Pentagon Suspends Sale of F-14 Parts

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By SHARON THEIMER
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 31, 2007; 2:25 AM

WASHINGTON -- A Democratic lawmaker says he will press on with legislation to permanently bar the Pentagon from selling leftover F-14 jet fighter parts despite the Defense Department's decision to pull them off the market while it considers national security concerns.

The spares rank high on Iran's military shopping list.

"The Pentagon is shutting the barn door for now when national security demands that we lock it," Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden said.

Iran is the only country trying to keep F-14s flyable. With little ability to produce parts on its own, Iran is aggressively pursuing several avenues to get hold of U.S. spares, including Pentagon surplus sales, federal law enforcement officials say.

An Associated Press investigation this month found buyers for countries including Iran and China have exploited gaps in Pentagon surplus-sale security to get their hands on sensitive military equipment. The purchases included parts for the F-14 "Tomcat" and other aircraft and missile components, and law enforcement officials say that in at least one case the contraband made it to Iran.

The AP also reported on the Pentagon's initial plans to sell thousands of spares from its recently retired fleet, news that prompted strong disapproval on Capitol Hill.

The Pentagon said Tuesday it has suspended sales of the spares while it conducts a "comprehensive review."

"It was the prudent thing to do," said Jack Hooper, a spokesman for the Defense Logistics Agency.

The review will examine Pentagon policy for handling the spare parts and determine what should be done with them "in light of the current situation with Iran," Hooper added. Iran is currently at odds with the United States and other countries over its suspected nuclear weapons program, among other issues.

Wyden's legislation, introduced last week, would stop the Defense Department from selling surplus F-14 parts for good and ban buyers who have already acquired surplus Tomcat parts from exporting them. He is confident he can win Senate approval within the next few months.

"The only way to ensure that America doesn't arm Iran is for the U.S. to permanently stop selling these weapons parts," Wyden said. "This review does not do that and I am going to press on until it happens."

A House Republican also viewed the Pentagon move as a short-term solution.


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© 2007 The Associated Press

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