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Senator Kerry Seeks Probe Of US Military Surplus Sales January 18, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Military News, Politics, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry requested on Thursday a Senate investigation into security weaknesses in the Defense Department’s surplus sales that have let buyers for nations including Iran and China buy aircraft parts and other military gear.

Kerry asked for a Senate Foreign Relations Committee probe after The Associated Press reported that in several instances, middlemen for the countries have exploited security flaws to acquire sensitive military surplus.

The surplus sales include parts for F-14 “Tomcat” fighter jets, a plane retired last year by the U.S. and now flown only by Iran. The Middle East nation bought the jets in the 1970s before the U.S. government banned most exports, including defense-related sales, to the country.

“There is no way that Iran should be getting these sensitive military parts, especially with the situation in the Mideast so turbulent,” Kerry said. “I will ask the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to review these transactions and will definitely explore options, including legislation, to prevent this from happening again.”

Federal investigators say that gear bought from Pentagon surplus got to Iran in at least one instance. A Pakistani arms broker bought Chinook helicopter engine parts for Iran from a U.S. company that had bought them in a Pentagon surplus sale, and those parts made it to Iran, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sensitive surplus items are supposed to be rendered useless for military purposes or be sold only to buyers who promise to obey U.S. arms embargoes and other laws.

Defense Department official Fred Baillie said the Pentagon did nothing wrong in selling the surplus and that it wasn’t the agency’s fault the items wound up in the wrong hands.

The Pentagon has been working to tighten surplus sale security following a scathing report by the Government Accountability Office last year that identified numerous weaknesses. Measures include working harder to identify surplus properly before it is marked safe to sell; if doubt lingers about what an item is, it is destroyed, whereas before it might have been sold, said Baillie, the Defense Logistics Agency’s executive director of distribution.

Customs and GAO officials continue to worry about security problems with the program, however, and are now seeking assurances the Pentagon won’t sell surplus parts from the recently retired F-14 fleet.

Thousands of the components already are slated for market. Baillie said that over half the roughly 76,000 parts for F-14s are general nuts-and-bolts hardware that the Pentagon surplus program can sell to the public without restriction.

About 10,000 are Tomcat-specific and will be destroyed, he said. The rest, about 23,000 parts, are valuable for both military and commercial use and are being reviewed to see whether Pentagon surplus can sell them without jeopardizing national security, Baillie said.

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