Pentagon lax in acquiring data to monitor weapons sales program, says government...

Pentagon lax in acquiring data to monitor weapons sales program, says government watchdog

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A 1,500-pound Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) leaps from the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt at twice the speed of sound to destroy an advanced high-speed target. Forty of these missiles were sold to Demark earlier this year as part of the overseas weapons sales program (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Taylor A. Elberg)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon does not have reliable data on how it uses the fees to cover the expenses for its program to guide U.S. weapons sales to foreign governments, a program that has been given a high priority by the Trump administration earlier this year.

A new report from the Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon has failed to follow its own requirement to conduct at least two annual reviews of how its administrative funds are used, create regular reviews in other areas and work better with other entities involved in the military sales program, among other things.

“We found that DOD (Department of Defense) lacks reliable data on how it uses the fees to cover the program’s operating expenses, including costs for paying program staff and for ensuring that contractors have complied with their contract requirements,” the GAO report said.

The GAO is a fact-based, nonpartisan research entity of Congress, often called the “congressional watchdog.”

The Pentagon had no comment on the report.

There have been 32 major military sales to foreign nations this year, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA, which operates the sales. All sales must be approved by the State Department.

According to the DSCA, overseas weapons sales were $41.93 billion for fiscal year 2017 and 33.6 billion for fiscal year 2016. Outside analysts said sales for 2018 are on track to exceed $30 billion.

One recommendation is for the director of the DSCA to create and maintain a complete list of military department organizations or offices that receive administrative funds and are subject to DSCA’s business process reviews, according to the GAO report.

In April, the White House issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum approving an update to the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy. The update was designed to expand opportunities for U.S weapons sales with a goal to create new jobs, the White House release said.

Also in April, the DSCA announced it was reducing the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) Administrative Surcharge from 3.5 percent to 3.2 percent, effective June 1. That surcharge is what generates the revenue used to pay the administrative cost of the program that was scrutinized by the GAO.

“The rate reduction will allow the United States to become more competitive in the global defense marketplace, supporting the administration’s objectives under the new Conventional Arms Transfer Policy to promote more transfers of defense arms and services to our foreign partners,” the DSCA said. “This action enhances the United States’ position as the global Security Cooperation provider of choice.”

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