Friday, June 15, 2007

Laxity at the Pentagon

With a current $439 billion budget second in size only to the Department of Health and Human Services ($697 billion), the Defense Department has long been notorious for waste, overspending and costly weapons systems that don't work.

Now Pentagon laxity in spending has been matched by laxity in raising income from surplus property.

Auditors discovered that surplus Pentagon materiel was winding up in the hands of foreign belligerents. In fact, Government Accountability Office investigators found parts for the F-14 Tomcat fighter had ended up in Iran, the only foreign country with F-14s. The U.S. Navy retired the F-14 last year.

Although the House has passed a bill, the "Stop Arming Iran Act," no law can prevent sloppy human decisions and paperwork, which is the cause of Pentagon laxity.

Admittedly, Iran's F-14s, bought in the 1970s, have not flown in years for lack of parts. However, the hostile Iranians can't be allowed to try restoring them to flying status. The swing-wing, supersonic Tomcat can still be a lethal weapon.

A larger question is why declare weaponry or parts as surplus if they can be used for belligerent purposes? It's worth remembering that U.S. forces in Iraq, armed with the world's most sophisticated weapons, have been stalemated by insurgents with little more than homemade roadside bombs, rocket grenade launchers and light infantry weapons.

Some military parts should be declared critical to national security and destroyed or left in storage for possible U.S. use. Revenue from surplus surely isn't that vital to a $439 billion budget.

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