Why does the Army not support its' own troops?
According to a NBC News report, the Army had awarded Raytheon a $70 million contract to develop an anti-rocket propelled grenade system, despite the fact that the system was clearly inferior to a competing system and nearly half of the technical team assigned to evaluate the anti-RPG systems were Raytheon employees.
Not only that, but the Raytheon system wasn't even tested under "live" conditions and won't be available until 2011, while the competing/better system (and the one preferred by a different Pentagon division) could be ready by next year.
Politics and cronyism over our troops' lives and safety...
The "better" system was produced by an Israeli firm, was extensively tested, and had a very high success rate - all which would be positives when it comes to saving the lives of our troops. RPGs, as many of us have heard, are easy to hide, easy to use and have killed nearly 200 of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq:
OFT officials subjected Trophy to 30 tests and found that it is "more than 98 percent" effective at killing RPGs.
An official involved with those tests told NBC that Trophy "worked in every case. The only anomaly was that in one test, the Trophy round hit the RPG's tail instead of its head. But according to our test criteria, the system was 30 for 30."
In an e-mail, a senior official writes: "Trophy is a system that is ready -- today... We need to get this capability into the hands of our warfighters ASAP because: (1) It will save lives!"
Officials also tell NBC News that according to the Pentagon's own method of measuring a weapons system's readiness, Trophy is "between a 7 and an 8" out of a possible score of 9. Raytheon's system is said to be a "3."
So what did the Army do to counter the overwhelming evidence that a non-Raytheon product was better, more accurate and of course, better to, you know, "support our troops"? Well, they cancelled the "shoot off rodeo", which was designed to test the accuracy of the systems in favor of a different selection process:
Last year, the Army planned to test competing RPG defense systems in what officials refer to as a "shoot-off rodeo." At the time, Raytheon's system was still on the drawing board, and the Army opted to cancel the test.
In a statement to NBC News, the Army explained that the cancellation was "primarily because of concerns related to cost, supportability, practicality and fairness." But Pentagon officials involved in past shoot-offs say money should not have been a factor since defense contractors, not the Army, normally shoulder the cost of system vs. system competitions.
Read that again. Raytheon's system wasn't even ready to go live, so instead of testing other systems in a selection process, the entire testing process was cancelled. And what happened with the "new selection process"? Well, the selection team was staffed with numerous Raytheon employees.
Army documents obtained by NBC News, however, reveal that nine of the 21 technical experts -- as well as all the administrative personnel -- were from Raytheon. The team ultimately concluded that of the seven RPG defense systems examined, Raytheon's was "the clear winner."
Raytheon's "Quick Kill" solution -- which the Army concedes will not be fielded before 2011 at the earliest -- won out over Trophy, the Israeli system championed by the Pentagon's Office of Force Transformation.
The Army later told NBC News that, its own document notwithstanding, the technical team actually consisted of 30 people plus two administrative assistants and that a total of eight people were from Raytheon.
"That sure doesn't look like an objective panel to me," says Phil Coyle, a former principal adviser to the secretary of defense on weapons testing and evaluation. "It just doesn't pass the ho-ho test when you have that many people from one company on the selection panel and then that company is the one that's chosen."
And lest anyone think this is anything OTHER than playing politics with our troops' lives, even senior Pentagon officials are calling bullshit on the Raytheon selection:
"There are some in the Army who would be extremely concerned that if the Trophy system worked, then the Army would have no need to go forward with the Raytheon system and the program might be terminated," says Steven Schooner, who teaches procurement law at both George Washington University and the Army's Judge Advocate General's School.
Trophy's supporters inside the Pentagon are more blunt. As one senior official told NBC News, "This debate has nothing, zero, to do with capability or timeliness. It's about money and politics. You've got a gigantic program [FCS] and contractors with intertwined interests. Trophy was one of the most successful systems we've tested, and yet the Army has ensured that it won't be part of FCS and is now trying to prevent it from being included on the Strykers" that OFT planned to send to Iraq.
Just another sad chapter in the United States of Corporate `Murka under the Bu$hCo administration. Screw the people. Screw the troops. Safety - what safety? Just line your pockets while the gettin's good.