Sticky fingers at the Pentagon

In this March 27, 2008, file photo, the Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Yes, the Pentagon needs more money to preserve the nation’s military edge. But it could also do better in managing the money and the equipment it has. Defense projects regularly turn up on lists of wasteful spending. And now it turns out that there is also a problem with sticky fingers.

The Web-based investigative reporting organization called The Intercept has published a report by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) seeking help in finding and recovering sensitive night-vision devices originally issued to military units to help them avoid Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and for other combat uses.

The report said many of the items have turned up for sale on the Internet, marketed as sporting goods, hunting equipment, bird-watching tools and camping equipment.

The Intercept found two of the items listed in the NCIS report for sale on the Internet, including a Universal Thermal Monocular for $6,000 and a Clip-On Night Vision Device Thermal System for $16,599 in “new condition.”

The military items come from approximately 32,000 “deployment kits” issued to military units since 2009. “Items in the deployment kits are NOT for civilian use,” says the NCIS report, adding that they cannot be exported without a license.

It said NCIS and the FBI have recovered a number of items and determined that their loss was due to “poor accountability controls in many of the military units who were issued the gear.”

Expressing a concern that the military items for sale on the Internet might fall into hostile hands, the report said, “NCIS asks for your help in identifying and recovering these items to keep foreign entities from exploiting the technologies in these devices and using them against the U.S. military, NATO allies, or civilian law enforcement personnel during the course of their duties.”

It’s a rare case for encouraging federal employees to scope out the Internet at work.