In August 2016 the Department of Defense (DoD) sent AOAV two charts that they believed accounted for the small arms sent to Iraq and Afghanistan between 2004 and June 2016 for Afghanistan, and 2005 and June 2016 for Iraq.
The DoD data shows that over7 00,000 small arms were sent from the US to Iraq and Afghanistan within these periods. However, this amount only accounts for 48% of the total small arms supplied by the US government that can be found in open source government reports.
The DoD acknowledged that 210,153 small arms including grenade launchers were sent to Iraq and 509,321 to Afghanistan. Excluding grenade launchers this total comes to 206,446 for Iraq and 484,680 for Afghanistan.
The DoD findings for Afghanistan are remarkably similar. Overall, the DoD found 484,680 small arms recorded, compared to the 503,328 AOAV researchers found. Though there are a few differences. For example, the DoD recorded 17,634 more pistols and 38,698 less rifles than AOAV researchers found.
However, the findings for Iraq showed a discrepancy of over 740,000 small arms. The DoD could account for just 206,446, or 22%, of the small arms AOAV had recorded.
Particularly concerning was the fact that the DoD did not specifically account for any of the 190,000 AK-47s AOAV hadrecorded, 185,000 of which were listed in a 2007 GAO report. The same GAO report also listed 170,000 pistols sent to Iraq. The pistols the DoD list would account for just over 1%.
This failure shows the lack of accountability, transparency and joined up data that exists at the very heart of the US government’s weapon procurement and distribution systems.
Unfortunately, as the DoD only provided a summary AOAV were not able to identify when the small arms were provided and compare this to our own data. As the data supplied by the DoD also covers September 2015 – June 2016, where there are discrepancies which see the DoD account for more pistols, for example, than AOAV found, it could be that they were purchased in this nine-month period. The more likely alternative is that the complete lack of transparency surrounding Foreign Military Sales – and small arms contracts in general – meant that the AOAV researchers had not been able to find these small arms provisions and that many others may simply be unfindable also.
This report is part of AOAV’s investigation into the DoD’s small arms expenditure during the War on Terror. Our research found many discrepancies between the contracts published on the DoD’s website and those found on the Federal Procurement Database System- research that can be read here. For information on what a small arm is, please see here. To understand more about US DoD contracts visit here. To read the full examination of US expenditure for small arms for Iraq, see here, and readhere for Afghanistan.
The London-based nonprofit Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) pored over 14 years’ worth of contracts issued by the US Department of Defense, documenting the purchases of small arms – defined as anything under 30mm in caliber – ammunition and attachments, such as sniper scopes or tripods.
They found a massive amount of weapons supplied by the US to the primary theaters of the “War on Terror,” and remarkably little accounting of whose hands they ended up in.
“Our findings raise concerns about the DOD’s own transparency and accountability when it comes to issuing contracts,” Iain Overton, AOAV’s director of investigations, said when announcing the report’s publication Wednesday.
Not only has the Pentagon’s contract database listed only 3 percent of the approximately 1.45 million small arms sent to Iraq and Afghanistan over the years, “we also know the US government has acknowledged they don’t know where many of these weapons now are,” Overton added.
A team of AOAV researchers spent almost a year looking into every contract published by the Pentagon between September 11, 2001 and September 10, 2015, said the organization, whose mission is “research and advocacy in order to reduce the incidence and impact of global armed violence.”
What they found was just over $40 billion of solicitations for small arms, ammunition and attachments, with just under $20 billion actually paid out to contractors.
Of the 412 published contracts, 137 – or 33 percent – contained errors and discrepancies.
Ten companies accounted for 65 percent of the total published contract values, the researchers found. The top five contractors were Alliant Techsystems – now split into OrbitalATK and Vista Outdoor – DRS Technologies, BAE Systems Inc., Knight’s Armament Co, and General Dynamics.
The largest single contract was for the modernization of Lake City Army Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri, worth up to $8.48 billion.
Some 949,582 small arms were sent to Iraq, and another 503,328 to Afghanistan, amounting to 1,452,910 assault and sniper rifles, pistols, machine guns and other unspecified firearms.
Yet the Department of Defense contract publications listed only 19,602 of these weapons, just over 1 percent of the total. When AOAV pressed for verification, the DOD provided itemized lists for 719,474 weapons provided through June 2016.
The numbers “tell the story of two wars that did not go as pitched,”veteran military correspondent CJ Chivers wrote in the New York Times Magazine, commenting on AOAV’s findings.
The retired Marine and author of The Gun also filled in a piece of the puzzle the researchers missed by not counting the grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons provided by the Pentagon.
“The data offer no insight into a startlingly risky aspect of the Pentagon’s arming of local forces with infantry arms: the wide distribution of anti-armor weapons, including RPG-7s,” Chivers wrote.
After the first few weeks of each war, the only armor on either battlefield was either American or allied, “which made the Pentagon’s practice of providing anti-armor weapons to Afghan and Iraqi security forces puzzling,” Chivers wrote.
“Why would they need anti-armor weapons when they had no armor to fight? All the while rockets were somehow mysteriously being fired at American convoys and patrols in each war.”