The Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Defense (DoD) has evaluated land-based security controls for the ground movement and transfer of cargo headed to Ukraine by rail in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the United States and its allies and partners have rapidly transferred defense articles to the government of Ukraine to support the Ukraine war effort. Once defense articles are in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, they are transported to logistics sites and transfer points for onward movement to Ukraine by truck or by rail. DoD regulations require specific security controls for the transport of arms, ammunition, and explosives (AA&E) that pose a security risk.
OIG found that DoD personnel effectively planned, coordinated, and executed the movement of AA&E for onward movement to Ukraine. However, during the in-transit operations in March 2023 in Poland, OIG observed that DoD guard forces did not consistently implement security controls to support the ground movement and transfer of AA&E for onward movement to Ukraine by rail in accordance with regulations and operating procedures.
OIG said the inconsistent implementation of AA&E security controls occurred because U.S. Army Europe and Africa did not provide an operation order or written guidance specifying responsibilities for the planning and supervision of in-transit security of AA&E shipped to the Poland rail site.
In addition, inspectors noted that there was no specific U.S. Army Europe and Africa guidance to the Theater Sustainment Command to oversee and implement the in-transit security procedures for AA&E movement to and transfer to Ukraine rail.
Without guidance directing consistent implementation and supervision of mandatory security controls, OIG says the DoD is at an increased risk of loss or theft of AA&E before its transfer to Ukrainian rail.
To help improve security of the shipments, OIG has recommended that the Commander of U.S. Army Europe and Africa prepare and issue written orders or guidance assigning responsibilities to the Division Tactical Command Post at the Logistics Enabling Node–Poland for planning and implementing security for ground transport and transfer of sensitive items for onward movement to Ukraine. Further, OIG has recommended that the Commander provide a fragmentary order or directive to the Theater Sustainment Command to immediately enforce existing in-transit security standards.
OIG has also begun an evaluation to determine whether DoD is effectively accounting for defense materials being provided to Ukraine from their points of origin to sea ports of embarkation within the continental United States.
The most recent U.S. military assistance for Ukraine was announced on September 21, and includes AIM-9M missiles for air defense, Avenger air defense systems, .50 caliber machine guns to counter Unmanned Aerial Systems, light vehicles and ammunition.
It is worth noting that in order to avoid a government shutdown in the U.S., Congress passed an agreement that did not include funding for Ukraine. “While the Speaker and the overwhelming majority of Congress have been steadfast in their support for Ukraine, there is no new funding in this agreement to continue that support,” President Biden said. “We cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted. I fully expect the Speaker will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also urged Congress “to live up to America’s commitment to provide urgently-needed assistance to the people of Ukraine as they fight to defend their own country against the forces of tyranny.”
It is likely that an agreement on support for Ukraine will be passed at a later date, and present funding allows for equipment not yet delivered. Consequently, DoD will need to address the concerns raised by OIG over transportation security, regardless of Congressional wrangling.