AP: The House drew attention Monday to the danger posed by shortcomings in U.S. military surplus sales, voting a second time to ban the Pentagon from selling leftover F-14 fighter jet parts sought by Iran. Associated Press
By SHARON THEIMER
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) – The House drew attention Monday to the danger posed by shortcomings in U.S. military surplus sales, voting a second time to ban the Pentagon from selling leftover F-14 fighter jet parts sought by Iran.
The House first approved the proposal last month as an add-on to military funding legislation. It backed it again Monday on a voice vote, this time as a freestanding bill.
The measure, nicknamed the “Stop Arming Iran Act,” would be politically difficult for President Bush to veto. He has called Iran part of an “axis of evil” and accuses it of funding terrorism and trying to develop nuclear weapons.
The White House had no immediate comment on whether Bush supports the proposed ban, which is expected to win Senate approval. The new House vote came as Iran abruptly called off talks on its nuclear program with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., proposed the legislation after The Associated Press reported in January that buyers for Iran, China and other countries exploited weaknesses in Pentagon surplus sale security to acquire sensitive military gear including parts for F-14s, other aircraft and missiles.
In at least one instance, surplus sold through a Defense Department auction made it to Iran, law enforcement officials say.
Giffords, citing the AP story in remarks to the House, said her bill would “put an end to military surplus sales that may inadvertently be helping to sustain Iran’s air force.”
“We cannot take the risk that parts unique to the F-14 could be made available to Iran,” Giffords said.
Republican Rep. John Boozman of Arkansas called the bill “an appropriate and timely measure” that would add another layer of protection to try to stop Iran from obtaining U.S. military gear.
The Defense Department announced after the AP story ran that it would voluntarily halt the sale of Tomcat parts and review whether any could be sold as surplus without posing a national security risk. While it had already intended to destroy components unique to the F-14s, it had initially planned to sell thousands of Tomcat parts that could be used on multiple types of aircraft.
Iran – given permission by the United States to buy F-14s back in the 1970s when the two countries were allies – is the only country known to be trying to fly the jets. The United States retired its fleet last year.
The Defense Department has taken steps to toughen surplus sale security after Government Accountability Office investigators last year obtained more than $1 million in sensitive surplus items, including a rocket launcher, by posing as defense contractors. The Pentagon’s efforts include trying harder to accurately identify surplus items before marking them as safe to sell.
Giffords and Wyden say a broad, permanent ban on the Pentagon’s sale of the thousands of spare F-14 components is needed to make sure sensitive parts do not accidentally wind up in surplus sales, as has happened in the past.
The legislation would let only U.S. museums and similar historical groups buy retired Tomcats or Tomcat parts. The planes would have to be rendered useless for military purposes. The measure would also ban the issuing of export licenses for any F-14 parts.
The bill is H.R. 1441.
On the Net:
Congressional legislation: http://thomas.loc.gov/