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Military installations sidestep questions on brass destruction

A box of ammunition casings is positioned above the brass deformer at Fort McCoy.Examiner – by David Codrea

Shortages resulting from an unprecedented demand for ammunition by federal agencies and the civilian market are causing some police departments to look at cutting back training, KCENTV reported Thursday.

“Depending on what happens with the supply shortage, we may have to start cutting back somewhere,” Sgt. Patrick Swanton of the Waco Police department told reporter Amanda Kenney.  

One source the civilian market particularly looks at is for cartridge casings, and in a time of high demand, having them available for reloading ammunition becomes a significant interest. One of the prime suppliers for expended brass is the military, so their compliance with appropriations requirements and public law becomes a matter of heightened public interest.

Thinking that compliance issues over unauthorized destruction rather than resale of brass had been resolved back in 2009 andagain in 2010, tips that the practice was ongoing and continuing resulted in a specialGun Rights Examiner investigative report in January about reports of destruction at Fort Drum in New York, but not in clarification from responsible authorities.

With that as backdrop, independent reports and tips continued to be provided to this column by interested readers, including a military combat veteran relating not just the alleged destruction of ammunition but also the financial advantages he said the Oregon National Guard benefited from by deforming and selling casings as scrap, and also a report alleging similar destruction at anArmy base in Wisconsin, Fort McCoy.

“I’m responding to a tip that Ft. McCoy brass from expended small arms ammunition is being shredded instead of sold on the civilian market,” this columnist wrote in the base contact form. “I’m told that as of the beginning of this month, no brass may be sold without being rendered unusable.

“Is this true?” the query continued “Is or was brass being destroyed? If so, who ordered it, over what time period, under what authority, and will you make a copy of such orders public? Did an order to destroy brass once exist and has it been rescinded? When and by whom? Does everything that is being destroyed meet the criteria of being ‘unserviceable or unsafe for further use’? What is the policy for destruction of brass that could be sold on the civilian market? Are all destruction activities consistent with appropriations and public law requirements?

“I’m following up on this because I’ve written in the past about the military destroying brass that, per appropriations requirements, should be designated for civilian market resale,” the inquiry explained. “As such, I’d like to establish the truth about this and make sure all of the points brought to my attention are addressed as specifically as possible.

“To that end, any for-the record response you could give to address these questions will be helpful and appreciated, as would any further information you could share about this,” the inquiry concluded.

“In reference to your Fort McCoy web site inquiry, please see view the article that was recently published in the Fort McCoy newspaper, The Real McCoy,” the Public Affairs Officer wrote back. That article confirms they are using a deformer “to demilitarize about 9,000 pounds of brass each day … including 5.56-mm, 7.62-mm, 9-mm and .50-caliber, and that “the ammo is transported up a conveyor belt and then struck by hammers in a rotary grinder that cause deformation of the casing.”

What it does not do is address the specific for-the-record answers that were requested, particularly to verify that all destruction activities are consistent with appropriations and public law requirements. If such ready answers exist, that information was not shared in the response.

The reply from the Oregon National Guard was even less responsive.

“I’m responding to a tip that National Guard-generated brass from expended small arms ammunition is being or has been crushed at Camp Rilea as opposed to being made available to the civilian market,” Gun Rights Examiner wrote to the Public Affairs Office. “I am told a deformer is on premises there.

“I’m told this is a way around the Qualified Recycling Program so that instead of turning brass over to Ft Lewis DRMO [Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office], where only a percentage of auction proceeds would be returned for MWR [Morale, Welfare and Recreation] programs, the brass is being or has been crushed, sold to local vendors, with a check from the USPFO [United States Property and Fiscal Office] going to the Oregon Guard Chief of Staff’s financial account for use as that office decides — and that this way has maximized returns for local use,” the inquiry continued. “Is any of this true? Is or was brass being destroyed? If so, who ordered it, over what time period, under what authority, and will you make a copy of such orders public? Did an order to destroy brass once exist and has it been rescinded? When and by whom?

“Does everything that is being destroyed meet the criteria of being ‘unserviceable or unsafe for further use’?” the query pressed on. “What is the policy for destruction of brass that could be sold on the civilian market? Are all destruction activities consistent with appropriations and public law requirements? Does such a machine exist at Camp Rilea, when was it procured, from whom, for how much and how has it been used/is it currently being used? Are policies regarding recycled and/or destroyed brass consistent at all installations?”

“I’m following up on this because I’ve written in the past about the military destroying brass that, per appropriations requirements should be designated for civilian market resale,” Gun Rights Examiner explained.” As such, I’d like to establish the truth about this and make sure all of the points brought to my attention are addressed as specifically as possible. To that end, any for-the record response you could give to address these questions will be helpful and appreciated, as would any further information you could share about this.”

“I am will be out of state for a short while, however please contact [the staff sergeant] in our FOIA office for assistance on this,” the Director of Public Affairs for the Oregon Military Department replied. “The FOIA office will guide you in the right direction to obtain what you’re looking for.”

As has been related on prior Freedom of Information Act Request activities undertaken by this column, government personnel are not required to respond to questions — at most, they will provide requested documents. As such, a FOIA would delay responses to an inquiry seeking timely responses to matters of current interest, plus it would not provide answers to specific relevant questions of public interest. Both Fort McCoy and Oregon National Guard representatives were asked for their for-the-record statements, and their responses are what have been recorded here.

It could well be there is a good explanation that someone knowledgeable in such matters could clear up in an instant, but it’s just not evident from these official responses to specific inquiries. That’s why the people who can clear it up were approached in the first place. This exercise started out to be an inquiry, not necessarily an article.

As per appropriations requirements codified in public law, Section 8017, “None of the funds available to the Department of Defense may be used to demilitarize or dispose of M–1 Carbines, M–1 Garand rifles, M–14 rifles, .22 caliber rifles, .30 caliber rifles, or M–1911 pistols, or to demilitarize or destroy small arms ammunition or ammunition components that are not otherwise prohibited from commercial sale under Federal law, unless the small arms ammunition or ammunition components are certified by the Secretary of the Army or designee as unserviceable or unsafe for further use.”

There is a potential “out” for that. Section 8064 states “None of the funds provided in this Act may be used to transfer to any nongovernmental entity ammunition held by the Department of Defense that has a center-fire cartridge and a United States military nomenclature designation of ‘‘armor penetrator’’, ‘‘armor piercing (AP)’’, ‘‘armor piercing incendiary (API)’’, or ‘‘armor-piercing incendiary tracer (API–T)’’, except to an entity performing demilitarization services for the Department of Defense under a contract that requires the entity to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Department of Defense that armor piercing projectiles are either: (1) rendered incapable of reuse by the demilitarization process; or (2) used to manufacture ammunition pursuant to a contract with the Department of Defense or the manufacture of ammunition for export pursuant to a License for Permanent Export of Unclassified Military Articles issued by the Department of State.”

If that’s a factor in the two inquiries related here (and the process description from the Fort McCoy newsletter does not seem to support that), the respondents declined to provide such clarification following a series of very specific questions intended to elicit understanding. Perhaps further inquiries will now be made by those in an oversight capacity to establish that all is well. The intent is not to make things tougher on the military than they already are, it’s simply to ensure that public concerns that keep cropping up are resolved, that they receive top dollar for all sold goods during a time of sequestration belt-tightening, and that an already strained ammunition market is not further hampered by unnecessary component shortages.

http://www.examiner.com/article/military-installations-sidestep-questions-on-brass-destruction

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