Foreign Military Sales:

Improved Air Force Controls Could Prevent Unauthorized Shipments of Classified and Controlled Spare Parts to Foreign Countries

GAO-03-664: Published: Jul 29, 2003. Publicly Released: Aug 28, 2003.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

William M. Solis
(202) 512-8365
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

From 1990 through 2001, the Department of Defense delivered over $138 billion in services and defense articles--including classified and controlled parts--to foreign governments through its foreign military sales programs. Classified spare parts are restricted for national security reasons, while controlled parts contain technology that the military does not want to release. GAO was asked to review the Air Force's internal controls aimed at preventing countries from requisitioning and receiving classified or controlled spare parts that they are ineligible to receive.

The Air Force's internal controls for its foreign military sales program using blanket orders are not adequate, placing classified and controlled spare parts at risk of being shipped to countries not authorized to receive them. The Air Force's system has erroneously approved foreign country requisitions for classified and controlled spare parts based on incorrect federal supply classes. The system approves items for shipment based in part on an item's federal supply class--not the item's entire national stock number, which is a combination of the supply class number and a part number unique to the item. GAO found that because the system was not properly programmed and countries used unrestricted supply class numbers, the system erroneously approved 35 of 123 selected requisitions reviewed. For example, one country ordered a controlled outline sequencer used on various aircraft by using a supply class that was unrestricted, but incorrect for the part it requisitioned. Because supply class 1680 was not restricted and the system did not verify that 1680 was the correct supply class for national item identification number 010539320, the system approved the requisition. Had the system validated the entire 13-digit national stock number, it would have found that the number was incorrect and would not have approved the requisition. In addition, the Air Force has no written policies or procedures in place for recovering items that have been shipped in error. The Air Force has not validated modifications to the Security Assistance Management Information System that restrict parts available to foreign countries and has not tested the system since 1998 to ensure that it is working properly. Because modifications were not validated, the Air Force did not detect improperly made modifications to the system, and foreign countries were able to requisition and obtain controlled spare parts that, at the time, the Air Force was trying to restrict. GAO identified 18 instances in which countries requisitioned and received a controlled part for which they were not eligible because programmers had entered the restrictions in the wrong area of the system. Although Air Force officials subsequently told us that the part was improperly restricted, this example nevertheless demonstrates the need to validate system changes. Air Force command country managers did not always document reasons for overriding the recommendations of the system or the foreign military sales case manager. For 19 of the 123 requisitions GAO reviewed, command country managers overrode the system recommendations and shipped classified and controlled spare parts without documenting the reasons for overriding the system. For example, a command country manager overrode the system and shipped four classified target-detecting devices without documenting the reasons for overriding the system.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD changed from partially to fully concur. It said that SAMIS has undergone extensive modifications that allow periodic testing of new and old entries for accuracy to data within a given time period. Testing to ensure the system's logic for restricting requisitions will now be done on an annual basis.

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls over the Air Force's foreign military sales program and to minimize countries' abilities to obtain classified or controlled spare parts under blanket orders for which they are not eligible, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the Secretary of the Air Force to require the appropriate officials to periodically test the Security Assistance Management Information System to ensure that the system's logic for restricting requisitions is working correctly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with this recommendation and said the Air Force has issued a policy memorandum that directs responsible officials to provide documentation that would include the data elements to be restricted along with the restriction rationale and point of contact information. This should allow the Air Force to ensure that the changes were properly made.

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls over the Air Force's foreign military sales program and to minimizse countries' abilities to obtain classified or controlled spare parts under blanket orders for which they are not eligible, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the Secretary of the Air Force to require the appropriate officials to establish policies and procedures for validating modifications made to the Security Assistance Management Information System to ensure that the changes were properly made.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with the recommendation and the Air Force has issued a policy memorandum that sets forth procedures for recovering classified or controlled items that have been erroneously shipped.

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls over the Air Force's foreign military sales program ande to minimize countries' abilities to obtain classified or controlled spare parts under blanket orders for which they are not eligible, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the Secretary of the Air Force to require the appropriate officials to establish policies and procedures for recovering classified or controlled items that are erroneously shipped.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with our recommendation and said that corrective actions had been taken. Based on our audit work, the Air Force, in January 2003, modified its Security Assistance Management Information System to validate country requisitions based on the requisitioned item's national stock number.

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls over the Air Force's foreign military sales program and to minimize countries' abilities to obtain classified or controlled spare parts under blanket orders for which they are not eligible, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the Secretary of the Air Force to require the appropriate officials to modify the Security Assistance Management Information System so that it validates country requisitions based on the requisitioned item's complete national stock number.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD agreed with our recommendation and said that the Air Force issued a policy memorandum in May 2003 that restricts who can input bypass transactions for overriding Security Assistance Management Information System restrictions and requires that waivers be documented.

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls over the Air Force's foreign military sales program and to minimize countries' abilities to obtain classified or controlled spare parts under blanket orders for which they are not eligible, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the Secretary of the Air Force to require the appropriate officials to establish a policy for command country managers to document the basis for their decisions to override Security Assistance Management Information System or foreign military sales case manager recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Dec 16, 2014

Dec 12, 2014

Dec 11, 2014

Dec 1, 2014

Nov 21, 2014

Nov 20, 2014

Nov 19, 2014

Nov 18, 2014

Oct 30, 2014

Looking for more? Browse all our products here