Ammunition Accountability
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Accountability is the cornerstone of logistics in the United States Army. Thirteen years of sustained conflict in Afghanistan shaped conditions that led to an extensive loss of ammunition accountability. In late 2013, a theater-wide responsible draw-down of ammunition assets was implemented. Dozens of Forward Operating Bases and Contingency Bases (FOB and COB respectively) and numerous Ammunition Supply Points (ASPs) and Ammunition Transfer Holding Points (ATHP) were collapsed, causing an influx of previously unaccounted ammunition shipped to the two remaining ASPs in Afghanistan. The accelerated closures exponentially compounded preexisting problems for the understaffed and inexperienced Soldiers operating these remaining points.

In order to maintain accountability of munitions that have been distributed to the Soldier level, IAW AR 710-2, it is the responsibility of the Unit Commander to record all ammunition items on the property book by DODIC (Department of Defense Identification Code), NSN (National Stock Number), and Lot Number. The Department of the Army distributed a field expedient message eliminating this requirement for small arms ammunition, .50 caliber and below. Units were instructed to record these munitions in Property Book Unit Supply Enhanced (PBUSE), allowing units to laterally transfer ammunition on a DA Form 2062. Not only did this create accountability issues, but it opened the door for unsafe munitions to be distributed across the battlefield. In the munitions community, ammunition restrictions and suspensions are disseminated by associated Lot Numbers. Without a clear record of the lot numbers recorded in PBUSE it is impossible to determine if any small arms ammunition possessed by Soldiers is affected by a restriction or suspension. In 2014, during the close-out of Operation Enduring Freedom, the lack of proper accountability procedures also severely hampered turn in projections. This resulted in the loss of ability of servicing ASPs to store all ammunition items in accordance with regulatory guidance. For example, the Bagram ASP ran out of physical space in several storage locations before the maximum allowable Net Explosive Weight (NEW) was reached.

PBUSE is utilized to provide asset visibility of ammunition items across the formation. The failure to utilize this system presents a problem with accountability and an inability for the material manager to identify items that require reduction from theater. Copious amounts of small arms turned in as "Found on Installation" (FOI) ammunition, FOI ammunition - by nature - is not on the unit's property books, giving ammunition managers at all levels a false sense of security. Ultimately, the lack of visibility of ammunition flooded the ASPs with an abundance of both serviceable and unserviceable ammunition, amassed over 13 years of sustained conflict.

As a mitigation strategy, the Joint Munitions Command and the Defense Ammunition Center developed theater munitions programs designed to both identify and code munitions in theater. Operation Ammunition Clean Sweep (OACS) teams consisting of eight personnel (Quality Assurance Specialist Ammunition Surveillance (QASAS) and MOS proficient 89A/B) were established to assist in gaining visibility and ensuring the serviceability of ammunition assets down to the company level. The OACS teams advised commanders on their ammunition serviceability and assisted them in preparing documentation to turn in unserviceable stocks to one of the servicing ASPs. The OACS teams, overseen by the CENTCOM Materiel Recovery Element Brigade (CMRE) and the Afghanistan-based Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB) coordinated with local Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) units for the destruction of ammunition deemed unsafe for shipment. Additionally, OACS teams provided detailed inspection reports to all Sustainment Commands. A drawback of the highly mobile OACS teams was their inability to remain on station until munitions were retrograded from the inspected unit or FOB. It also would have been beneficial if the ammunition inspectors (QASAS) had access to the Munitions History Program (MHP) to upload ammunition comments; this would allow the QASAS at the ASP to process munitions for retrograde without having to first perform additional inspections.

In the event proper accountability procedures were followed, the requirement for multiple iterations of the OACS teams would not have been required. The addition of the OACS teams to the base closure teams would have provided the materiel managers a clear picture of the battlefield and the ability to move surplus ammunition items from an ASP, decreasing the amounts of ammunition requiring storage in the ASP, eradicating the problem of storage constraints and reducing the amount of ammunition to be accounted for.

Whether in an austere environment, continued conflict, or in garrison, the quality and quantity of training a unit receives sets the stage for proper accountability practices. It is imperative that all ammunition Soldiers be provided the opportunity to attend a Culminating Training Event (CTE) (Ordnance Company/BCT ATHP Section) or Mission Readiness Exercise (MRE) (Sustainment Commands of all levels) prior to deployment to validate that they are properly trained and proficient in their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). The training received during a CTE event and the operations conducted while deployed vary, but the foundation for accountability remains the same. An Ordnance Company functions as the supporting Ammunition Supply Point for the rotational Brigade Combat Team at the National Training Center (NTC) and Joint Readiness Training Center (JTRC); the duties would entail establishing a Field ASP that would store, ship, issue, and accept the turn-in of residue and live ammunition. Participation in the CTE provides the opportunity to practice accountability of ammunition and the operation of Standard Army Ammunition System - Modernized (SAAS-MOD). Executing these mission support exercises empowers munitions Soldiers to remain proficient at their MOS skillset, something lost by not operating Garrison Ammunition Supply Points.

The decision to disseminate a field expedient message in 2008--relieving units of the regulatory requirement to place small arms ammunition on the property book--cultivated an environment where accountability was not a priority. During Operation Enduring Freedom, DoD organization's ammunition accountability systems tracked how many rounds were shipped to theater and how many rounds were fired, but often the calculated amount of the number of rounds that were left in theater did not match with the actual amount. Besides having an inaccurate count of remaining rounds, the location and condition of those remaining rounds were frequently unknown. Only thorough the leveraging of our strategic partners and use of theater munitions experts can we assess the overall picture of munitions in future contingencies and develop intelligent operations to right-size these munitions while continuing to support the warfighter.