Defense Inventory:

Most Excess Property in Panama Was Disposed of Properly, but Some Control Weaknesses Existed

GAO-01-32: Published: Nov 9, 2000. Publicly Released: Nov 9, 2000.

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The Panama Canal Treaty called for the United States to transfer control over the Panama Canal to Panama and withdraw U.S. military forces and equipment from Panama. The treaty allowed the U.S. government to remove or dispose of all equipment and supplies acquired by U.S. forces. U.S. plans for withdrawal from Panama required excess property to be processed using disposal procedures that gave the military services and the federal agencies the first opportunity to receive the property. During 1998 and 1999, the Department of Defense's (DOD) Panama disposal office processed excess property valued at $136.7 million. Of this amount, $691,000 worth of property (less than one percent) was unaccounted for during this period. Disposal office records show that the property was written off as lost. DOD recognizes the need to properly manage and account for its assets and is working on a long-term strategy to provide in-transit control and visibility over excess property through information technology. DOD also has developed a new lesson segment for training its personnel on control procedures, but it has not taken adequate steps to ensure that the appropriate field personnel have received the training.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD implemented GAO's recommendation as written.

    Recommendation: To improve accountability for excess property, the Secretary of Defense should direct the military services and DOD activities to resolve identified weaknesses in accountability over property being shipped to disposal by establishing a program to ensure that supply personnel are sufficiently trained on property disposal control procedures, including in-transit tracking and follow-up. The program should include appropriate performance measures, milestones, and timetables to help monitor the progress being made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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