Saturday, July 22, 2006
WASHINGTON, Jul. 22, 2006
By ANDREW MIGA Associated Press Writer (AP)
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."
The GAO findings were first reported by CBS News and ABC News.