Defense Inventory:

Action Needed to Avoid Inappropriate Sales of Surplus Parts

NSIAD-98-182: Published: Aug 3, 1998. Publicly Released: Aug 3, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) disposal process for surplus parts with both military technology and flight safety risks, focusing on DOD's efforts to: (1) identify and destroy parts with military technology; and (2) implement a flight safety program to prevent aircraft parts with potential flight safety risks from being sold through the disposal process.

GAO noted that: (1) while DOD recognizes the dangers associated with selling surplus parts with military technology to the public and has taken certain actions to address the problem, DOD's disposal offices have inadvertently sold surplus parts with military technology intact; (2) these sales occurred for three reasons; (3) the military services assigned the wrong demilitarization codes to the parts; (4) because guidance was inadequate, codes assigned to parts with military technology incorrectly indicated that the parts did not contain the technology; (5) DOD has been considering ways to address this situation but has not yet reached a final decision; (6) an initiative intended to correct inaccurately assigned demilitarization codes did not ensure that data systems were updated with the corrected codes; (7) as a result, disposal offices continued to sell parts with military technology intact after the codes for the parts were determined to be inaccurately assigned; (8) personnel responsible for correcting the inaccurately assigned codes did not always update their data systems with the corrected codes; (9) the methods that the disposal offices used to demilitarize some parts did not adequately destroy the military technology contained in the parts; (10) guidance to disposal offices on how to destroy the military technology inherent in some items was not adequate; (11) DOD and its components have not aggressively pursued implementation of initiatives to prevent the sale of potentially dangerous flight safety critical aircraft parts through the disposal system; (12) DOD and the components have not set timelines for implementing the flight safety program; (13) also, none of the components have fully implemented all of the program initiatives, but some have made greater progress than others; (14) for example, at the time GAO's fieldwork was completed, the Army had identified over 4,500 aircraft parts with flight safety implications, whereas the Navy had not identified any aircraft parts with these implications; and (15) DOD plans to increase its interaction and involvement in the program, but the military services and the Defense Logistics Agency continue to have problems accomplishing flight safety program initiatives.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Defense Science Board's final report on the demilitarization program was released in September 1999. It contains recommendations to improve the accuracy of assigned codes. An action plan addressing improvements needed in the demilitarization program is being developed. Input has been requested from the DOD components. All actions are to be completed in fiscal year 2003.

    Recommendation: To prevent the sale of parts with military technology and flight safety implications, the Secretary of Defense should develop an action plan with specific milestones for addressing the problem of inaccurately assigned demilitarization codes. In developing the plan, consider: (1) the recommendations of the DOD Inspector General and the Defense Science Board; (2) GAO's previous recommendation to provide guidance on selecting appropriate codes; and (3) procedures to ensure that items listed in different data systems have the same demilitarization code in each system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy has been assigned responsibility for developing an imaging system that will provide detailed instructions on how to destroy the military technology inherent in items, including the incorporation of before and after photographs. DOD stated that it is developing an action plan that will incorporate milestones for completing the imaging system.

    Recommendation: To prevent the sale of parts with military technology and flight safety implications, the Secretary of Defense should establish milestones for completing the imaging system that will provide guidance on how to destroy the military technology inherent in items.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: An implementation plan, dated October 31, 1998, established milestones for implementing the flight safety program. DOD has increased its emphasis on identifying surplus parts with safety implications and making data system changes necessary to implement the flight safety identifiers. As a result, 14,990 additional parts with flight safety implications have been identified for inclusion in the program.

    Recommendation: To prevent the sale of parts with military technology and flight safety implications, the Secretary of Defense should establish milestones for fully implementing the Flight Safety Critical Aircraft Parts Program initiatives and institute requirements for the Secretaries of the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy and the Director of the Defense Logistics Agency to periodically report on the progress being made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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