By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Marshals Service has lost track of about 2,000 encrypted two-way radios worth millions of dollars, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing internal records it had obtained through a public records request.
The paper reported that the problems date back to at least 2011, when the Marshals were deploying new versions of the radios to communicate in the field.
The Wall Street Journal said an internal technology office had warned about the issue, but the problems tracking the equipment persisted.
"It is apparent that negligence and incompetence has resulted in a grievous mismanagement of millions of dollars of USMS property," the paper quoted a 2011 presentation by the agency's Office of Strategic Technology as saying.
"Simply put, the entire system is broken and drastic measures need to be taken to address the issues ... The 800-pound elephant in the room needs to finally be acknowledged."
The U.S. Marshals Service serves to protect federal courts and judges. It also administers the witness protection program and tracks down fugitives.
In interviews with the paper, some Marshals told the Wall Street Journal they were worried not only about the wasted money, but also about the prospect of criminals getting hold of the radios and using them to gain access to privileged law enforcement activities.
U.S. Marshals Service spokesman Drew Wade confirmed the paper's report late Sunday and said the agency is doing a "complete review" of the radio inventory.
"We believe that this issue is in large part attributable to poor record keeping as a result of an older property management system, as opposed to equipment being lost. Many of the radios at issue had previously been declared obsolete and were being phased out of circulation in favor of newer technology," Wade said.
"The U.S. Marshals Service is not aware of any instances where public safety was jeopardized as a result of this. The USMS is currently in the process of acquiring a new property management system and intends to have it in place for the next fiscal year."
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Eric Walsh and Paul Simao)