Pentagon nailed on equipment sales

Undercover government investigators purchased sensitive surplus
military equipment such as launcher mounts for shoulder-fired missiles
and guided missile radar test sets from a Defense Department contractor.

of the equipment could be useful to terrorists, according to a draft
report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm
of Congress.

In June, two GAO investigators spent $1.1 million on
such equipment at two excess property warehouses. Their purchases
included several types of body armor inserts used by troops in Iraq and
Afghanistan, an all-band antenna used to track aircraft, and a digital
signal converter used in naval surveillance.

“The body armor
could be used by terrorists or other criminal activity,” noted the
report, obtained Friday by The Associated Press. “Many of the other
military items have weapons applications that would also be useful to

Thousands of items that should have been destroyed
were sold to the public, the report said. Much of the equipment was
sold for pennies on the dollar.

The list included circuit cards
used in computerized Navy systems, a cesium technology timing unit with
global positioning capabilities, and 12 digital microcircuits used in
F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft.

At least 2,669 sensitive military items were sold to 79 buyers in 216 sales transactions from November 2005 to June 2006.

has not enforced security controls for preventing sensitive excess
military equipment from release to the public,” the report concluded.
“GAO was able to purchase these items because controls broke down at
virtually every step in the excess property turn-in and disposal

In the report, the GAO said it had briefed Pentagon
officials on its findings but that the Pentagon had no response because
it had not had time to perform a detailed review.

Christopher Shays, R-Conn., chairman of the House Government Reform
Committee’s national security panel, will hold a hearing on the matter
Tuesday. Earlier GAO reports also had found lax security controls over
sensitive excess military equipment.

“During previous hearings we
learned DOD was a bargain basement for would-be terrorists due to lax
security screening of excess military equipment,” Shays said in a
statement Friday. “Based on GAO’s most recent undercover investigation
it looks like the store is still open.”

Shays added: “We’ve seen
partial changes that have resulted in over $34 million savings, but
they still have a long way to go to make this system functional.”

The GAO findings were first reported by CBS News and ABC News.

© 2006 The Associated Press