WASHINGTON – The Pentagon sold more than a thousand aircraft parts that could be used on F-14 fighter jets – a plane flown only by Iran – after announcing it had halted sales of such surplus, government investigators say.
In a report Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said the Defense Department had improved security in its surplus program to prevent improper sales of sensitive items.
But investigators found that roughly 1,400 parts that could be used on F-14 Tomcat fighter jets were sold to the public in February.
That came after the Pentagon announced it had suspended sales of all parts that could be used on the Tomcat while it reviewed security concerns.
Iran, trying to maintain its F-14s, is aggressively seeking components from the retired U.S. Tomcat fleet.
The Pentagon’s surplus sales division – the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service – told investigators the parts were sold because it failed to update an automated control list and remove the aircraft parts before they were listed on its Internet sales site.
The GAO’s investigation focused on F-14 parts. Iran is known to be seeking those, and if the parts were publicly available, it could endanger national security, Greg Kutz, the GAO’s managing director of special investigations, wrote. Iran has managed to obtain U.S. spares in the past, he said.
Kutz said he does not know if any of the Tomcat parts sold in February made it to Iran. The GAO forwarded details about some of the sales to federal law enforcement for possible investigation, he said.
A Democratic senator said the report shows why legislation he proposed that would ban the sale of all F-14 parts is needed.
“The Pentagon’s system is still riddled with holes,” Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said.