The U.S. Military Doesn’t Even Track How Many Weapons It Loses, And It Has Lost Thousands

Adamning investigative report published by The Associated Press today details how over 2,000 weapons have gone missing from military arsenals between 2010 and 2019. While the data set was far from complete, what the outlet did obtain shows a worrying pattern of lost and stolen weapons, some of which ended up in the hands of criminals who used them in the commission of violent crimes, while others were even simply discarded in public parks.

The Associated Press‘s investigation states that, between 2010 and 2019, these weapons went missing or were deliberately taken from a wide variety of locations, including armories, warehouses, firing ranges, Navy vessels, or even while in transit. Reasons cited in the report included unlocked doors, burglary, security personnel falling asleep, or lapses in surveillance and other security systems. 1,504 weapons were reported missing or stolen from the Army, 211 from the Navy, 204 from the Marines, and 39 were categorized as “Other,” which presumably includes the U.S. Coast Guard and Department of Defense security forces like the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.

While the Marines and Navy offered their own figures about weapons lost or stolen throughout the last decade, the Army and Air Force did not willingly provide The Associated Press with exact numbers about how many of their weapons were unaccounted for, so the report instead relied on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for military criminal case files, as well as internal military small arms registries. One of those FOIA requests filed with the Army’s Office of the Provost Marshal General revealed 1,303 lost firearms from the Army alone. The AP reported the Air Force was less cooperative:

The Air Force was the only service branch not to release data. It first responded to several Freedom of Information Act requests by saying no records existed. Air Force representatives then said they would not provide details until yet another FOIA request, filed 1.5 years ago, was fully processed.

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US Military Guns Keep Vanishing. Some Are Later Used in Street Crimes

In the first public accounting of its kind in decades, an Associated Press investigation has found that at least 1,900 U.S. military firearms were lost or stolen during the 2010s, with some resurfacing in violent crimes. Because some armed services have suppressed the release of basic information, AP’s total is a certain undercount.

Government records covering the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force show pistols, machine guns, shotguns and automatic assault rifles have vanished from armories, supply warehouses, Navy warships, firing ranges and other places where they were used, stored or transported. These weapons of war disappeared because of unlocked doors, sleeping troops, a surveillance system that didn’t record, break-ins and other security lapses that, until now, have not been publicly reported.

While AP’s focus was firearms, military explosives also were lost or stolen, including armor-piercing grenades that ended up in an Atlanta backyard.

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