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Fri, Aug 03, 2007

GAO Report Finds Some F-14 Parts Made It Through Pentagon Sales Ban

Approximately 1,400 Items Slipped Through; Most Reportedly Recovered

We're really trying to act surprised. After a much-publicized ban earlier this year on the sale of over 1,000 aircraft parts that could be used on decommissioned F-14 Tomcat fighter jets, now comes word that, whoops, some parts still managed to squeak through after all.

In a report released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office revealed the Defense Department allowed some 1,400 parts that could be used in the Tomcats -- still in service in Iran -- to be sold in February. But security has gotten better, the GAO adds.

The Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service told GAO investigators the parts made it through the ban because the Pentagon's surplus sales division failed to update its automated inventory system, which in turn allowed some parts to be listed on the DRMS internet site.

It's not clear whether any of those parts made it to Iran, which is trying to keep its fleet of Tomcats flying. Given that country's openly-hostile relationship with the US, that's something the Pentagon would prefer to thwart.

Greg Kutz, managing director of special investigations for the GAO, told The Washington Post the Pentagon has made positive strides in stemming the flow of surplus parts to hostile countries.

"Overall I think it's a positive report, but there are still things that got out," Kutz said.

On the other hand, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden -- who has pushed for a ban on the sale of all F-14 parts -- says the report shows why such a ban is needed, and quick.

"The Pentagon's system is still riddled with holes," the Democrat said. "These are the very parts that they said they wouldn't be selling and they still are and so you've got to make sure the changes are going to actually have teeth and work."

As ANN reported, the Defense Department announced in January it was suspending the sale of all F-14 parts while the Pentagon reviewed its own security measures for keeping those items out of enemy hands. The ban in essence grounded all F-14s still flying, and relegated those aircraft still remaining to static museum displays.

DRMS officials told the GAO between August 2005 and this past May, some 2.4 million surplus items were removed from public sale. A surplus parts dealer trade group has accused the Pentagon of overreacting, by banning items unrelated to the F-14, according to the Post.

The DoD says the group's allegations are untrue... but Wyden says, in essence, that's what you'd expect them to say.

"I think our legislation speaks to some of their philosophy that the Pentagon has bumbled to the point where they can't make the distinction" between sensitive and innocuous surplus items, Wyden said.

Jack Hooper, spokesman for DRMS told Voice of America news the items sold weren't specifically designed for the F-14, and did not involve sensitive systems such as weaponry, flight controls or wing parts. He added most of the items have been recovered.

FMI: www.dod.mil, www.drms.dla.mil/

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