ALL NEWS

New reforms target US military’s missing weapons problem

Dec 21, 2021, 11:58 AM
missing weapons US military...
FILE - In this July 13, 2017, image provided by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command on Feb. 9, 2021, a storage container of explosive ordnance shows signs of theft after arriving at the Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pa. An ammunition canister containing 32 rounds of 40mm M430A1 grenades, property of the U.S. Marine Corps, was missing. (U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command via AP, File)
(U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command via AP, File)

The Department of Defense is overhauling how it keeps track of its guns and explosives, and Congress is requiring more accountability from the Pentagon — responses to an Associated Press investigation that showed lost or stolen military weapons were reaching America’s streets.

The missing weaponry includes assault rifles, machine guns, handguns, armor-piercing grenades, artillery shells, mortars, grenade launchers and plastic explosives.

The Pentagon will now have to give lawmakers an annual report on weapons loss and security under the National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress approved this month and President Joe Biden is expected to sign. As AP’s AWOL Weapons investigation showed, military officials weren’t advising Congress even as guns and explosives continued to disappear.

To meet those reporting requirements, the military is modernizing how it accounts for its millions of firearms and mountains of explosives.

“Clearly the accountability on this issue was stopping at too low of a level,” said U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colorado, a U.S. Army veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee who supported the reforms. With the new requirements, “if there are hundreds of missing weapons in that report, members of Congress are going to see it and they are going to be asked about it publicly and held accountable for it.”

Pentagon officials have said that they can account for more than 99.9% of firearms, and take weapons security very seriously. Still, when AP published its first report on missing firearms in June, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he would consider a “systematic fix.”

In response, the Army, the largest branch with the most firearms, took on a major overhaul of how units report missing, lost or stolen weapons. Paper records are giving way to a digital form, and a central logistics operations center is collecting and verifying serious incident reports that — as with other armed services — didn’t always go all the way up the chain of command.

The new system uses an existing software system called Vantage to give commanders a real-time look at what is unaccounted for, Scott Forster, an operations research analyst at the Army, said in a briefing with AP.

Other changes will affect how the military responds to law enforcement investigations.

When a gun is recovered or sought during a criminal case, the Defense Department’s Small Arms and Light Weapons Registry is supposed to determine the last known location or unit responsible. But the registry’s information was inaccurate and responses to law enforcement weren’t timely, according to internal Army documents obtained by the AP. (The Army runs the registry for the Pentagon.)

The Army is now developing an app that would search each service’s own property record databases, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Brandon Kelley.

The new law also requires the Defense Secretary to report confirmed thefts or recovery of weapons to the National Crime Information Center, which the FBI runs. Military regulations had required the services and units to self-report losses; the onus will now be on the highest level of the Pentagon.

The other armed services also are implementing reforms.

The Marine Corps said it is developing internal procedures for improved oversight through increased inspections of units. The Navy required units to notify a higher headquarters when reporting weapons losses. The Air Force has replaced its munitions property book system with a commercial application.

This summer, the Defense Logistics Agency began reporting to the Pentagon losses and thefts of firearms that the military loaned to civilian agencies under the Law Enforcement Support Office program. In its data release to AP, the Pentagon reported that 461 of these firearms had vanished, with 109 later recovered. AP’s reporting did not include LESO weapons.

After the AP’s initial report published in June, Gen. Milley tasked the service branches with scrubbing their data on firearms losses since 2010 — the time period AP studied.

The Pentagon reluctantly shared the statistics it collected, which Milley’s office has provided to Capitol Hill. The official numbers are lower than what AP reported — but also incomplete, because some services failed to include stolen weapons as documented by the military’s own criminal investigators.

The number of missing, lost or stolen firearms was “approximately 1,540” from 2010 through this summer, according to LTC Uriah Orland, a spokesman for the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The majority have been recovered, he said. That total compares to the at least 2,000 firearms that AP had reported for 2010 through 2020, a tally was based on the military’s own data, internal memoranda, criminal investigation case files and other sources.

There are several reasons for the discrepancy. In conducting their analyses, each service used different standards and systems. Despite the detailed data search by each service, AP found lost or stolen items that were not in their official accounting.

Relying on its official weapons registry, the Navy data represented that none of its shotguns have been stolen and its only explosives losses during the 2010s were 20 concussion grenades. AP identified several shotguns and dozens of armor-piercing grenades, based on case files from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

The Marines decided that any weapon that vanished in a combat zone didn’t count — even in cases, for example, when a rifle fell from a vehicle or aircraft, or disappeared from living quarters on overseas base.

Their total of “unaccounted for” firearms since 2010 was 31.

The biggest explanation for the difference between AP’s numbers and official numbers is a significant downward revision of Army totals.

In June, AP reported the Army couldn’t account for more than 1,500 weapons. Most of that total derived from internal Army memos that said 1,300 rifles and handguns were lost or stolen between 2013 and 2019.

The Army had said the memos could include duplications and combat losses, which AP excluded when known.

Responding to Milley’s order, personnel hand-searched records. Their conclusion was that, in the 2010s, only 469 firearms were missing.

Army officials didn’t detail which weapons they excluded or their criteria for reaching the total, which AP was unable to verify independently.
___
Hall reported from Nashville, Tennessee; contact her at https://twitter.com/kmhall. Pritchard reported from Los Angeles; contact him at https://twitter.com/JPritchardAP.
___
Email AP’s Global Investigations Team at investigative@ap.org or via https://www.ap.org/tips/. See other work at https://www.apnews.com/hub/ap-investigations.

Today’s Top Stories

All News

the salt lake city skyline is pictured, utahns can take a survey about the increasing utah populati...
Chris Jacobs

New survey asks how the state should handle Utah’s population increases

The goal is to gather feedback as Utah's population grows and then the responses and ideas to create a plan for handling that growth.
6 hours ago
The Duchesne County Sheriff's Office says a suspect is in stable condition following an officer-inv...
Mark Jones

Suspect hospitalized after officer-involved shooting in Duchesne County

A suspect is in stable condition following an officer-involved shooting Monday night in Duchesne County.
1 day ago
A woman wishing not to be identified shows her sadness after the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake ran ou...
Waverly Golden

Expert joins Inside Sources on women accessing homeless resources

Emily Darowski, Associate Director for the Utah Women and Leadership Project, discusses a recent study the project conducted on women accessing homeless resources in Utah.
1 day ago
Sundance women film...
Heather Kelly

Sundance Film Festival is seeking volunteers for 2023 event

The Sundance Film Festival is seeking volunteers to help with its 2023 event in January. The festival will have events planned for Salt Lake City, Park City and the Sundance Resort.
1 day ago
The Utah Department of Public Safety issued an apology to the family of a woman who was allegedly r...
Mark Jones

Northbound I-15 in Juab County closed for a time Wednesday night

The Utah Highway Patrol says northbound I-15 in Juab County has been closed between exits 222 and 228 due to crashes in relation to winter weather.
1 day ago
KSL NewsRadio's Dave & Dujanovic discuss how to deal with and overcome seasonal depression....
Mark Jones

How to deal with and overcome seasonal depression

KSL NewsRadio's Dave & Dujanovic discuss how to deal with and overcome seasonal depression.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
New reforms target US military’s missing weapons problem