April 25, 2005


A study of the first year of the Iraq war revealed some typical Pentagon failures. The main problem was the lack of war reserve stocks. These are supplies (especially ammo and spare parts) that are stockpiled in peacetime so that, when a war comes, the troops would have adequate supplies for the first few months of the conflict. Or at least until new supplies could be ordered and delivered. After the Cold War ended in 1991, the war rather large reserve stocks were allowed to run down, or were sold off. The Cold War stocks were large, and expensive to maintain. It made sense to reduce them. But not much was purchased to create “post-Cold War” war reserve stocks. To compound the problem, the Pentagon had not developed an effective inventory control system for wartime operations. The military war reserve stocks were managed like there would never be a war.

As the piece notes, this has always been the historical pattern, but we need to do better in the future.

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