By Tanya N. Ballard | Government Executive Magazine
Poor inventory management at the Defense Department has resulted in three agencies getting millions of dollars worth of military property that they aren’t supposed to have, according to a new General Accounting Office study.
The Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service, which has 97 locations around the world, is responsible for excess Defense Department property. The agency redistributes discarded property on a first-come, first-served basis for re-use among federal agencies. A handful of other programs, including the Defense Humanitarian Assistance Program, Military Affiliate Radio System, National Guard units, Civil Air Patrol, Senior Reserve Officer Training Corps units and the 12th Congressional Regional Equipment Center can also qualify to receive certain types of excess military property.
“Only a few of the agencies and programs are qualified to receive items with a significant military technology or application. These items include such things as tanks, aircraft and night-vision goggles, and hazardous materials, such as motor oil, paint and freon from air conditioners. Lax oversight could allow those items that pose a risk to public health to be obtained, used, stored and disposed of improperly,” GAO said.
According to GAO’s report “Defense Inventory: Control Weaknesses Leave Restricted and Hazardous Excess Property Vulnerable to Improper Use, Loss, and Theft,” ( GAO-02-75) from 1995 to 2000 the Military Affiliate Radio System, Civil Air Patrol and 12th Congressional Regional Equipment Center got items worth millions of dollars that they weren’t qualified to get.
The Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service doesn’t require its facilities to verify which items the three programs are eligible to receive and program officials do not always follow guidelines when approving property requests, the report found.
GAO’s report only examined property received by these three programs because the programs had readily available information about their incoming excess property.
“A significant portion of the ineligible supplies were restricted or hazardous items and the special program officials did not always know the restriction or hazardous nature of these items,” the report found.
GAO also found that the Civil Air Patrol could not account for almost all of the excess property supplies it had received from the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service.
“This lack of accountability increases the property’s vulnerability to misuse, loss and theft,” the report said.
To remedy the problem, GAO recommended that the Defense Logistics Agency, which runs the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service, redesign its inventory database to help agencies identify restricted supplies. The agency should also take steps to ensure that officials know the proper tracking and handling rules for these items. Program officers should also verify that agencies are eligible to receive restricted supplies before approving them, and Defense should develop an automated process that rejects requests for items agencies aren’t eligible to receive, GAO said.
The Defense Department generally agreed with GAO’s findings.