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Monday, June 07, 2004

Is That a MANPADS in Your Flight Suit, or Are You Just Glad to See Me? 

Tired of worrying about dirty bombs, briefcase nukes, insecure chemical factories and the like? Well, here's a little change of pace: the stock clerks at your one-stop source for bargain ordnance, the Pentagon, are unable to account for close to eight hundred portable missiles capable of bringing down a civilian aircraft -- and that figure doesn't include the thousand Stingers we gave the mujahedeen in Afghanistan back in the '80's:
A still-secret congressional report detailing the Pentagon's inability to account for all of its Stinger shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles is causing consternation on Capitol Hill and raises the specter of terrorists using U.S.-made missiles to shoot down U.S. military or civilian airplanes.

The report by the General Accounting Office, circulating among senior House lawmakers, states that although the Department of Defense is supposed to monitor the end-use of Stingers given or sold to other nations, "DOD has no requirement for keeping records on the number and destinations of these Stingers." The report is also critical of what it describes as toothless multinational anti-missile proliferation efforts.

According to the report, which is scheduled for release this month, the Defense Department does not know where to find all of the Stingers that it has either sold or given away. For example, Army records show that the Army transferred 7,551 Stingers to foreign countries from 1982 to 2004. The GAO report found that the actual number was at least 8,331 . . . .

In military circles, the missiles are known as MANPADS -- the acronym for Man-Portable Air Defense Systems. Although many MANPADS-producing nations have banded together -- under a treaty known as the Wassenaar Arrangement and other multilateral pacts -- to discourage the proliferation of weaponry to terrorist and subnational groups, the rules established by these organizations are voluntary and nonbinding, and rely upon diplomatic pressure to get nations to comply.

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