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to stop Gonzales and Card from overruling Ashcroft:Alerted to the others’ visit, Comey raced to the hospital himself, getting there with just minutes to spare. “I remember waiting; it wasn’t long, but it felt like forever,” Comey told U.S. News in an exclusive interview. “And I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do? What [...]
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Caught between the rock that is George Bush and the hard place of troops on the ground in Iraq, the Dems are apparently going to blink:
WASHINGTON - In grudging concessions to President Bush, Democrats intend to draft an Iraq war-funding bill without a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and shorn of billions of dollars in spending on domestic programs, officials said Monday.
The legislation would include the first federal minimum wage increase in more than a decade, a top priority for the Democrats who took control of Congress in January, the officials added.... Democratic officials stressed the legislation was subject to change. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss provisions before a planned presentation to members of the party's rank and file later in the day.
All of the details haven't been released yet, pending meetings in the Dem caucus in the House to discuss the bill, so changes could still be made. Will those changes include real timelines? Seems pretty unlikely, since the leadership says they want a bill that won't be vetoed.
So the fight is shunted off down the road a few months, to when we're supposed to be seeing that mythical September when all the Republicans decide to jump ship. On this, I'm in complete agreement with Atrios: we won't see a movement among Republicans for withdrawal, they're in it too deep. They won't back down.
So what can Congress do? Stick to the Feingold-Reid, Iraq Study Group framework. No more funding after March 31, 2008. Use the intransigence of Bush and the GOP against them. If Bush won't end this war, end it for him.
Jane Hamsher:Says John Linder, member of the House GOP Steering Committee: "I really don't pay much attention to blogs," he said. "You can say anything on those blogs without any attribution and get away with it."Liberal blogs have been influential, the Georgia lawmaker acknowledged. But he dismissed their conservative counterparts, saying, "I don't pay any [...]
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In a May 6 New York Times article, noted neoconservative and chief architect of the Iraq escalation strategy Fred Kagan said that lack of a Plan B is no reason to criticize the surge. He argues that, in fact, "there is no Plan B because there cannot be one." There can be no Plan B, he further states, because "The strategy now underway in Iraq? will change the situation in Iraq significantly, whether or not it succeeds in its aims."
Whether the surge succeeds, fails or fall somewhere in between, there's no need to plan ahead to the next step because it's too soon to tell what that next step might need to be. We can't predict now what things will look like in the fall, when U.S. commander in Iraq General David Petraeus is scheduled to report on the surge progress to Congress. So there's no sense revisiting alternate plans proposed in late 2006--they'll be irrelevant in 2007. Kagan tells us we especially don't want to revert to that darn old Iraq Study Group (ISG) proposal. That won't make any sense at all come this fall, according to Kagan.
But then, when it comes to not making sense, Fred Kagan is in a league of his own.
In January 2007, when he published Producing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq, Kagan stated that "Other courses of action have been proposed. All will fail." He especially condemned the idea of increasing imbedded trainers for Iraqi forces and engaging in diplomatic talks with Iraq's neighbors, and pretty much everything else the Iraq Study Group (ISG) proposed.
On Sunday, Kagan hit the political chat show circuit to bolster support for his escalation strategy, which was interesting timing.
We Got Your Plan B Right Here, Mister
On Monday, Washington Post writer Michael Abramowitz reported that the recommendations of the ISG, once all but summarily dismissed by the administration, are being looked at again by both the White House and congressional Republicans. Lawmakers from both parties plan to introduce legislation soon that will make the ISG's 79 recommendations official U.S. policy. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) says the ISG's recommendations are "gaining more support in the Congress because the situation in Iraq is not going as well as we had hoped."
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), one of the bill's sponsors, says, "My sense among Republican Senators is we know very well that the current course is not a sustainable course over a longer period of time. If we drift into September, [the president] may not be able to find a bipartisan basis to support a long-term limited interest in Iraq."
Lee Hamilton, co-chairman of the ISG, says that Washington officials "don't know what to do? They don't have a framework. They are looking. They are searching. Something has to follow the surge [of U.S. troops to Iraq]--they are interested in our proposals as a framework for policy."
Put another way, "they" desperately need a Plan B to pull out of their sleeves when Petraeus comes to them in September with nothing in his hand but his hat.
But the truth be told, they need more than a Plan B. It may well be that come September, the ISG's recommended diplomatic, economic and rebuilding measures will be overcome by events on the ground, especially if the surge increases the scope of violence throughout Iraq, and U.S. troops find themselves in the middle of a Hobbesian cross-fire for which even deluded ideologues like Fred Kagan can't suggest a "victorious" solution. Plan C will look very much like the "redeployment option" that Representative Jack Murtha proposed in November of 2005. (The administration won't credit Murtha for this idea. They'll call it a "containment strategy," and hope nobody remembers that's what we called the strategy we conducted for the decade between Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.)
Unfortunately, Plan C may not be enough branch and sequel planning to cover the contingencies. If we let Kagan and the rest of the neoconservative cabal push us down Plan A far enough and long enough, we'll need a Plan D, one that William Lind outlined at Military.com in March 2007.
America now has an army?of more than 140,000, deep in Persia (which effectively includes Shiite Iraq, despite the ethnic difference). We are propping up a shaky local regime in a civil war. Our local allies are of dubious loyalty, and the surrounding population is not friendly. Our lines of communication, supply and retreat all run south, to Kuwait, through Shiite militia country. They then extend on through the Persian Gulf, which is called that for a reason. If those lines are cut, many of our troops have only one way out?up through Kurdish country and [Turkey] to the coast.
There's not an ounce of meat in Fred Kagan's strategies or in his arguments. I spent enough time as a tactical and operational planner during my military career to know that anybody who says, "All other plans but mine will fail" and "we must stick with my plan whether it works or not, and not make plans for what to do if it doesn't work" should be seated on the bad end of the long green table at a euthanasia board. That Kagan spent 10 years as a professor of military history at West Point makes me shudder at the damage he may have done to the long-term intellectual integrity of the Army officer corps. That some our most senior policy makers still listen to him is a leading symptom of the critical level our national insanity has reached.
That GOP legislators appear to be standing up to Mr. Bush and his neocon inner circle may be a harbinger of more rational policies and strategies ahead. But it's no guarantee that Congress can put what one active duty four-star military officer allegedly referred to as "the crazies" back in their box.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.
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(I apologize for taking so long to cross-post this; for some reason, my Firefox/Mac combination at home has been getting a serious case of indigestion whenever I go to MLW. ? o.h.)
It's amazing what a little exposure in the corporate media can do. Within a few hours after NBC ran a nice little story during Thursday's Nightly News on the issue of the military?s testing of body armor, as well as on Friday morning's Today show and with Keith Olbermann on Countdown, Senators Hillary Clinton and Jim Webb announced their support of an investigation into the issue. But Thursday's and Friday's pieces were just teasers; NBC aired a much meatier report yesterday on
In Thursday's Part 1 of this 2-part diary, we got a quick overview of the issue of the Pentagon?s refusal to perform fair, open tests of a body armor system that might be superior to the Interceptor body armor currently supplied to American troops. We heard of the investigation into the matter begun by Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross, and of the Pentagon?s clumsy attempts to intimidate and bamboozle supporters of the Dragon Skin body armor system.
But Thursday's and Friday's pieces were just teasers; NBC aired a much meatier report yesterday onDateline NBC, featuring Dragon Skin and Interceptor both receiving armor-piercing and armor-piercing incendiary rounds in limited testing.
In today?s installment, we will take a quick look at some of the major players in the Interceptor-versus-Dragon Skin saga and review a few cases of Pentagon Procurement Syndrome, to see whether any conclusions can be drawn from them.
The Curious Case of Col. Norwood
From 2003 until his retirement in the summer of 2006, Col. John C. Norwood was project manager for soldier equipment at Program Executive Officer (PEO) Soldier. As such, he was in charge of testing for body armor.
And as such, Col. Norwood was in charge of the testing of Pinnacle Armor?s Dragon Skin body armor in May 2006. You will remember that that testing was abruptly halted midway through the process without explanation, and never resumed. Had the testing found Dragon Skin to be superior to the standard-issue Interceptor system, Armor Holdings, the lead contractor for Interceptor, might well have seen its huge government contracts for military body armor ? contracts which totaled more than $360 million in 2006 alone - disappear overnight.
So ? testing cut short, Dragon Skin ?off the table,? Armor Holdings? body-armor franchise safe. Just like that.
Col. Norwood retires from the Army a month or two later. Almost immediately, he is hired as a Vice President for the Aerospace & Defense Group of a Very Large Defense Contractor. That Aerospace & Defense Group of that Very Large Defense Contractor happens to manufacture body armor for the U.S. Army.
That Very Large Defense Contractor happens to be - Armor Holdings.
?Wow!? you say. ?Shouldn?t something like that be, umm, illegal, or something?? Well, as a matter of fact ? something like that is, in fact, illegal.
Let me see, let me see . . .
Oh, yes! Here we go:
41 U.S.C. 423(d)
? 423. Restrictions on disclosing and obtaining contractor bid or proposal information or source selection information
(d) Prohibition on former official?s acceptance of compensation from contractor
(1) A former official of a Federal agency may not accept compensation from a contractor as an employee, officer, director, or consultant of the contractor within a period of one year after such former official-
(A) served, at the time of selection of the contractor or the award of a contract to that contractor, as the procuring contracting officer, the source selection authority, a member of the source selection evaluation board, or the chief of a financial or technical evaluation team in a procurement in which that contractor was selected for award of a contract in excess of $10,000,000;
(B) served as the program manager, deputy program manager, or administrative contracting officer for a contract in excess of $10,000,000 awarded to that contractor
(3) A former official who knowingly accepts compensation in violation of this subsection shall be subject to penalties and administrative actions as set forth in subsection (e) of this section.
(4) A contractor who provides compensation to a former official knowing that such compensation is accepted by the former official in violation of this subsection shall be subject to penalties and administrative actions as set forth in subsection (e) of this section.
(e) Penalties and administrative actions
(2) Civil penalties
The Attorney General may bring a civil action in an appropriate United States district court against any person who engages in conduct constituting a violation of subsection (a), (b), (c), or (d) of this section. Upon proof of such conduct by a preponderance of the evidence, the person is subject to a civil penalty. An individual who engages in such conduct is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $50,000 for each violation plus twice the amount of compensation which the individual received or offered for the prohibited conduct. An organization that engages in such conduct is subject to a civil penalty of not more than $500,000 for each violation plus twice the amount of compensation which the organization received or offered for the prohibited conduct.
(Hat tip to cwaltz for unearthing this info.)
Now, IANARULSG (I Am Not A Regent University Law School Graduate), nor am I even a real lawyer - but in spite of that, I have watched Perry Mason as well as several episodes of Law and Order. So let's play Perry Mason for a moment here.
I would ask the court to read the following press release from Armor Holdings. As you are reading, I would further ask the court to bear in mind that Col. Norwood was Project manager of Program Executive Officer Soldier Systems at Fort Belvoir, VA, in May 2006, when Dragon Skin - the leading candidate as replacement for Armor Holdings' Interceptor - was being tested. If you would please be so kind:
Armor Holdings, Inc. Receives $32.1 Million Order for U.S. Army Ceramic Body Armor Inserts
Feb 28, 2006 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX News Network/ -- Armor Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: AH), a leading manufacturer and distributor of security products and vehicle armor systems serving law-enforcement, military, homeland security and commercial markets, announced today that it has received a contract modification from the U.S. Army Research, Development & Engineering Command, Unique Missions Division, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, on behalf of the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office Soldier Systems at Fort Belvoir, VA. The new delivery order, which is drawn from a previously announced $461 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (ID/IQ) contract, adds approximately $32.1 million for additional quantities of protective ceramic body armor plates to be delivered through October 2006. Work under this contract will continue to be performed at the Armor Holdings Aerospace & Defense Group facilities in Phoenix, Arizona.
Robert Schiller, President of Armor Holdings, Inc., said, "We are pleased to remain a significant supplier of critical body armor components to the U.S. Army. It is gratifying to continue our substantial participation in the individual body armor program including vests and ceramic plates, as well as other important soldier equipage programs directed by the U.S. Army Soldier Equipment Programs Office and its contracting activity at Aberdeen Proving Grounds to support our men and women in uniform."
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I remind you of these salient facts:
- On or about February 28, 2006, the U.S. Army Soldier Equipment Programs Office of the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office Soldier Systems at Fort Belvoir, VA - headed by Col. John C. Norwood - placed a contract with Armor Holdings for body armor in an amount of approximately $32.1 million.
- On or about May 19, 2006, the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office Soldier Systems - headed by Col. John C. Norwood - conducted testing on a body armor system that had the potential to supplant the Interceptor body armor system manufactured by Armor Holdings.
- At some point during the summer of 2006 - considerably less than one year after authorizing a contract with Armor Holdings in the amount of $32.1 million - Col. John C. Norwood retired from the Army and went directly to work as a vice president for the Armor Holdings Aerospace & Defense Group.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, unless I am greatly mistaken, the pattern of events described above - and about which there can be no dispute - might seem, to a reasonable person, to constitute a violation of 41 USC 423, cited above.
I rest my case.
Oh, and, one more thing about 41 USC 423. Yeah, um, it also provides for penalties against the offending contractor - in this case, Armor Holdings. Hmm, let's see . . .
(3) Administrative actions
(A) If a Federal agency receives information that a contractor or a person has engaged in conduct constituting a violation of subsection (a), (b), (c), or (d) of this section, the Federal agency shall consider taking one or more of the following actions, as appropriate:
(i) Cancellation of the Federal agency procurement, if a contract has not yet been awarded.
(ii) Rescission of a contract with respect to which-
(I) the contractor or someone acting for the contractor has been convicted for an offense punishable under paragraph (1), or
(II) the head of the agency that awarded the contract has determined, based upon a preponderance of the evidence, that the contractor or someone acting for the contractor has engaged in conduct constituting such an offense.
(B) If a Federal agency rescinds a contract pursuant to subparagraph (A)(ii), the United States is entitled to recover, in addition to any penalty prescribed by law, the amount expended under the contract.
Ouch. That's gonna leave a mark.
Here's the kicker, though:
(g) Limitation on protests
No person may file a protest against the award or proposed award of a Federal agency procurement contract alleging a violation of subsection (a), (b), (c), or (d) of this section, nor may the Comptroller General of the United States consider such an allegation in deciding a protest, unless that person reported to the Federal agency responsible for the procurement, no later than 14 days after the person first discovered the possible violation, the information that the person believed constitutes evidence of the offense.
What that means is: WRITE TO YOUR CONGRESS MEMBERS, NOW. Tell them this must be brought to the attention of the Pentagon IMMEDIATELY.
BTW, here's a funny/interesting/sad snippet from October 2003, in which Col. Norwood speaks about body armor:
In the meantime, mothers of American soldiers are raising money to pay from $650 to more than $1,000 for the off-the-shelf equipment. According to an Army spokesman, the Defense Department will not consider buying the commercially available equipment because the Army is only permitted to buy items that it has certified and tested.
Asked whether the Defense Department plans to certify retail models, the spokesman replied, "There are no other efforts to certify or test them." He added that soldiers' decisions to use the body armor sent from home are "ultimately a personal choice.?
Norwood said that an investigation into the quality of off-the-shelf armor is not being planned at his level.
Okay, well, that was just an interesting aside. Let's review what we've learned in this section, just to make sure there's no misunderstanding:
The guy who was in charge of testing a piece of equipment that would have killed contracts worth $360 million dollars last year for Armor Holdings, NOW WORKS FOR ARMOR HOLDINGS!
Yup, that about sums it up.
Armor Holdings: Lying down with dogs
So just exactly who is this Armor Holdings that Col. Norwood decided to cast his lot with? Well, if it's true that you're known by the company you keep, Armor Holdings - which in the last three years has done at least $1.5 billion worth of business with the U.S. government - must be known as a sleazy operator.
Just a quick rundown:
BAE, the largest British defence contractor, a couple weeks ago made a bid to purchase Armor Holdings, for $4.1 billion. BAE, for its part, has been trying to extricate itself from a bribery scandal involving a $100 billion weapons deal and a Saudi arms merchant. Tony Blair has been accused of ordering the British attorney general to kill the investigation to protect Blair's political and Big Business cronies (gee, where have I heard that before?), as well as relations with the Saudi royal family. And Blair's chief of staff has had his e-mails subpoenaed as part of that investigation:
Police investigating alleged corruption by Britain?s biggest defence company sought access to Downing Street?s computer system to trawl for e-mails sent by and to Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair?s chief of staff.
They suspected that Lord Powell, his brother, an adviser to BAE Systems, the firm at the centre of the inquiry, was lobbying Downing Street aides to have the investigation stopped.
Additionally, the British government has been trying to oust the head of the anti-bribery unit of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the world's main anti-bribery watchdog group. The U.S. has been looking into opening its own bribery investigation, while the Swiss government is pursuing its own investigation into a completely separate case of alleged money-laundering activities by BAE.
As a result of the mounting pressure - some of it no doubt exacerbated by the possible acquisition of Armor Holdings by BAE - Britain's attorney general has tried to put some lipstick on the Blair administration's prosecutorial pig by loudly touting his office's "vigorous" pursuit of BAE malfeasance involving lesser contracts with B-list nations South Africa, Tanzania, the Czech Republic, Chile and Romania.
That's just on the other side of The Pond. Here in the States, our friends at Armor Holdings have had their share of slime. They recently admitted to firing an unspecified number of employees over a procurement scandal involving the United Nations and - wouldn'cha know? - a middleman arms merchant firm.
But let's forget all that for a moment, shall we, and celebrate the impending enrichment of Armor Holdings' top executives - who just, by the way, earned a total of some $55 million between the two of them for the company's stock performance.
The BAE deal will also likely lead to big profits for Armor Holdings executives. According to the company's recently filed proxy statement, Chief Executive Warren Kanders will receive $35 million in pay, bonus, the vesting of stock options and other costs whether or not he stays with the company. Robert Schiller, the company's president, would receive $20 million.
In a statement, company president Robert Schiller said Armor Holdings was "excited to move this business to the next phase of its development."
Yeah, I'd be excited, too.
And, being as how Mr. Kanders holds more than 2 million shares of Armor Holdings stock, his share in the company would be worth nearly $200 million after a sale to BAE.
Interestingly - and not that I'm pointing any fingers here, just sayin' - several commentators have noticed an unusual spike in trading of options on Armor Holdings just before BAE officially announced its intention to purchase AH:
Crooks, Astute Shareholders Alike Find Options Prove Prescient
[One stock analyst] highlighted Armor Holdings on May 4 and Florida East Coast on April 30 in his six-page daily note to investors. Both companies are located in Jacksonville, Florida.
[Diarist's aside: Florida East Coast also is a big Republican contributor, and a contributor to Democrat Bill Nelson.]
London-based BAE Systems Plc agreed to buy Armor Holdings, the biggest maker of armor for Humvee vehicles used in Iraq, on May 7. New York-based Fortress Investment Group LLC, the first U.S. manager of private equity and hedge funds to go public, said it would buy real-estate developer Florida East Coast on May 8.
Michael Fox, a spokesman for Armor Holdings, didn't return a telephone message. Bradley Lehan, treasurer of Florida East Coast, also didn't return a message.
The combination of today's buyout of Armor Holdings (AH) and the recent spike in stock volume spurred me to look into the option volume. Specifically the action in call options.
The chart below shows the combined daily volume for near-term call options on Armor Holdings since the beginning of the year. For the last few months, daily volume has tended to average only a few hundred call contracts. Volume began to pick up in the last two weeks and the action on Thursday and Friday was well above that.
There are always a number of possible reasons for spikes in volume and I have seen situations were momentum just feeds on itself and eventually makes its way to the options market but I thought this one was worth noting...
And, from CNBC:
If the SEC is going to crack down on insider trading, it may want to focus its limited resources not on the few headline-grabbing mega deals but on the scores of run-of-the-mill financings that hit the markets every day . . .
On Monday BAE Systems purchased Armor Holdings for $4.1 billion, or $88 a share. The stock rose around 5% on the news. But the real action appeared to take place in the weeks before the deal was announced, when there was a sharp spike in the trading of Armor call options . . .
[T]he trading that preceded [the] Armor Holdings [announcement] does suggest that certain market professionals have a leg up on average investors. And if SEC chairman Chris Cox is serious about stamping out insider trading and democratize the market, these examples show that he has a real problem on his hands . . .
Here's how Armor Holdings' sales have climbed during the past five years:
Here's how AH's stock price has risen:
Here's the tally of U.S. dead in Iraq, from icasualties.org:
Just to add a little perspective to the altruistic and troop-lovin' picture of the boys at Armor Holdings, back in 2004, when the Pentagon was looking to crank up production of armored Humvees for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Armor Holdings subsidiary O'Gara Hess & Eisenhardt had the exclusive contract at the time, the Pentagon pursued the idea of allowing other manufacturers to help carry the load.
Determined to hold onto its exclusive contract, O'Gara began lobbying Capitol Hill . . .
[W]hen [the Pentagon] asked O'Gara to name its price for the design rights for the armor, the company balked and suggested instead that the rights be placed in escrow for the Army to grab should the company ever fail to perform.
"Let's try this again," an Army major replied to the company in an e-mail message. "The question concerned the cost, not a request for an opinion." [snip]
Robert F. Mecredy, president of the aerospace and defense group at Armor Holdings, the parent company of O'Gara, acknowledged that the company was protecting its commercial interests.
- not, amazingly enough, the interests of American soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Mecredy, incidentally, is Col. Norwood's boss.)
Now, it is probably worth noting, as I mentioned in my diary last July,
Armor Holdings is a Very Good Friend To The Republican Party. In its various guises, Armor Holdings contributed more than $128,000 to Republican candidates in the 2006 campaign cycle; its Armor Holdings PAC contributed more than $36,000 to Republicans (although some of that is included in the $128,000); contributions to Dems in 2006 totaled $28,150, including $16,600 to Florida Senator Bill Nelson and $7,550 to Hillary Clinton.
Up until some time early last summer, the largest holder of Armor Holdings stock was the Friess Associates fund, headed by bigtime Republican donor Foster Friess. Friess and his family contributed more than $157,000 to Republicans during the 2006 midterm election cycle.
It is also worth noting that one of the prime beneficiaries of Armor Holdings' largesse has been one John Boehner, within whose district AH has one of its largest operations. Boehner, through AH's various channels, received more than $14,000 from Armor Holdings for the 2006 camapaign cycle.
The Pentagon and Procurement: Far from Perfect
A recurring theme among defenders of the Pentagon's position on the Dragon Skin testing issue has been a willingness to trust the Pentagon's word on the adequacy and integrity of the testing and procurement process and those involved with it.
A quick glance at history shows that such trust is ill-founded. Take the case of former Air Force procurement chief Darleen Druyun:
Druyun was the equivalent of a three-star general and oversaw nearly every major weapons contract the Air Force awarded through the 1990s. She lost her $250,000-a-year job with Boeing last fall after questions arose about her hiring. By spring, she had pleaded guilty to secretly negotiating the Boeing job while still working for the Air Force.
Wow, now who would do such a thing?
At her Oct. 1 sentencing on a single count of conspiracy to violate conflict-of-interest laws, Druyun admitted to favoring Boeing with contract awards and better terms in return for her job and other favors - acts she had denied for months.
Companies that competed against Boeing for the four contracts about which Druyun admitted to improprieties are filing lawsuits and contract protests. They could win financial compensation for portions of the contracts. Meanwhile, on Oct. 7, Congress approved a provision in the 2005 Defense authorization bill that prohibited the Air Force from leasing tanker refueling aircraft from Boeing under a controversial multibillion-dollar deal negotiated by Druyun . . .
The extent of Druyun's influence was reflected in letters to the court attesting to her integrity and citing her record as a tough negotiator. Former Air Force Secretary Sheila Widnall, former Raytheon chief executive officer Dennis Picard, and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Lawrence Skantze are among those who wrote, all before Druyun admitted she had favored Boeing.
Ooops - well, everybody makes mistakes.
Now, Raytheon, Raytheon - why does that name sound so familiar? Hmm, let me see . . .
Oh! Now I remember!
[A congressional investigation] found Raytheon?s Quick Kill [anti-RPG system] to be relatively immature and fraught with significant development risks. Important components like the radar, which is supposed to track and identify incoming threats, are not yet fully developed and testing of the system as a whole is on hold while the warhead ? needed to intercept and destroy threats ? is redesigned.
Congressional and Pentagon sources tell NBC News that the new report raises serious questions about the Army?s decision to go with Raytheon, the Army?s decision to block Trophy as a potential stopgap solution, and the truthfulness of statements Army officials have made to Congress.
Yikes! Army officials lying to Congress?? I'm shocked, SHOCKED! Which Army officials, pray tell, might have been less than truthful to Congress about this Raytheon system?
While Maj. Gen. [Jeffrey] Sorenson told Congress that Raytheon?s system would be ready at about the same time as Trophy, the IDA report estimates it will take Raytheon some five years to catch up to Trophy.
You don't say:
The Army's decision to buy Quick Kill was questioned by Raytheon competitors, who wondered why the Army chose an under-development system instead of the on-sale Israeli Trophy. Army officials say they looked at eight systems and chose the best option.
"We have done the analysis on this six ways to Sunday," said Sorenson.
Six, mind you. Not just three or four, but six. Whew - well, I must say, I'm convinced.
Except - wait a minute - didn't Gen. Sorenson have something to say about Dragon Skin, too. Yeah, I seem to recall this:
Parents of soldiers serving in overseas combat zones "ought to feel comfortable with the fact and know ... that we have provided the best body armor that is available anywhere in the world," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson, the Army secretary's deputy assistant for acquisition and systems management.
Claims of superiority voiced by some manufacturers whose body armor isn't certified for soldiers' use are just claims, Sorenson said at a Pentagon news conference. Such equipment, he said, hasn't been tested or evaluated. "They have not passed the rigor that we put into standards determining whether something is safe, effective and suitable," Sorenson said. "And, until such time that they can do that, we will not give them, if you will, the 'Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.'"
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sorenson said Friday the gear has not yet passed testing.
It "isn't anywhere near" the capability of the standard interceptor body armor in use, Sorenson said.
"All other claims being made (about Dragon Skin are) ... exactly what they are: claims," Sorenson said. "Until such time it is standard we won't give them the 'good housekeeping seal of approval.'"
"In some cases we haven't seen this capability ... has done anything to provide force protection we evaluate is even standard," Sorenson said . . .
"If someone finds the holy grail we will be right there to back up the dump truck and buy it," Sorenson said.
Wow. Dump trucks, holy grails and Good Housekeeping Seals of Approval? . . . . Very impressive. I'm sure I should believe everything Gen. Sorenson says about Dragon Skin.
I mean, I know the Pentagon wouldn't issue anything less than the best available anything to our soldiers and Marines, right? I mean, the M16 was clearly a superior weapon when it was issued, right? How 'bout that Bradley Fighting Vehicle? And the V-22 Osprey is obviously the best available Marine-delivery system out there, isn't it? And Raytheon's Quick Kill anti-RPG system, like the general said above, has been tested six ways to Sunday, f'cryin' out loud! And hey - since Raytheon and BAE are joining forces on the new Excalibur artillery system, I'm quite sure it's gonna be rockin'!
Oh - and don't think the Pentagon can't be flexible when it comes to awarding multi-billion-dollar contracts quickly, to the appropriate vendors:
[T]he Marines are quickly buying more blast-resistant vehicles, rewriting Pentagon procurement practices as they go.
Instead of handing prototype awards to one or two contractors, the Marines signed deals with nine. Within 19 days, two companies with test vehicles won early-production contracts, including the Buffalo's builder, Force Protection Inc. A week later, three more got the go-ahead. The U.S. plans to spend $8.4 billion over two years for as many as 7,700 trucks. That's $1 million apiece, including electronics gear and services costs . . .
To offer better protection with advanced trucks, the Marines will make some compromises. Conceding the battle for cost-efficiency by paying $1 million a vehicle is only one. The new trucks, for example, are being produced only for immediate use in Iraq and Afghanistan and won't serve longer-term needs.
Well, I mean, our troops are worth it, when it comes to providing them adequately armored vehicles, right? I mean, ignoring costs and disregarding normal procurement policies doesn't have anything to do with the fact that, say, Armor Holdings is one of the major subcontractors for this, does it?
``It's unprecedented,'' Captain Jeffrey Landis, a Marine Corps spokesman, says of the purchasing push.
Hmm, Landis, Landis - where have I heard that name before? Oh, yeah! He was the guy who contacted the La Rosa family and PBS producer Lee Koromvokis to "explain" to them how Dragon Skin had failed military testing, and Interceptor was the best body armor out there.
Capt. Jeff Landis, spokesman for the Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, said he contacted the La Rosas after learning of their efforts and told them Dragon Skin was not permitted by the Marines. He also contacted the PBS show "Newshour with Jim Lehrer" ? which was in Maryville on April 14 to profile the La Rosas and their fund raising for an upcoming segment ? to relay the same information.
The La Rosas took the contact as something more sinister: They believed it was an attempt by the Marine Corps to save face, especially through the phone call to PBS, which Javier La Rosa called an effort to "kill" the story and quash publicity for their efforts.
Other than to confirm that she received a call from Landis, "Newshour" producer Lee Koromvokis declined to discuss the nature of the conversation.
While the Marine Corps appreciates local efforts to help the troops, Landis said his contacts with the La Rosas and PBS were simply meant to "educate" them about military body armor.
So, what have we learned about the Pentagon's procurement process?
It's immensely fallible, as are the people who run it.
Who Can You Believe?
In all of the research and discussion I have read about this issue, it has been my experience that the two camps are divided by one simple criterion:
Just exactly whom do you believe?
The evidence presented by those who believe the proponents of Dragon Skin has included various videos of various tests using various types of rounds (although few if any with armor-piercing Level IV rounds), and some anecdotes from various sources, none of whose veracity can be verified.
The evidence presented by those who believe the proponents of Interceptor has included -
anecdotes from various sources, none of whose veracity can be verified. Period.
The Pentagon has presented no verifiable evidence, ever to demonstrate Interceptor's superiority to Dragon Skin. None. Ever.
So - who do you believe? Well, until side-by-side testing is done by those with no self-interest in the outcome, you have to weigh credibility using other methods. I hope this two-part diary has added some evidence with which to weigh credibility of at least some of the parties involved - evidence which includes, not least, the motivation and past behavior of individuals and institutions.
But there is one other, very simple test, that might offer some assistance in cutting through the fog surrounding this issue at this point. It is a test of logic that is very dear to my heart:
Occam's Razor, folks, Occam's Razor. The simplest explanation is probably best. What is the simplest explanation for the following two questions:
What would Pinnacle Armor possibly have to gain by pushing hard for tests that it knows it will fail, in full view of the public and the media, for all the world to see, thus ending speculation about whether in fact its Dragon Skin body armor is superior to Interceptor?
How could it possibly harm America's soldiers or the Interceptor program to demonstrate that it is superior to Dragon Skin?
In other words -
Why are Interceptor's backers so afraid of these tests?
I don't know. But I say, let's find out, shall we? I am quite certain that every patriotic American wants for our soldiers to be wearing unquestionably the best body armor available. And I am equally certain that no patriotic American could possibly object to holding open, verifiable, side-by-side testing of every viable system out there in order to ascertain which is best.
So - What now?
This Is Not Over.
Not by any stretch.
After NBC's big splash for the initial stories on The Nightly News, Today, and Countdown, they've pulled their horns in. Now, interestingly, you can't find any links on NBC's site to the Today show or Countdown videos. And the listing for tonight's Dateline makes no mention whatsoever about the segment that, as of a couple days ago, was going to be the centerpiece of the show. The Dateline website now has prominent information on the segment. And good luck trying to find any press release on Hillary Clinton's website about investigating body armor; as of this morning, you can't. I'd like to believe that's not because she's running for president and doesn't want a potentially controversial issue to muddy the waters. Or because she received some $10,000 in campaign contributions from Armor Holdings' various O'Gara entities during the 2006 campaign cycle. Or because BAE just announced its intention to expand its manufacturing plant in Johnson City, New York. At least she's out there, publicly calling for an investigation - but, please, Hillary, put it on your website.. As of Monday, the press release is up on Hillary Clinton?s website.
Where things go from here remains to be seen. But at least it's out there. At least three high-profile senators have gone on record about the issue (Ted Kennedy issued his own letter, as mealy-mouthed as it may be). At least it's on more folks' radar. We have to leverage that; we have to put pressure on Those Who Can Make Things Happen to, in fact, make things happen.
So, call your representative and your senators. Fax them. Let them know you want to ensure that our troops have the best available body armor, and that the Pentagon has not proven that they do have it. Tell them to demand a new, open round of testing of all viable systems, side-by-side.
Let's see if we can save some lives.
Thanks for reading.
Epilogue: Coincidence? Or , cui bono?
We found out yesterday that an explosion and fire destroyed portions of the H.P. White Testing Laboratories, where the aborted testing of Dragon Skin was conducted in May 2006. Whether any records relating to that testing were destroyed is not known at this time.
The State Fire Marshal?s Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating an explosion that occurred this weekend at a Harford County testing range.
Sometime before 7:18 p.m. Friday, a quantity of ballistic propellant ? akin to gunpowder or rocket fuel ? exploded inside a partially buried shipping container where it was being stored at H.P. White Laboratory Inc., off Scarboro Road in Street. The explosion caused the remaining propellant to burn, leading residents nearby to call 911 over the large quantity of smoke it produced, Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Jason Mowbray said.
Firefighters from the Darlington Volunteer Fire Department and Bel Air Volunteer Fire Department responded but remained about 100 feet from the burning container for safety. A ladder truck from Bel Air lifted firefighters up to a position where they could observe the fire from afar, Volunteer Fire and EMS spokesman Rich Gardiner said . . .
The facility was closed when the explosion occurred . . . Investigators were reviewing inventories to determine the contents of the container, but authorities have not yet released which substances exploded and burned.
(Major hat tip to Dburn for much of the information in the "Armor Holdings" section, as well as for keeping me abreast of breaking developments in this story. Thanks, Dburn - you know you rock! - o.h.)
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