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Don’t know where the Pentagon is storing billions of dollars’ worth of inventory–everything from ammunition to weapon systems to medical supplies? You’re not alone: Neither does the Pentagon.
Without knowing what material it already owns or where it is located, the Department of Defense is wasting billions each year buying redundant items. A full 58 percent of items "on-hand" –worth over $36 billion–are unnecessary, according to the General Accounting Office.
Several branches of the armed services lack proper inventory records, especially when material is transferred to a different location and soldiers lose track of it. Neither the Air Force nor the Army keeps adequate records of material moved or knows its value, according to recent audits. And as a result of the Navy’s failure to notify inventory managers of shipments, items worth billions have been declared "lost during shipment."
The GAO also recently accused the Defense Department of gross financial mismanagement. No major component of the department has ever passed an independent audit. According to GAO testimony (viewable at www.gao.gov/new.items/a400163t.pdf), this is due to "pervasive weaknesses in [the department’s] financial management systems, operations, and controls," weaknesses that in 1995 convinced the GAO to put the Pentagon on its high-risk list of areas "vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement." Five years later, it’s still there.
Ivory Tower Terror
By Jeff A. Taylor
Can America be kept safe from college students who switch majors? According to the National Commission on Terrorism, it’s a danger that needs to be addressed. Otherwise, foreign students could shift from such evidently innocuous fields as English literature to physics or chemistry, disciplines that, one gathers, might teach them to make bombs.
Congress set up the terrorism commission two years ago, after an Islamic faction bombed U.S. embassies in Africa. Interestingly, the terrorists responsible for those bombings don’t seem to have studied in the United States.
The panel, made up of private security experts and former government officials, also wants the Pentagon, as opposed to civilian agencies, to take the lead in responding to major terrorist attacks on American soil. Implicit in that change would be a move away from the law-and-order model the U.S. has applied to terrorists for decades, which holds that terrorists are not warriors but simple criminals. Either that, or the commission wants Congress to revisit the Posse Comitatus Act and allow the military to enforce domestic law.
The notion of advancing foreign and domestic policy by acquainting foreign students with police state surveillance also seems suspect. That approach merely teaches that freedom doesn’t work and that the ends justify the means.
By Jacob Sullum
Prosecutors in southern Texas went on strike in July, refusing to accept drug cases referred to them by federal authorities. But the lack of cooperation does not necessarily signal a lack of enthusiasm for the war on drugs.
Indeed, state Sen. David Sibley (R-Waco), who supports the strike, charges the feds with being too easy on drug smugglers. He told The Dallas Morning News that the Justice Department was only "paying lip service" to the idea of "zero tolerance" because it routinely declines to prosecute cases involving relatively small amounts of drugs, instead passing the ball to local authorities.
"For years, border counties, the poorest in the U.S., have borne the burden of border justice," another state senator told the News. "We can no longer bear this burden. The federal government must prosecute and pay for what it is charged to do."