Pentagon to destroy $1 billion worth of ammo. This makes sense because?
Why is the Pentagon to destroy ammunition for our men and women in uniform while the Department of Homeland Security is buying up millions of rounds of ammunition? As we asked last week, why are we decimating our military while many government agencies are arming up?
You really have to wonder why, according to USA Today, “The Pentagon plans to destroy more than $1 billion worth of ammunition although some of those bullets and missiles could still be used by troops, according to the Pentagon and congressional sources. It’s impossible to know what portion of the arsenal slated for destruction — valued at $1.2 billion by the Pentagon — remains viable because the Defense Department’s inventory systems can’t share data effectively, according to a Government Accountability Office report obtained by USA TODAY. The result: potential waste of unknown value.”
Everyone complains about fraud, waste and abuse of American taxpayer dollars, and I will admit there is a degree of that in the Department of Defense (DoD), the Pentagon. I firmly supported — still do –an audit of the DoD when I sat on the House Armed Services Committee. But still, it makes you wonder.
Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said, “Despite years of effort, the Army, Navy and Air Force still don’t have an efficient process for doing something as basic as sharing excess bullets. This Government Accountability Office (GAO) report clearly shows that our military’s antiquated systems lead to millions of dollars in wasteful ammunition purchases.” The Army and Pentagon, in a statement, acknowledged “the need to automate the process” and will make it a priority in future budgets. In all, the Pentagon manages a stockpile of conventional ammunition worth $70 billion.
Now, this last part is quite perplexing to me, having spent 22 years in the US Army as a combat artillery officer and being quite involved in ammunition management as a Brigade/Regimental operations officer, a Battalion Executive officer, and a Battalion Commander. We constantly received spreadsheets that were reconciled monthly for ammunition allocation and use. In the Army we have Division and Corps level Ammunition Officers whose sole mission is ammunition management, which is forecasted out and allocated yearly.
Excess ammunition? We were begging for excess ammunition for training purposes. And I recall on several occasions when I was an Army exchange officer with the II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune working out some issues on ammunition transfer and training between XVIIIth Airborne Corps, Ft. Bragg. So what is this baloney?
Folks, this is why we need more men and women serving on Capitol Hill who have served in uniform and can raise the Bovine Excrement flag. It would also behoove these Members of the House and Senate who are on Armed Services committees to have staffers who are veterans and can provide proper insight and perspective.
However, more importantly, we need former servicemen and women in civilian leadership with oversight of the military who understand the tactical level processes and procedures so that at the higher strategic level, this type of foolishness does not occur. Instead, we have political nepotism and cronyism, as too many are positioned due to their campaign contributions or agenda allegiance, not because of their military experience or expertise.
USA Today says the GAO report illustrates the obsolete nature of the Pentagon’s inventory systems for ammunition. A request for ammunition from the Marine Corps, for example, is e-mailed to the Army. The e-mail is printed out and manually retyped into the Army system because the services cannot share data directly. Not only is this time consuming, but it can introduce errors — by an incorrect keystroke, for example.
Waste, buying new ammunition while usable stockpiles exist, can occur “because the Army does not report information on all available and usable items,” the report states. The annual conference among the services — although it saves about $70 million per year, according to the Pentagon — is inadequate. The services, in fiscal year 2012, exchanged 44 million items, including 32 million bullets for machine guns and pistols. Specifically, the Army’s report does not include information from prior years about usable ammunition that was unclaimed by another service and stored for potential foreign military sales or slated for potential disposal,” the report says.
All of which begs the simple question: who is in charge? Who is tracking ammunition production, allocation, usage, and redistribution? This is why a serious audit system is necessary. If a monthly reconciliation is done at the unit/installation level, there should at least be a quarterly reconciliation at higher levels. If that is being done, then we should have fail-safe systems as well as procedures and methods upgraded to ensure effective and efficient management.
This is unacceptable and I bet you could sell the excess usable 9 mm ammunition at a reduced price to civilian outlets — and make money for the DoD. But then that would mean you’re arming civilians…
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on AllenBWest.com.