Defense Ammunition:

Significant Problems Left Unattended Will Get Worse

NSIAD-96-129: Published: Jun 21, 1996. Publicly Released: Jun 21, 1996.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of the Department of Defense's (DOD) ammunition stockpile, focusing on: (1) the amount of excess ammunition in the stockpile; and (2) problems related to the stockpile's management.

GAO found that: (1) of the $80 billion in usable and unusable ammunition as of September 1994, about $31 billion was excess ammunition and about $22 billion was ammunition that was still usable; (2) the excess in usable ammunition is primarily due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and reduced U.S. military requirements; (3) while shortages of some specific ammunition types exist, the services generally have inventories that exceed their wartime and peacetime requirements; (4) in 1993 and 1994, the services spent about $125 million for ammunition that exceeded their fiscal year 1995 requirements; (5) the services have stored and continue to manage significant amounts of ammunition for weapons that are no longer in the active inventory; (6) increases in the ammunition stockpile and decreases in budget, workforce, and storage space could degrade the forces' readiness to meet wartime and peacetime needs; (7) DOD has not been able to conduct adequate ammunition testing and inspections to ensure the stockpile's usability and readiness; (8) DOD does not know the extent of excess ammunition stored at the services facilities; and (9) the ammunition stockpile will continue to grow until the services are given incentives to relinquish ownership of the ammunition and the single manager is provided with the funding and information necessary to expedite ammunition disposal.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress has not initiated action on this recommendation.

    Matter: To impress upon the services the need to address the problem of excess ammunition, Congress may wish to consider requiring the Secretary of Defense to report annually the amount of ammunition on hand and the amount that exceeds established requirements. This report could also cite progress made in addressing specific ammunition stockpile management problems, including identifying ammunition in excess of established requirements, cross-sharing of ammunition in excess of established requirements among services that have shortages, inspecting and testing ammunition, and disposing of excess ammunition when it no longer makes sense to retain it. With this information, Congress could make more informed annual budget decisions related to the ammunition stockpile.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Assistant Deputy Under Secretary (Material and Distribution Management) stated on August 21, 1996 that the DOD positions on the report issues remain unchanged in that DOD did not concur with this recommendation. DOD stated that it was aware of the problems addressed in the report. DOD indicated that it has established an Ammunition Management Integrated Process Team to review the cross-leveling procedures and to recommend improvements. Additionally, DOD created a new budget exhibit that will provide the necessary inventory management information so that it can transfer excess assets between military departments.

    Recommendation: To facilitate implementation of the single manager's plan for storing, maintaining, and disposing of ammunition, the Secretary of Defense should develop incentives to encourage the military services to categorize their ammunition as required or as excess to stated requirements, to update this information annually, and to relinquish control of their excess ammunition to the Army single manager for distribution to other services that have shortages of ammunition or for disposal when it no longer makes sense to retain it.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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