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U.S. says suspends some supply convoys into Iraq
Tuesday April 13, 2004 3:51 pm ET

WASHINGTON, April 13 (Reuters) - Some convoys ferrying supplies for U.S. troops in Iraq have been suspended until the U.S. military can provide better security for them, the Army and its main logistics contractor said on Tuesday.

The extent of the suspensions is not known, but military and procurement experts said supply convoys were critical to the U.S. military, which relies more and more on private contractors to bring in basic goods and equipment.

Dan Carlson, a spokesman for U.S. Army Materiel Command in Rock Island, Illinois, said some convoys were delayed after a string of attacks and hostage-takings involving contractors.

"We are assessing what the impact of those delays will be," Carlson said. He could not provide further details about what supplies were being held up and whether military operations could be affected.

U.S. forces have been fighting to clear the main routes to and from Baghdad and other cities in Iraq in order to allow trucks to bring in food, ammunition and water to soldiers. Humanitarian convoys for Iraqi civilians have also been hit.

In Baghdad, a military spokesman declined comment on questions regarding the status of convoys and how they would affect combat readiness.

"The information is considered classified," he said in an e-mail response to questions.

The U.S. military's main logistics contractor in Iraq is Texas-based Kellogg Brown and Root, a subsidiary of oil services giant Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's former company.

Seven KBR employees have been missing since Friday after their convoy was ambushed. An additional 30 workers for the company and its subcontractors have been killed.

"For the safety and security of convoys, the Army and KBR jointly made the decision to temporarily suspend some convoys at this time until additional security efforts can be put in place by the military to provide the new level of security necessary to move supplies into Iraq," KBR spokeswoman Wendy Hall said.

She said the company had boosted its own security and revised delivery of support to troops such as fuel, water and other routine requirements, but did not give further details.


However, she stressed the company, which was awarded a logistics deal in 2001 with the Army, would continue to support U.S. troops and fulfill all its contract obligations.

Contractors in Iraq have taken on a host of jobs once done by the U.S. military, from building barracks and feeding troops to making sure there are enough supplies for daily living.

KBR has more than 24,000 employees working in Iraq and at any time has about 700 trucks on the road in the Kuwait-Iraq region, bringing in supplies and moving goods around.

Government procurement specialist Steven Schooner of George Washington University said any interruptions or shortages of supplies could put the military at risk and reduce its efficiency in the field.

He also predicted costs would rise substantially as the military sought to provide more security for convoys bringing in essential items such as munitions, food and water.

Peter Singer, author of a book on the privatization of military jobs, said the role of contractors was critical in supplying logistics to U.S. troops in Iraq.

"What is interesting is that a lot of people consider logistics tasks as secondary, but they could not be more wrong. We are not talking about getting lawnmowers in bases, we are talking about critical roles here," he said.

"Amateurs talk about strategy, professionals talk about logistics."