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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Report Says US Military Equipment Gets to Iran, China

WASHINGTON (VOA): A US news agency reports that surplus American military equipment has made its way to Iran and China through unscrupulous dealers and a lack of security in a Defense Department program. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

In an exclusive report, the Associated Press says missile components and high-technology parts for fighter jets and helicopters have been among the material that has ended up in countries that are not supposed to receive such things.

The agency reports that the defense department sold fighter jet parts to a broker secretly working for Iran even after the U.S. Customs Service had intercepted that same equipment on its way to Iran from a previous sale to another broker. Those parts were for F-14 Tomcat fighters, and according to the AP story, Iran is the only country that still flies those jets.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Defense Logistics Agency, which handles U.S. military surplus sales for the Pentagon, said it does not sell any F-14 parts at all. No one from the agency would speak to VOA, but the written statement said it takes seriously what it calls its "primary mission ... to protect critical and sensitive information." In response to allegations in the article of lax security measures, the statement says the Agency "will continue to monitor" its "policies and procedures to ensure no excess military items fall into unauthorized hands."

The surplus military sales return tens of millions of dollars to the U.S. Treasury every year.

The secondary market for U.S. and other military components is huge, legal and public. Companies advertise on the Internet and in specialty publications. To prevent unauthorized re-sale of U.S. military equipment, the Defense Logistics Agency is careful about what it sells and who it sells to. But according to the Associated Press, inspectors from the U.S. Government Accountability Office managed to buy surplus military equipment from the Agency without providing proper identification. The Office has criticized the surplus sales program for poor security and inadequate inventory controls.

The AP reports the most prominent recent case involving China was in 2003, when a U.S. broker sold the country surplus U.S. missile guidance parts. The broker was fined $250,000 when Customs agents discovered the shipment before it left the United States.

Another American company was convicted of selling hundreds of containers of U.S. military technology items to China in the 1990s. Those sales stopped in 1999 after five years when Customs agents discovered a shipment of parts for guided missiles, bombs, underwater mines and long-range B-1 bombers.
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