Military Supply System Faces 2 Investigations
The chairmen of two congressional subcommittees said Wednesday that they have targeted the military supply system for full investigations following the disclosure of serious security and efficiency problems in the Pentagon’s massive logistical operation.
Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), who heads the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on manpower and personnel, said in an interview that he is asking the General Accounting Office, a nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, to conduct a top-to-bottom analysis of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine supply systems.
In a separate interview, Rep. Charles E. Bennett (D-Fla.) said that his House Armed Services sea power subcommittee will hear testimony next Thursday on whether changes are needed to correct weaknesses in the Navy’s supply system.
Their comments followed a series of articles in The Times describing penetration of the supply system by thieves and foreign agents as well as wide-scale instances of sloppy bookkeeping, inadequate controls and outmoded computers.
Problems Have Multiplied
The supply system problems have multiplied in the last five years as the U.S. stockpiles of weapons, equipment and spare parts grew dramatically under President Reagan’s plan to rebuild the nation’s armed forces.
In recent months, Pentagon officials have been jolted by disclosures that agents for Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini have tapped into the supply system to steal millions of dollars’ worth of spare parts.
Such disclosures, Wilson said, “raise serious questions about the security and efficiency of our defense inventory management.”
In the draft of a letter to Comptroller General Charles Bowsher, head of the GAO, Wilson said that his subcommittee plans hearings at an unspecified date “on the issue of potential security breaches stemming from theft.” Meanwhile, he asked for a GAO analysis “of the inventory management practices and cost effectiveness” of the services’ supply systems.
“Congress has done much over the past five years to emphasize and improve the readiness of our military forces,” Wilson said. “Effective spare parts inventory management is integral to achieving and sustaining improved readiness.”
Wilson asked that the GAO report be delivered to Congress before next year’s defense budget is submitted.
The House subcommittee’s hearings next week will seek to determine whether the problems “are systemic or whether they are just purely a criminal matter” involving theft, Bennett said. “If it is systemic, we will try to do whatever we can to change the system.”
Earlier this year, Bennett’s subcommittee was one of several congressional panels to investigate military procurement abuses, and he said he views the problems in the supply system as being equally important.
“You can lose a war because of either,” he said. “They can be equally bad.”
The House subcommittee’s hearings were requested by California Reps. Jim Bates (D-San Diego) and Duncan L. Hunter (R-San Diego) after accounting irregularities aboard the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk, berthed in San Diego, were disclosed. These irregularities may have aided the diversion to Iran of spare parts intended for the Kitty Hawk’s jet fighters.
Bates said his own inquiries indicate that “the Navy supply system is in shambles and that, as a result, our readiness--our national security--is less than adequate.”
In addition, he criticized the Naval Investigative Service’s handling of the Kitty Hawk inquiry, saying that the agency should “be eliminated or merged into the inspector general’s office at the Defense Department.”