For Sale: Sensitive Military Gear
ANDREA SEABROOK, host:
There's only one country that still flies American F-14 fighter jets: Iran. So, where do they look for spare parts? How about eBay or craigslist. That's where the Government Accountability Office found parts for the discontinued jet for sale, along with other sensitive U.S. military equipment.
Gregory Kutz is the managing director of the GAO. He led the investigation of how this stuff gets sold online, no questions asked. Hello, Mr. Kutz.
Mr. GREGORY KUTZ (Managing Director, Government Accountability Office): Hi, how are you?
SEABROOK: Good. So, what have you found online?
Mr. KUTZ: We've got F-14 parts, helicopter parts, night vision goggles, infrared tabs, army combat uniform, which is the current dress of the Army, Kevlar helmets, nuclear biological chemical gear. So that kind of gives you a flavor for the kind of things.
SEABROOK: Can you show me? What do I search for? I'm going to go on eBay right now. Tell me what you…
Mr. KUTZ: You can try - well, you can look at infrared tabs.
SEABROOK: What's that? What's an infrared…
Mr. KUTZ: Those are the reflective tabs worn by our soldiers that night vision goggles can recognize that identify friendly from foe. So if you look at infrared patch, if you look that up…
SEABROOK: Infrared patch.
Mr. KUTZ: …you see the USACU three-quarter-inch?
SEABROOK: Yeah. Infrared IFF formation Velcro patch.
Mr. KUTZ: Yeah, open that one up.
Mr. KUTZ: It says this patch is authorized by the Army for wear on the ACU uniform jacket. That's the Army Combat Uniform. And it says this patch glows bright with the use of night vision goggles. So this is likely a prohibited item.
SEABROOK: And it says nothing about that here.
Mr. KUTZ: No.
SEABROOK: So, where do these things come from? Can you determine - were they stolen?
Mr. KUTZ: In the cases that we looked at, there were two different sources -one were soldiers and then there were other distributors that had these types of items.
SEABROOK: Can you tell who's bought things like this in the past?
Mr. KUTZ: Well, some of them were domestic buyers, some of them were from overseas, and that would be where more of the concern would be if a seller were shipping these overseas.
SEABROOK: So, how do you stop it?
Mr. KUTZ: To prevent it from happening in the first place if it's stolen property, you would need to improve the property controls. For example, the Department of Defense. They're trying to improve their controls over things like, let's say, body armor, which is very important. Because that also creates a Homeland Security risk because, one, the ads we saw on craigslist said that this item was perfect for any gangster and that's the kind of people you'd be concerned about having the military body armor.
SEABROOK: Greg Kutz is the managing director of the Government Accountability Office. He leads the forensic audit and special investigation unit. Mr. Kutz, thanks very much.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.