In September, 1986, the U.S. Army Missile Command went looking for 24 shoulder-fired Stinger anti-aircraft missiles assigned to American forces in Europe. Each of the missiles requested was identified by individual serial number, and the Army was given a month to locate them. It took nearly one year, though, before all the missiles were found. Three months into that search, after only 15 missiles had been accounted for, Sens. John Glenn (D-Ohio) and Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) asked the General Accounting Office, Congress' investigative arm, to find out what was going on. What the GAO found was a story of frightening laxity.
GAO investigators visited eight Army battalions in West Germany. At four sites, Stingers were discovered in structures that came nowhere near meeting the Army's secure storage requirements, which call for missiles to be kept in underground bunkers with steel doors and locks. In the most flagrant example of inattention to safety and security, the missiles were found housed in lightweight metal sheds that had the word "Stinger" plainly stenciled on the side. Anti-tank and other missiles were found stored in similarly unacceptable conditions. The GAO saw large holes in fences at storage sites, gates that could be lifted off their hinges, broken locks. At one guard post a GAO investigator found no guard, only a note that said "Back in five minutes."