Army Needs To Improve Its Management and Inventory Control of Small Arms

LCD-80-41: Published: Mar 24, 1980. Publicly Released: Apr 16, 1980.

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Because of their cost, vital role in defense missions, and sensitivity to theft, military small arms require careful management and control. In response to a congressional request, GAO investigated certain aspects of Department of Defense (DOD) procurement, management, and disposition of small arms including the M2 machine gun. The M2 machine gun has been used by all U.S. military components since the end of World War I. The Army, which owns more than 75 percent of all M2 guns in DOD inventories, is designated the single procuring agent for all of DOD. Further, the Army is responsible for maintaining a central registry of the serial numbers of all DOD small arms.

The Army has not established or maintained accurate inventory information needed to effectively manage its M2 machine gun program. Army inventory control systems do not provide reliable information on either the quantity or the condition of M2 assets. The Army does not have adequate procedures for obtaining information on the status of other services' inventories. Deficiencies in the DOD program for keeping serial number control of M2 machine guns and other small arms have prevented the achievement of expected asset visibility and physical controls over small arms inventories. These inventory control problems were not new to the Army or DOD. For many years, Army stocks of M2 machine guns far exceeded estimated requirements, so they were sold or given to foreign countries or disassembled for needed repair parts. The resulting depletion and a rapid increase in M2 requirements have caused a shortage of the weapons. GAO found that the Army was contemplating additional disassembly of almost 2,000 guns to obtain repair parts. In view of the current shortage, GAO believed that further disassembly was not justified.

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