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House duo aims at Pentagon's ammunition accounting

May. 23, 2014 - 07:24AM   |  
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The Pentagon would be required to modernize its accounting system for ammunition under an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that passed the House on Thursday.

The amendment, co-sponsored by Democrats Jackie Speier of California and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, would require an authoritative source of data on the Pentagon's $70 billion stockpile of conventional ammunition as recommended by the Government Accountability Office.

USA TODAY reported last month that the Pentagon's inventory system can't share data, making it impossible to know if there were usable bullets amid the $1 billion worth of ammunition it had declared obsolete and planned to destroy. Speier's office learned about the problems with the inventory from the story.

"The possibility that $1 billion worth of good ammunition might be destroyed even when those bullets and missiles can be used to protect our troops sounds like a colossal waste and another taxpayer rip-off," Speier said in a statement.

The act sets the budget for the Department of Defense. The Army, the military's lead agency for handling ammunition, and the Pentagon agree that they need to automate their ammunition accounting system and say it will become a priority.

The GAO, in its report on the problem, underscored the outdated nature of the inventory system. If, for example, the Marines request ammunition from the Army it must do so by email, which must be printed out and retyped into the Army's system. The process wastes time and can introduce errors into the system.

The Pentagon may also be purchasing new ammunition while viable stockpiles exist, "because the Army does not report information on all available and usable items," the report states. The annual conference among the services -- although it saves about $70 million per year, according to the Pentagon -- is inadequate. The services, in fiscal year 2012, exchanged 44 million items, including 32 million bullets for machine guns and pistols.

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