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.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should issue specific guidance on the economic retention levels for principal items in DOD inventories similar to those procedures now followed for secondary items. Also, he should direct the Secretary of the Army to: (1) require that the light barrel M2 machine guns in storage at Anniston Army Depot be converted to meet current Army M2 machine gun requirements rather than disassembled for repair parts; (2) ensure that discrepencies between physical inventories and inventory records for M2 machine guns and other small arms are investigated, and accurate inventory balances are established and maintained in the Continuing Balance System; (3) improve the Army's implementation and maintenance of the DOD Small Arms Serialization Program by ensuring that all serial numbered small arms are registered and that the Small Arms Registry is maintained in an accurate and timely manner; and (4) establish improved procedures for obtaining information on the status of inventories of other DOD components prior to procurements by ensuring that the communications regarding asset availability spell out both the quantities of assets onhand and the quantities required by each component queried, and requiring that item managers ascertain asset availability of each DOD component immediately prior to each procurement date.

    Agency Affected:


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