Inefficient data sharing between different branches of the United States Armed Forces has led to a large and expensive to maintain ammo surplus.
A new Government Accountability Office report found that the Pentagon is planning to destroy an estimated $1.2 billion worth of ammunition. According to the report, the stockpile slated to be destroyed is a part of the $70 billion worth of ammunition managed by the Department of Defense (DOD) through the Army.
This immense ammo reserve weighs about 1.7 million tons and is utilized by all of the nation’s military forces, although it is currently stored in eight large Army depots. Other services have their own inventory systems to account for ammunition, but only the Army uses the Pentagon format, which makes data exchanges between the services difficult. This problem is alleviated in part by a meeting of the armed services every year called the Quad Services Cross-Leveling Review, where the branches identify surplus ammunition and redistribute it among themselves or US allies. After this meeting, any ammunition not accounted for is then slated for possible disposal, even though the ammo in question may still be perfectly functional.
“We simply cannot afford this type of waste and ineffectiveness,” US Senator Tom Carper (D-Delaware) told USA Today. “The (Pentagon) has a responsibility to efficiently manage its ammunition stocks, not only because it is important to be fiscally responsible, but also because our antiquated ammunition inventory systems can shortchange our war fighters and compromise their ability to complete their mission.”
The report concludes with several suggestions to improve data sharing between the services and to prevent further waste of taxpayer money. One of the most important steps, the report says, will be designating an authoritative inventory system to be used across all the services.
“We need to adopt systems to where the Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Army can all share information about different types and amounts of ammunition they have that’s excess to their foreseeable needs,” retired Army general Bill McClain told KTRH News.
Not all of the ammunition will simply be destroyed. Army officers say that a portion of the ammo slated for the scrap heap will end up on the range during “mad minute” exercises. These training sessions involve a short period of intense weapons fire, which officers say provide valuable experience for soldiers and helps to burn through surplus ammunition.
The term “mad minute” was originally coined by British soldiers to describe shooting 15 rounds through a 12-inch target at 300 yards in under one minute using a bolt-action rifle.