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Transparency Needed To Track U.S. Weapons

It is a frightening thought: military grade weapons, lost by the U.S. government and appearing again on the streets.

An Associated Press investigation found assault rifles, machine guns, handguns, armor-piercing grenades, artillery shells, mortars, grenade launchers and plastic explosives have, indeed gone missing. Even more frightening, the AP’s AWOL Weapons investigation showed reports of that missing weaponry were not reaching members of Congress.

With President Joe Biden expected to sign the National Defense Authorization Act after its approval by Congress, the Pentagon now is required to give lawmakers annual reports on weapons loss and security. What we have learned already is stunning.

Department of Defense officials were keeping track (or not) of missing firearms and explosives with PAPER records. Only after being called out by the AP’s investigation are they digitizing the effort, with a central logistics operations center now collecting and verifying serious incident reports. Those reports now are, though had not always been, going to the top of the chain of command.

That is just the beginning of reforms to be implemented.

“Clearly the accountability on this issue was stopping at too low of a level,” said U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., an Army veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee. 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.”

It is too bad the Pentagon had to be told it would be watched more carefully before it was more careful with keeping track of potentially dangerous taxpayer property.

But 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, rather than the services and units simply being required to self-report losses.

Kudos to those who worked diligently to bring this dangerous lapse in oversight to light. Surely members of Congress will be watching just as diligently to ensure the trend is brought to a halt.

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