GAO: Congress Should Demand Reports on Withdrawal Planning

Congress should demand that the Department of Defense (DoD) give detailed reports on its plans to withdraw troops from Iraq as those plans develop, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommended today in a new report.

"Without more specific reporting from [DoD], Congress may not be able to effectively exercise its oversight responsibilities" as troops and materiel begin to come home, the GAO wrote.

"Congress may wish to consider directing DOD to report specific details on the status of reposturing plans and how it intends to mitigate issues such as those we identify," the GAO recommended.

President Bush yesterday announced he would withdraw 8,000 troops from Iraq by February, and the Bush administration is still negotiating with Iraq over how long and how many troops will stay there. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in an interview earlier this summer that a 16-month timetable seemed right to him.

DoD's plans lack clearly defined roles and responsibilities for those managing the removal of equipment from Iraq, according to the GAO. DoD began planning for withdrawal in the fall of 2007, with a "logistical framework" coalescing in May 2008, the GAO found.

Today's report recommended DoD keep an eye on the following isses, mainly focusing on the removal of equipment, not soldiers themselves:
We identified the following nine issues that DOD should consider as it develops a comprehensive plan for reposturing U.S. forces from Iraq: (1) agreed-upon guidance for environmental cleanup and the disposition of property, which could affect the time and cost of closing bases in Iraq; (2) guidance and plans for the reposturing of contractors from Iraq; (3) accountability and disposition of contractor-managed government-owned property; (4) the possibility of restrictive conditions on the use of facilities in Kuwait and other neighboring countries; (5) availability of power-washing equipment and stands, called wash racks, and the number of customs inspectors in Kuwait; (6) capacity of military transports and convoy security assets, including limits on the main supply route; (7) increased demand for access to mental health care providers; (8) infrastructure requirements of returning units; and (9) requirements for training and equipment reset to restore readiness. DOD has begun to address these issues.

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