Allen B. West

Who’s minding the store? $420 million in weaponry goes missing in Afghanistan

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As a young artillery battery commander, I had to conduct what was called a “change of command inventory.” Every single piece of equipment and property had to be accounted for and signed by the incoming commander. Supply accountability was one of my premier responsibilities. There was a system of monthly 10 percent inventories over the course of a year as a means to maintain property accountability.

We also conducted monthly maintenance and expenditure reconciliations in order to ensure our unit budget was balancing. One of the tricks of the trade was to ensure that the 10 percent inventories were scheduled on the unit training schedule with corresponding equipment line numbers that were to be laid out — because savvy section chiefs who were short on something would shift stuff around. You always wanted all like items in the entire unit laid out at the same time.

Some commanders took out “Supply Inventory Insurance” to cover their exit inventory — not me, figured I would just listen to my supply sergeant and do what was right. I remember one fellow company commander — who during his incoming inventory didn’t count tools by specific measurements — ended up with a nearly $20,000 bill for lost equipment at the end of his command tour. The incoming fella was not as lax as he’d been – and the outgoing captain’s wife didn’t take the news very well!

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So needless to say, I find this recent development out of Afghanistan rather disturbing. As reported by the Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo, “Nearly $420 million in weapons and other “sensitive items” have gone missing from U.S. Army bases in Afghanistan and are not likely to be recovered due to mismanagement and improper accounting, according to an internal report by the Pentagon’s inspector general obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.”

“Some 15,600 pieces of equipment—including “weapons, weapons systems, and sensitive items”—went missing in the past year from Army facilities in Bagram and Kandahar, accounting for around $419.5 million in losses, according to the report, which was issued in late October and marked “for official use only.” The extent of these losses was only discovered following an internal audit by the Pentagon’s inspector general, who recommended that military leaders institute a series of reforms aimed at increasing transparency and strengthening mechanisms meant to detect such losses.”

Now back in the day of the old Army, somebody would be losing his or her job and would forfeit pay for a real long time. This, ladies and gents, is an egregious mismanagement of U.S. military property and a blatant disregard of the responsibility of being good stewards of the American taxpayer dollar.

When I was in Congress on the House Armed Services Committee, I was fully supportive of auditing the Department of Defense — that is just common sense, as well as good policy. “Improper accounting” is not an excuse for something of this magnitude and these items must be traced, and if possible recovered, but certainly accounted for. The last thing we need is more U.S. weapons and especially sensitive items — such as I presume night vision devices — falling into the hands of the enemy. We’ve already seen this in Libya, Syria, and Iraq. SecDef Hagel, we indeed have a problem.

“The Army did not effectively report [fiscal year] 2013 inventory losses at the Bagram and Kandahar, Afghanistan [Redistribution Property Assistance Team] yards,” the report states. “The missing equipment included weapons, weapons systems, and sensitive items. Even after the 401st Army Field Support Brigade (AFSB) detected these losses, it “did not always correctly calculate and report the total loss to the U.S. government,” according to the report, which shines a light on mismanagement issues that continue to plague U.S. operations in Afghanistan. In some cases, “AFSB officials did not consider the inventory lost,” leading to items being improperly cataloged.”

The Beacon says, “Evidence of the $419.5 million in losses comes just a year after the Army reported “accumulated losses” of $586.8 million, the report states. Army officials also were found to have waited longer than mandated to report these losses. While Army policy stipulates that losses be officially reported within 75 days, reports reviewed by the inspector general were completed an average of “318 days from the date the inventory was determined to be lost,” according to the report.”

If that’s the case, we’re talking about willful negligence of a massive order and violation of standard policy. The ramifications of this are far reaching and we have a unit, the 401st AFSB, which must undergo an intense investigation (far more important than an investigation to appease radical atheist Mikey Weinstein).

Worse, this is an incredible embarrassment to the United States Army. If we have a system of command inventories at the company level, then why in a combat zone are we not adhering to the basic standards of property accountability, especially of weapons?

Kredo writes, “while AFSB officials maintain that “the majority” of the missing equipment will eventually be found as the U.S. military leaves Afghanistan, statistics compiled by the inspector general show that this has not historically been the case.


Back in the day a commander would be relieved of duty because of this type of negligence — it was a monthly reportable item as to whether or not commanders did their 10 percent inventories. During my outgoing command exit report in March 1990 to my First Infantry Division Artillery Commander, I had to brief Colonel Roberts on the results of the change of command inventory. There was an expenditure for a $7.85 pneumatic hose for a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) that was unaccounted for. Col. Roberts raked me over the coals for not being able to account for that one Class IX repair part. I will never forget it, and reached into my back pocket to pull out my checkbook. He smiled and told me he’d never seen such a thorough system of accountability.

However, I’ve not seen a more disgusting lack of property accountability than this and clearly we have a systemic problem that has gotten increasingly worse over the years. I would hate to see the data for 2010 to present. This is a major national security issue from a fiscal responsibility standpoint point as well as a force protection issue — we need to hold someone accountable.

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