employment of Iraqi Assets
The level of force protection required for LOGCAP personnel is dictated by the threat assessment. The likelihood of insurgents targeting host-nation contractors is low to medium. Yet, in the event that critical cargo needs protection, the Iraqi Security Forces could be available to provide convoy security. Lowering the potential threat to convoys and giving the Iraqi forces the maneuverability to provide better security to Iraqi assets boosts economy by providing more and safer logistics jobs that support the Iraqi mission to become self-sufficient.
In order for a LOGCAP-like course of action to be successful, two major actions must happen: MOD must delegate release authority of sustainment commodities, and payments to contractors must be on time. LOGCAP solutions can deliver the urgently needed supplies, services, and minor construction support that are not resident in the current Iraqi Army structure and that cannot be established without enduring organizational development. To promote this course of action, U.S. forces must approach the Iraqi government, specifically the MOD and Ministry of Interior, during key leader engagements to highlight the benefits of contracted logistics. Contractors can answer strategic logistics shortfalls within the Iraqi Army, enable economic development in Iraq, increase employment, and allow Iraqi Security Forces to focus on security operations.