Further Improvements Needed in U.S. Efforts to Counter Threats from Man-Portable Air Defense Systems

GAO-04-519: Published: May 13, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 3, 2004.

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Joseph A. Christoff
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The proliferation of man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) has been of growing concern to the United States and other governments. The United States is pursuing a wide variety of activities internationally and domestically to address this threat. GAO was asked to assess efforts by (1) the State Department to control global proliferation of MANPADS, (2) the Department of Defense (DOD) to monitor end-use of U.S.-exported Stingers, and (3) the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to develop technical countermeasures to minimize the threat of a MANPADS attack.

In 2003, the State Department made important progress in its efforts to control the global proliferation of MANPADS. Thirty-two foreign governments made multilateral commitments to better control MANPADS and prevent their acquisition by terrorists. However, the State Department's ability to assess further progress in MANPADS nonproliferation is limited because the multilateral forums have no mechanisms to monitor members' implementation of commitments. In addition, the State Department obtained foreign government commitments to destroy or better secure MANPADS. DOD is required annually to inventory every Stinger missile system sold overseas. However, DOD's inventory inspection process has flaws. First, DOD records on the number and destination of Stingers sold overseas are incomplete, unreliable, and largely in hard-copy form. Because DOD has not required DOD agencies responsible for end-use monitoring to retain these records, it does not know how many Stingers have been sold overseas. Second, DOD officials overseas use inconsistent practices when inspecting Stinger inventories because DOD lacks procedures for conducting these inspections. To develop technical countermeasures to minimize the MANPADS threat to aircraft, the DHS initiated a 2-year program to adapt military aircraft defense systems to commercial aircraft. However, DHS faces significant challenges such as establishing system requirements and setting reliable cost estimates. The department adopted GAO's January 2004 recommendations to implement a knowledge-based approach to this development program. For example, DHS plans to use GAO-recommended criteria that ensure product knowledge is attained at key points in system development.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to the above recommendations, the State Department has developed and implemented a strategic plan to monitor participating governments' implementation of their MANPADS national export control policy. The Department has identified key regions where MANPADS has proliferated either from government-to-government transfers, or through black and gray markets. State said that the U.S. was closely involved in the 2003 Wassenaar Arrangement negotiations to strengthen the MANPADS Export Control Guidelines and supported the subsequent adoption of these same guidelines by the Organization for Security Countries in Europe (OSCE) in 2004.

    Recommendation: Since multilateral forums lack mechanisms to monitor countries' implementation of their commitments to improve export controls over MANPADS, there are few means to assess the extent to which these commitments are helping to reduce worldwide MANPADS proliferation. Therefore, the Secretary of State should develop a strategy for working within these forums to establish mechanisms to monitor and report on (1) countries' implementation of their commitments and (2) the impact such implementation of commitments has on the flow of MANPADS to black and gray markets.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In November 2004, Defense stated that the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) would amend the Security Assistance Management Manual to specifically identify a recordkeeping standard for end-use monitoring. However, in December 2004, DSCA reported that, upon review, the Manual and other documents provide sufficient detail on recording requirements. Therefore, Defense would take no further action.

    Recommendation: Inadequate recordkeeping prevents DOD from knowing the disposition of its Stinger missile systems sold overseas. Therefore, the Secretary of Defense should establish standardized recordkeeping requirements for all U.S. organizations responsible for maintaining records on Stinger systems sold overseas.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD reported that it established a database in 2005 and added data on items, including MANPADS, requiring enhanced end use monitoring for 44 countries. It also reported establishing automated training and written guidance for maintaining records and conducting enhanced end use monitoring.

    Recommendation: DOD's records on its Stinger missile system sales overseas are incomplete, unreliable, and difficult to find and retrieve. In addition, its records are divided among multiple organizations worldwide, and the quality and extent of the records varied widely among three security assistance organizations we visited. Therefore, the Secretary of Defense should establish a centralized electronic database to (1) consolidate the records of the U.S. Army, DSCA, and U.S. security assistance organizations in countries with Stinger missile systems to establish a baseline of the worldwide Stinger inventory and (2) track the inventory worldwide.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD reported that a Stinger Missile and Gripstock Inventory Standardized Procedures Checklist was signed in March 2005. Also, the checklist was published in the Security Assistance Management Manual as Policy Memorandum 05-10.

    Recommendation: Because DOD lacks Stinger inspection procedures, DOD officials overseas use inconsistent practices to perform Stinger inspections. Therefore, the Secretary of Defense should direct DSCA to issue standardized inventory and physical security inspection procedures for U.S. security assistance organization officials.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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