The Pentagon plans to trash $1.2 billion in small-arms ammunition and missiles that are probably usable, but it can't be sure, because military inventory records are such a mess.

That stockpile represents thousands upon thousands of untold rifle and handgun rounds and light anti-aircraft weapons, but they're spread across all four of the military's service branches—and when an individual branch no longer has use for some of its ammunition, it's almost impossible for a needy branch to get that gear, according to a GAO report cited in USA Today:

The services have inventory systems for ammunition that cannot share data directly despite working for decades to develop a single database. Only the Army uses the standard Pentagon format; "the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps operate with formats that are obsolete."

The services hold an annual conference to share information about surplus ammunition and swap bullets and other munitions as needed. Data about ammunition left over after the meeting disappears from the books, resulting in an unknown amount of good bullets headed to the scrap heap…

Some of the report's details sounded like bureaucratic jokes from deleted Brazil scenes:

A request for ammunition from the Marine Corps, for example, is e-mailed to the Army. The e-mail is printed out and manually retyped into the Army system because the services cannot share data directly. Not only is this time consuming, but it can introduce errors — by an incorrect keystroke, for example.

Meanwhile, the Army straight-up doesn't bother to tell anyone how many Stinger, Hellfire, and Javelin missiles it has available in its estimated $14 billion cache, so no other services know to ask for some if they need them.

On the bright side, if Uncle Sam really is destroying the ammo, domestic freedom fighters can rest safe in the knowledge that it's not being saved for martial law or the FEMA concentration camps.

[Photo credit: AP]