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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Military procurement investigated

Another story that is under reported: Do our soldiers have the best body armor? Or has politics played a part in the type of armor they are given? Are some military procurement officers setting themselves up for a lucrative job at retirement and putting our soldiers in harms way as a result? PBS via The Lehrer Report did a good job of challenging the status quo in this story.

Apparently, Interceptor body armor was picked as the military’s choice. Some say Dragon Skin is far better.

I love this quote:
REP. PHIL GINGREY (R), Georgia: It astounds me to hear you suggest that our military would rig the system in favor of some favored vendor, contractor when lives are at stake.
Come on! I'm not supposed to question corruption in the military? Am I really supposed to believe in this day and age that the military is squeaky clean when it comes to corruption. Man, another politician that thinks we’re idiots.

No. No corruption ... we are to believe. Yet, there’s definitely a stink of conflict of interest. Here’s an excerpt from the broadcast. Norwood is John Norwood a former colonel who was championing Interceptor boy armor.

PAUL SOLMAN: Meanwhile, Norwood, present at the test that failed Dragon Skin, retired last summer, immediately went to work for Interceptor contractor Armor Holdings, with $350 million in body armor contracts in the year since Norwood's appointment. Norwood declined our request for an interview.

While General Mark Brown wouldn't give us an interview either, he did talk to NBC's Lisa Myers in the spring.

LISA MYERS: Are you aware that an Army colonel who oversaw the testing of Dragon Skin now works for one of the companies making the Army's current body armor?

BRIG. GEN. MARK BROWN: Yes, I'm aware.

LISA MYERS: And you're not troubled?

BRIG. GEN. MARK BROWN: No, I'm not troubled at all.

LISA MYERS: And you don't see a conflict of interest at all?

BRIG. GEN. MARK BROWN: Not since he followed all the laws and regulations and ethical rules about post-service employment, no, I don't see a conflict.

PAUL SOLMAN: We asked Winslow Wheeler, a longtime Capitol Hill staffer turned defense spending watchdog, for his reaction.

WINSLOW WHEELER, Center for Defense Information: The law is full of loopholes, and they're not even enforcing what tatters are left of the old revolving-door legislation.

PAUL SOLMAN: And the practice of someone leaving the military for a job with a company he awarded contracts to?

WINSLOW WHEELER: It's standard behavior. It's the way the system works. It's the way the system keeps itself going.
Meanwhile, some families of soldiers have been raising money to buy Dragon Skin armor for their loved ones in the military. They don’t like the way the system works when it comes to the safety of their loved ones.

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