Defense Inventory:

Inadequate Compliance With Controls for Excess Firearms and Other Sensitive Items

NSIAD-00-27: Published: Nov 29, 1999. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) procedures for the disposal and destruction of excess firearms, items with national security implications, and pharmaceuticals.

GAO noted that: (1) internal control procedures designed to protect firearms, items with national security implications, and pharmaceuticals were not always followed at three of the seven defense components GAO visited; (2) instead of being separated, key duties in the areas of transport, destruction, and record keeping were done by the same person; (3) required certificiations that sensitive excess items were actually destroyed were missing; (4) also, serial numbers were not always recorded on shipping documents as required: (5) although GAO was able to account for the items in 104 of 107 transactions reviewed, GAO was unable to trace the actual disposition of the items in 3 transactions; (6) while the number of these items potentially lost or stolen is small relative to the total defense inventory, it is still of concern because they could be misused if they get in the wrong hands; (7) DOD believed that the items involved in the three transactions had been destroyed, but it could not be certain since no documentation existed that would support its position; (8) when firearms, items with national security implications, and pharmaceuticals become excess and are no longer needed, DOD procedures require the component to destroy them and remove the items from inventory records by coding the transactions as "inventory decreases associated with destruction of the item;" (9) however, defense components have been removing these items from inventory records by recording these transactions as "items being shipped to a disposal office;" (10) none of the items, however, were actually shipped to a disposal office; and (11) these transactions were incorrectly recorded because of mistakes and unsupported inventory adjustments that occurred because of inadequate management oversight and training and computer systems programming errors.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In November 1999, GAO reported that excess firearms and other sensitive items were not properly controlled because military service and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) personnel did not always follow DOD's procedures for safeguarding the items during the disposal process. GAO recommended that DOD direct the services and DLA to follow its procedures. DOD concurred with the recommendation and, on February 29, 2000, issued a memorandum directing the services and DLA to make every effort to comply with the recommendation and follow pertinent regulations. As a result, controls for excess firearms and other sensitive items were emphasized, providing improved compliance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy and the Director, Defense Logistics Agency, to follow Department procedures for safeguarding excess firearms, items protected for national security reasons, and pharmaceuticals and require periodic reviews to ensure that the procedures are followed so that key duties in the areas of transport, destruction, and record keeping are separated, required destruction certifications are prepared, and serial numbers are recorded on shipping documents.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: We recommended that DOD take action to address data accuracy problems contained in the In-transit Accountability System reports. In response, DOD established a task force under the Logistics Commander's Material Management Group. The group confirmed the findings and created transaction edits to prevent such erroneous transactions from being passed to the In-transit Accountability System.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should improve the reporting accuracy of the Department's In-transit Accountability System by directing particular attention to training personnel and increased management oversight of inventory transaction procedures and to correcting computer system programming errors.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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