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.

    Much
    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
    terrorists.”

    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.

    “DOD
    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
    process.”

    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.

    Rep.
    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