Congress Aims to Fix US Military’s AWOL Weapons Issues

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Following an Associated Press investigation that showed a number of firearms stolen from US military bases have resurfaced at the scenes of violent crimes, Congress has shared that it will work to make it mandatory for the country’s armed forces to better track their weaponry.

Sheriff standing before a wall of seized guns
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According to the AP, the proposals would mandate the Department of Defense keep civilian law enforcement agencies and lawmakers better informed of weapons that disappear from military warehouses, armories and shipments. This includes assault rifles, armor-piercing grenades and pistols.

The investigation earlier this year found that at least 2,000 firearms were lost or stolen from the US Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Force over the past decade. Despite this, the Department of Defense stopped advising Congress of these losses in recent years.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives responded to the AP‘s investigation by introducing stricter accountability guidelines into their versions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Both are expected to be hammered out in the coming weeks, before the legislation makes its way to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed.

Military officials have acknowledged the problem, citing difficulties with tracking weapons through the various supply chains. In June, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he would personally seek a “systematic fix” within the Department of Defense, regardless of Congress’ actions. Those with the Army and the Marine Corps also shared their branches would be making changes to how they account for weapons.

These promises have not persuaded those in Congress, who requested a progress briefing for November 19, 2021. While the Army, Air Force and the Marine Corps said they would respond, the Navy has yet to comment.

Gloved hand pointing to a table of weapons
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A letter written to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and military leaders by Democratic leaders on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform also made mention of the technology used by some units of the Army and Air Force to track guns. It’s their worry it would allow enemy forces to detect US troops.

The thin radio identification tags (RFID) can streamline weapon counts and distribution when embedded in guns. However, an unwanted side effect is that the electronic signals can become unwanted tracking beacons, as shown during a field test for the AP.

Air Force personnel aiming pistols
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The Office of the Secretary of Defense has acknowledged the issue and called it a “significant security problem.” While under questioning from the AP, the Navy said it plans to abandon the technology in its own weaponry.