An Australian Service Light Armoured Vehicle drives through Tangi Valley, Afghanistan, March 29. Australia is looking at how to best dispose of or return its equipment in Afghanistan. (Spc. Edward A. Garibay / 16th Mobile Public Affair)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — As Australian forces leave Afghanistan, military logisticians must determine what equipment to bring home, what to donate to Afghan or remaining coalition forces, and what to dispose of in situ.
In a speech to the Land Warfare Conference in October, “From Broomsticks to Blast Gauges,” then-Defence Minister for Materiel Jason Clare outlined the task ahead. Announcing that the drawdown would occur over the following 12-15 months and be completed by the end of 2013, Clare said, “There are still big challenges in front of us. As we draw down, we will have to bring equipment home [and] this is a massive logistical exercise in its own right.”
Clare revealed that a logistics team had been working on the task since the beginning of 2012.
“We have around [AUS] $2.8 billion (US $2.57 billion) worth of materiel in Afghanistan. This includes around 1,600 accommodation modules, 600 shipping containers, 350 vehicles and around 3,500 computers,” he said.
“Some equipment will be flown out on C-130s and C-17 heavy lift aircraft [but] the vast majority will be shipped using commercial freight arrangements.”
Equipment to be returned includes the Army’s Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles, personal body armor, counter rocket, artillery and mortar systems, and some of the relocatable hardened structures, but some items are likely to be placed into storage on arrival home.
An Australian Defence Forces (ADF) spokesperson said that while the majority of equipment will be returned to Australia, some counter-roadside bomb items acquired under Australia’s rapid acquisition process have not been identified as necessary because a replacement capability has been found or because the item was acquired to counter an Afghanistan-specific threat.
“The force protection of all ADF and Australian government personnel remains our highest priority; therefore, Defence will not discuss the specific capabilities that will remain in Afghanistan for operational security reasons,” the spokesperson said.
“The capabilities that do remain behind may be transferred to the Afghan National Security Forces or to the United Nations to assist in humanitarian operations.”
The cost of itemizing, cleaning, packing and shipping equipment home is reported to be about $230 million.
“The task of redeployment and remediation of the equipment and sites that have supported the ADF in Afghanistan over the past 11 years is highly complex,” explained the spokesperson.
“Afghanistan is a land-locked country requiring long lines of communication [through a variety of modes including air and sea], which makes the redeployment of equipment and vehicles challenging. This is also occurring in a time frame when many other nations are also withdrawing, which puts pressure on transport contractors and egress routes [and] therefore planning needs to be highly coordinated with coalition forces and other agencies.
“Another challenge is ensuring the management of equipment flow from the Middle East area of operations meets Australian quarantine requirements and is synchronized with the capacities of our logistic agencies to receive this equipment back into the national inventory.”
The Australian Defence Force has a multi-phase Military Integrated Logistics Information System (MILIS) project underway in response to lessons learned from recent deployments such as Afghanistan, but also in the wake of a report by the Australian National Audit Office that highlighted the challenges of providing logistics support across more than 100 different logistics information systems in a high-tempo operational environment.
Known as Joint Project 2077, the MILIS system has delivered products and upgraded existing systems to provide an integrated solution to the ADF’s logistics requirements.
The most recent phase delivered a radio frequency identification tracking system, which helps track items as they move through Defence Department and contractor-operated cargo and logistics systems.
In the next phase is a $200 million project to enhance the ADF’s capability to deploy logistics.
“Phase 3 will enhance the ADF Logistics Information and Communications Technology deployable capability by extending the reach of critical core functions to units on operations and delivering an integrated in-transit cargo visibility system. This will be achieved through full integration with the core transactional system of the MILIS, including a standardized user interface,” said the Defence Department spokesperson.
The phase is at the pre-initiation stage of the acquisition process so details are unavailable, but a decision is expected in the 2015-18 time frame, with initial operating capability to follow between 2017 and 2020.