Is Privatization at Fault?

The recent revelation that the US shipped Minuteman missile parts to Taiwan instead of helicopter radio batteries may lead to a review of the Defense Department’s effort to privatize many military functions, an effort that has had mixed support on Capitol Hill. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that a contractor hired by the Defense Logistics Agency to manage storage and distribution of weapon systems parts at Hill AFB, Utah, may be the focus of the Pentagon investigation into the mistaken parts shipment in 2006. The DLA office at Hill in 2002 contracted with EG&G to provide the service formerly handled by DOD employees. The Air Force shipped the surplus missile parts from F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., in 2005 to EG&G at Hill; EG&G was responsible for storage and shipment, under the “watchful” eye of DLA. Earlier this week, at a Pentagon press briefing, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne outlined the dissimilar packaging of the parts and noted, too, that the missile parts were supposed to be put into classified storage and checked quarterly, saying, “This clearly is an escape from that process.” Acknowledging that would mean the absence of the missile parts had escaped notice for up to eight inventories, Wynne replied, “That’s the concern.” The Pentagon has yet to point fingers, but DOD policy chief Ryan Henry said at the press briefing that the investigation is to “move with alacrity.”