Troops returning from Iraq are calling attention to the fact that sandbags — a key requirement of military life — are being shipped in to US military bases in Iraq from Kuwait and other countries. This means transporting sand in convoys across the country.

This expensive and inefficient practice is the result of US failure to provide enough armored vehicles to our troops during the deadliest years of the conflict, when roadside bombs were killing and wounding thousands of soldiers. Lacking armored humvees, US troops fortified their vehicles with sandbags on the route from Kuwait into Iraq. The sandbags were clearly inferior to steel, and the bags themselves deteriorated quickly due to the climate — but one result was that Kuwait developed a thriving cottage industry in stuffing sandbags. Today, US and Iraqi contractors and subcontractors based in Kuwait continue to be major suppliers of sandbags to US forces stationed in Iraq. That is, contractors import the bags into Kuwait, shovel in the sand, tie the bags, and load them onto trucks (driven by more contractors) headed for Iraq.

The actual polypropylene BAGS (as opposed to the sand) are manufactured outside the region completely. Back in 2004, the Defense Logistics Agency awarded noncompetitive contracts for sandbags to five US firms: CHK Manufacturing Co. Inc, La Pac Manufacturing Inc., Ampack LLC, Dayton Bag & Burlap Co, and Total Industrial & Packaging Corporation. Later that year, DLA cancelled the award to Total because the sandbags being produced at its facilities in Texas and Puerto Rico did not meet requirements. (Total protested the decision, but it was upheld by a decision by the GAO. See GAO B-295434, February 22, 2005).

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