Military sorts through material from Iraq drawdown

Friday - 12/23/2011, 1:07pm EST

Twila Gonzales, director of disposition services, Defense Logistics Agency

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By Michael O'Connell
@moconnellWFED
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

The drawdown from Iraq is in its final stages. We know how the troops are getting home, but how is all the stuff getting back to the U.S?

"At the height of the drawdown, we were estimating that there were probably about 44,000 containers worth of stuff still in country that needed to come out," said Twila Gonzales, director of disposition services at Defense Logistics Agency. "We're talking about a wide variety of a lot of things, from nuts and bolts to MRAPs [mine resistant ambush protected armored fighting vehicles]."

Gonzales joined The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris on Friday to discuss DLA's role in processing the material coming out of Iraq.

"The military services are responsible for determining how they're going to get the stuff out of country," Gonzales said. "The things that they feel that need to come out, the things that were going to be shifted over to the Iraqis and then those things that weren't worth bringing out and would be taken care of in country."

Twila Gonzales, director of disposition services, Defense Logistics Agency

DLA is a America's combat logistics support agency. "We provide Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, other federal agencies and combined and allied forces with the full spectrum of logistics, acquisition and technical services," Gonzales said. "The agency sources and provides nearly 100 percent of the consumable items America's military forces need to operate, from food, fuel and energy to uniforms, medical supplies and construction equipment. We also provide more than 80 percent of the military's spare parts, which is what is coming out of theater today."

DLA also manages the re-utilization of military equipment. For the drawdown in Iraq, Gonzales' office had four locations embedded with the troops that provided disposition services, re-utilization and demilitarization of items.

Earlier this month, when the last convoys were leaving Iraq and heading into Kuwait, they were bringing material with them. The items stored in Kuwait follow a retro-sort process, in which the military opens all of the full-sized shipping containers and conducts a final sort of the contents to determine what needs to come home or be transported to DLA's yard in Kuwait for final demilitarization.

When an item is demilitarized, all of the military characteristics are removed and the item is destroyed so that it won't fall into the wrong hands.

"A lot of scrap is produced as a result of that," Gonzales said. In FY2009, DLA processed approximately 1.4 million pounds of scrap. But that figure rose to 173 million pounds in FY2010 and 123 million pounds last year.

Gonzales explained that sorting the material is time consuming. Every container has to be opened and the contents reviewed. Containers continue to arrive in Kuwait, a process that she estimated would continue for a few more weeks. Then, sorting and processing the material would go on until all of the containers are empty.

"The process that's going on in Kuwait is going to take several months, if not longer, for all of those containers to be sorted and segregated and ultimate disposition made," Gonzales said.

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