Investigation reveals millions of dollars worth of NASA equipment is missing

BROOK PARK, Ohio - It takes sophisticated technology to launch a space shuttle, and research centers like NASA Glenn in Cleveland play a major role.

However, a 5 On Your Side investigation found everything from expensive computers to lasers have disappeared into thin air. That equipment was paid for with your tax dollars.

Our investigation reviewed missing property records at NASA Glenn for the last three years. We found $701,118 worth of equipment that NASA lists as missing, including a $10,000 computer, a $19,000 laser and a $37,000 infrared camera.

It's a problem NASA has been warned about for years. In 2007, the government accountability office found "NASA equipment was vulnerable to loss, theft and misuse."

At NASA centers across the country, the report found nearly $94 million worth of missing equipment over 10 years. Two years later, another report found NASA's program to track property is "hampered by inconsistent descriptions and inaccurate information" on the condition of equipment.

Even so, reports of missing equipment at NASA Glenn have risen from $20,100 in 2008 to $365,205 last year. Missing property reports are filed by NASA employees. Explanations include, "We looked all over and couldn't find it," to "Items are presumed lost." All are sent to a review board for further investigation.

Here is a breakdown of missing equipment by year since 1998:
- 2008: $20,100
- 2009: $194,789
- 2010: $365,205
- 2011: $121,023

"We take the stewarship of our property here very seriously. When something comes up missing, they investigate, they make recommendation and we put plans in place to prevent reoccurrence," said Mike Foreman, a former shuttle astronaut and NASA Glenn spokesperson.

That's because NASA prohibits employees from "throwing property in the trash or giving it away."

With the last shuttle launch expected this spring, NASA estimated it will have one million more types of equipment that will need to be tracked and properly disposed. NASA said the loss rate at all facilities is well below one percent and calls it the lowest across the federal goverment. Some missing equipment is eventually found and no top secret information has ever been reported missing. NASA also said dollar value of missing equipment doesn't include depreciation or if the item is obsolete.

Check out the full list of missing equipment from 2008 until 2011 here:

Watch the story Wednesday night at 11 p.m. on NewsChannel5.

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