The Army’s 2015 decision to reduce its rail force structure to a single unit has led to a possible gap in capability should a large deployment become necessary, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) stated in a report issued last month.
The Army acknowledged last year that rail assets for the unit – the 180-soldier 757th Expeditionary Rail Center – may not be sufficient to support major operations, GAO noted.
“But [Army] officials stated that it did not determine the number of rail operating crews needed to support a large mobilization,” GAO wrote.
The report also noted that challenges with inspections, waivers and funding repairs persist, and that half of the rail track the service uses is closed because of defects.
“Without a quality assurance program, the Army will not have a comprehensive approach for its rail track and will not have coordinated oversight in managing efforts such as inspections and funding repairs,” the report stated.
Roughly 67 percent of all Army unit equipment moves by rail from installations to ports. GAO recommended that the Army Materiel Command should:
• Determine the requirement for trained rail operators when the need for a major mobilization arises, and compare that requirement against existing capability to meet deployment demands at key stateside installations.
• Analyze and quantify the “risk associated with the number of trained rail-operating crews required” during a major mobilization, and mitigate that risk “as appropriate.”
• Ensure that the command, as single manager of rail-fleet operations, require a quality-assurance program for the oversight of the service’s rail track. The program should entail thorough inspections, tracking and monitoring of repairs, making improvements a priority, and entail updated reports to decision-makers on track conditions.