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Pentagon admits some weapons get sold as surplus

tank November 26, 1996
Web posted at: 10:30 p.m. EST

From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Before a Vietnam-era helicopter is sold as surplus, it's supposed to be "demilitarized," its guns and other weapons systems removed or neutralized. However, the Pentagon admitted Tuesday, that doesn't always happen.

The government agency is now in the middle of reviewing its system for disposing of unwanted weapons and aircraft.

"Material that should have been demilitarized has not been properly demilitarized and is sold when it shouldn't have been," said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. That means that some of the weapons that should have been destroyed are instead being sold to other groups, and even other countries.

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The Pentagon won't say how big the problem is. However, a story in next week's edition of U.S. News and World Report claims millions of dollars in surplus aircraft, weapons and spare parts have been sold to agents from other nations. Some have even found their way to China.

Bacon said he just doesn't know whether any of the weapons made their hands into governments hostile to the United States. He also doesn't know whether militia organizations in the United States might have gotten live arms.

However, the Pentagon does know it is dealing with two problems. Sometimes equipment with a military use is miscategorized and sold by mistake, fully intact and operational.


Other times, government sellers and buyers intentionally break the law, selling weapons or restricted spare parts.

The Pentagon admits its surplus weapons sales system is flawed, but says its been improving since reforms began in 1993. It hopes a new code system will prevent the inadvertent sale of weapons, while investigators try to track down criminal violators.


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