Pentagon Selling New Gear as Surplus

U.S. Military Sells Off New Gear As Surplus, GAO Says (Bloomberg)

The Pentagon is wasting millions of dollars by selling useable military gear — some of it new — as surplus, according to a report by congressional auditors. Auditors identified 22 million pieces of “excellent” equipment such as cold-weather boots, medical chests and tents that were deemed unusable as the military continued to buy and restock between fiscal 2002 and 2004, according to the U.S. General Accountability Office.

The 58-page report shows poor coordination between the Defense Logistics Agency that purchases widely used combat supplies and the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service — a little-known agency that sells excess and obsolete gear to states and the public, often at cut-rate prices. “Improved management could save taxpayers at least hundreds of millions of dollars annually,” said Gregory Kutz, managing director of GAO’s special investigations unit. Efforts to improve and integrate the agencies’ inventory databases have not worked, he wrote. “This isn’t just matter of bad bookkeeping and weak inventory controls, it’s a matter of major systemic weaknesses in our combat support machinery,” Representative Christopher Shays, chairman of a House subcommittee on national security, said in an e-mailed statement on the GAO findings. Shays, a Connecticut Republican, is convening a hearing on the report tomorrow with Republican Senator Susan Collins from Maine, chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security.

Pentagon officials are scheduled to testify at this third hearing in the last several years to examine wasteful and ineffective military inventory practices. The earlier hearings examined improper disposal of new chemical and biological suits and detection equipment. Tomorrow’s hearing takes a broad look at why $33 billion in excess military property was sold, donated or destroyed between 2002 and 2004. The root causes for the wasteful disposals are unreliable inventories of excess property, outdated supply management systems and poor oversight, the GAO report says.

Bradley Berkson, deputy undersecretary for logistics and materiel readiness, said the Pentagon agreed with the GAO’s conclusion that management changes are needed. The Pentagon will implement eight of 13 GAO recommendations to improve the process, he said.

While some of this is simply a function of a gigantic bureaucracy, it’s always embarrassing when such revelations come out. Indeed, this reports have been coming out for decades.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.