By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 6, 2007 - The Defense Department is reviewing policies and procedures in place to account for weapons and equipment given to Iraqi security forces, department officials said today. The General Accountability Office, a research arm of Congress, issued a report July 31 that cited inadequate controls on weapons and other equipment such as radios passed to Iraqi army and police units.
According to the report, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq issued about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 items of body armor and 140,000 helmets to Iraqi security forces as of September 2005.
Command property books have records for about 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 items of body armor and 25,000 helmets. "Thus, DOD and MNF-I cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces as of September 22, 2005," according to the report.
The report acknowledges that the command put in place accountability systems to consolidate weapons serial numbers as early as July 2006, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today. "(The report) also recognizes some of the challenges of the environment and the times you are talking about."
Little government infrastructure on the national or provincial levels in Iraq led to many weapons initially distributed to Iraqi forces being taken off the battlefield and reused, Whitman said. Many of those weapons didn't even have serial numbers.
The problem was exacerbated by a shortage of people in Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq.
"Just because you can't provide a strict paper trail, that doesn't mean the weapons are not being used for their intended purposes: the Iraqi security forces," Whitman said.
The GAO report made two recommendations and Defense Department officials concur with both.
The first recommendation is that the department choose an accountability system and stick with it.
The second recommendation is to ensure there are enough people and the right technology in place to effectively use the system.
"The systems that we have ought to be continuously improved upon and refined," Whitman said.