WASHINGTON — Government investigators have found serious, widespread problems in the military supply system, including the "frightening" loss of large quantities of explosives, rockets and grenades, according to a report issued Monday.
The General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress, concluded a five-month inquiry by sharply criticizing management of the system, which controls an inventory of $130 billion in munitions, equipment, supplies and spare parts.
The 66-page report cited record-keeping irregularities in the supply operations of all military services at home and abroad, resulting last year in $2 billion in "inventory adjustments" to account for materiel lost and some subsequently found.
"Most frightening" is the disappearance of ammunition and explosives, said Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), who released the report and announced that a Senate Armed Services Committee task force, which he heads, will open hearings on the problems on July 16.
Wilson told a news conference that investigators found indications that some of the missing munitions could have ended up with terrorists and criminal elements at home and abroad. "We cannot say at this time if it is true or not true," he added, but "it is distinctly possible . . . . The potential for terrorism is obvious."
The GAO said the Army inspector general has concluded that "the amount of ammunition and explosives lost by the Army each year cannot be determined" because "controls are inadequate to detect diversion."
The report offered few specifics on what happened to the missing munitions. But, citing statistics of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the agency said that military explosives were used in 445 bombings within the United States in the last 10 years.
The GAO added that a survey of nine civilian and military law enforcement agencies found that not one "is set up to identify and retrieve information to provide perspective on the magnitude of theft of military property."