War in Afghanistan and Iraq

Published — March 24, 2009 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Night-vision devices unaccounted for in Iraq

Introduction

The Pentagon seems to have some trouble keeping track of its materiel. The latest items to go missing? Night-vision devices.

In a new report, the Defense Department’s Inspector General notes that of the 50,740 night-vision devices shipped to Iraq, eight percent are now unaccounted for. What’s more, the report says, U.S.-led forces failed to track serial numbers for another 30,740 devices.

News that the U.S. lost track of 190,000 weapons in Iraq and another 87,000 in Afghanistan sparked a flurry of recent stories. Yet this latest report has gone largely unnoticed.

But while large stashes of missing weapons may make for sexier headlines, the potential loss of technology embedded in night-vision devices also puts U.S. troops in jeopardy. Night-vision goggles, in particular, contain components that allow the viewer to identify U.S.-friendly fighters wearing infrared tabs — helpful for allies to avoid shooting at their comrades in arms. But also for any enemies targeting U.S. forces.

According to the Pentagon report, one set of night-vision goggles can cost the military up to $4,500. Last year, a Government Accountability Office investigation found such technology being auctioned on sites like eBay and Craigslist.

Though the Pentagon has made “significant progress” to resolve its tracking issues, existing lapses “could lead to misappropriation and theft, ultimately putting U.S. service members at risk by providing our enemies a capability they might not have otherwise had,” says the Inspector General.

Read more in National Security

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