Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Greed: Not Always Good

Two weeks ago, I posted a story about the Pentagon's policy of selling surplus military parts on what amounts to a frighteningly open market with lax oversight and a shoddy track-record for safeguarding sensitive materials. As a result of the dysfunctional process, sensitive equipment was passing through buyers and brokers with questionable ethical standards and ending up in the warehouses of non-allies and adversaries such as China and Iran.

Of particular concern was the pending sale of parts for the recently decommissioned F-14 Tomcat fighter jet. You see, Iran has an aging and dilapidated fleet of F-14s and is in desperate need of such parts. Worse still, Iran is the only nation still flying the F-14, which would seem to narrow down the field of interested buyers to a country that is at the moment one of our biggest rivals (with the acknowledgment that there are certain parts from a stripped down F-14 that can be used in other aircraft and vehicles, and could potentially be of interest to broader field of buyers).

With this in mind, it is refreshing to see that the Pentagon has come to its senses...sort of:

The Pentagon said Tuesday it had halted sales of spare parts from its recently retired F-14 fighter jet fleet, even as lawmakers pledged tougher oversight of the military's surplus sales.

Sales of F-14 parts were suspended Friday pending a comprehensive review, Defense Logistics Agency spokesman Jack Hooper said. [...]

The review will examine Pentagon policy for handling the spare parts and determine what should be done with them "in light of the current situation with Iran," Hooper said.

Note that the sales were only "suspended" pending a review. That's a good first step, but I think Senator Wyden has the right idea:

Sen. Ron Wyden has introduced legislation to permanently end all Pentagon sales of surplus F-14 parts, saying the military's marketing of the spares "defies common sense" in light of their importance to Iran. [...]

The Oregon Democrat's legislation would bar the Defense Department from selling surplus F-14 parts and ban buyers who have acquired surplus Tomcat parts from exporting them.

Even if the Pentagon thinks it can parse the non-sensitive F-14 parts from the more crucial ones, or provide safeguards to better monitor the activities of would-be buyers, why risk error, misjudgement or malfeasance? What's the down side if you take the more cautious approach endorsed by Senator Wyden? As far as I can tell, it would merely require that the Pentagon forgo the proceeds from such sales.

But what's a couple hundred thousand dollars compared to the prospect of allowing Iran to refurbish even one of their broken-down F-14s? Penny wise, pound of flesh foolish.

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?