Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has released a report detailing the remarkable incompetence of the Pentagon and the Department of Defense (DOD) in tracking U.S. weapons provided to Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). Approximately 43 percent of the $626 million in firearms the U.S. has provided to ANSF are ‘lost’ because the Pentagon failed to adequately inventory and track the weapons, which could potentially land in the black market and fall into hostile hands.
The Pentagon uses two main database systems to track weapons: the Security Information Portal (SCIP) and the Operational Verification of Reliable Logistics Oversight Database (OVERLORD). These two systems are designed to work in conjunction with the Afghan National Army’s tracking system, Core Inventory Management System (CoreIMS). Despite the rather imposing names of all three systems, it appears that “reliable,” “oversight” and “management” are in this case relative terms. Such incompetence brings to mind the weapons bungling of “Fast and Furious” only this time on a much grander scale involving not just drug cartels but perhaps terrorist organizations intent on inflicting gross harm to the U.S. and Western interests.
The SIGAR Report details the large-scale loss of weapons in Afghanistan noting that of the 474,823 serial numbers logged into OVERLORD, 203,888 of those weapons are not fully accounted for. A significant percentage of the serial numbers were duplicated several times, had duplicate shipping and receiving records or were completely absent in the shipping records. In addition, according to the Combined Security Transition Command in Afghanistan (CSTC-A) the information recorded by the CoreIMS systems used by the Afghan National Army is also incomplete and “cannot be relied upon for accurate information” specifically because the weapon information was not entered correctly into the system. By some accounts, the CoreIMS relies upon Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets and hand-written reports – a distinctly low-tech method of tracking which most certainly has contributed to the Pentagon’s mass loss of U.S. supplied weapons.
This is not the first time that the Pentagon and the DOD have failed to adequately track weapons provided to foreign countries – there is a pattern to the incompetence. According to a 2007 General Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Pentagon lost track of weapons that the U.S. forces distributed to Iraqi security forces. The report indicated that some 190,000 weapons were unaccounted for including approximately “110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 body armor items and 115,000 helmets.” There were similar inadequate tracking issues involved including unrecorded serial numbers with at least 14,000 weapons not even appearing on the DOD’s inventory list.
According to the SIGAR Report, the DOD does not have the “authority to recapture or remove weapons” that have already been provided to the Afghanistan National Security Forces. However, the report recommends determining if action could be taken to either “recover or destroy U.S. and coalition-provided weapons” that are determined to be in excess of Afghanistan’s needs, especially as the “ANSF force strength is reduced.” Because there is a lack of confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to adequately track or, if needed, dispose of weapons, SIGAR is concerned about the danger the mass loss of these weapons could pose to Afghan civilians and the ANSF if they fall into the hands of insurgents.
The pattern of incompetence by the Pentagon that has resulted in yet more weapons lost in potentially hostile environments has led SIGAR to recommend a full correction of data errors including a “100% inventory check of small arms” and an account of weapons “procured for and transferred to the ANSF.” Deputy Assistant Director of Defense for Afghanistan, Michael J. Dumont has responded that a move to “consolidate records” in the two U.S. tracking systems will allow the DOD to identify data errors and enable the Pentagon to better track weapons. However, this does not address the low-tech incompetence of the Afghan National Army’s tracking system, CoreIMS.
Opinion by Alana Marie Burke