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Missing Stinger Missiles Are Just a Math Problem, Pentagon Says

October 26, 1994| From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Army can't account for 40 Stinger missiles, one of three types that are vulnerable to theft because of lax security and record-keeping, a congressional report said Tuesday.

The Pentagon insists that none are missing and says the problem is all in the bookkeeping.

Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), who released the General Accounting Office report, says it raises questions about U.S. ability to keep sophisticated weapons out of the hands of terrorists.

GAO auditors visited arsenals, looked at inventory, checked paperwork and concluded that 40 of the 6,373 Stingers shipped to the Persian Gulf in 1991 "were not returned to the depot, other Army locations or the other services."

The report also included anecdotes about lax security that might have let missiles fall into the wrong hands had a terrorist been in the right place at the right time. Some missiles were transported around the Gulf region on unguarded trucks driven by foreigners, the report said.

To help quickly move troops home after the war, units were allowed to turn in equipment, ammunition and weapons without documentation. And enemy weapons and other unauthorized weapons were deposited in so-called amnesty boxes.

Among the items found in those boxes: Stinger missiles. And an undisclosed number of Stingers were found unguarded on the side of the road, the report said.

The Defense Department responded that "there have been no confirmed thefts or unexplained losses of Category I missiles." And it said it is trying to fix its bad bookkeeping. "A 100% worldwide inventory of the assets by serial number will be accomplished by December, 1994," promised James Klugh, Defense Department deputy undersecretary for logistics.

Stingers and Redeyes are accurate enough and strong enough to knock a plane out of the sky, yet small enough to be fired from the shoulder of a single soldier; and Dragons are designed to pierce the armor of a tank.

GAO auditors counted 36,216 Stingers in U.S. depots worldwide; military records said there should have been 28,484. GAO counted 40,359 Dragons; records showed 50,103. Auditors inventoried 7,983 Redeyes, 5,230 more than the records said were there.

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