Prepare to be disgusted.
At a time when a new acronym, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), has entered the American lexicon because of injuries sustained to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the New York Times reports that not only are many combat helmets being given to our troops substandard, and not only was there a lawsuit about it, but the government actually placed an order with the same company for more helmets just days before the suit was settled.
A North Dakota manufacturer has agreed to pay $2 million to settle a suit saying it had repeatedly shortchanged the armor in up to 2.2 million helmets for the military, including those for the first troops sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Twelve days before the settlement with the Justice Department was announced, the company, Sioux Manufacturing of Fort Totten, was given a new contract of up to $74 million to make more armor for helmets to replace the old ones, which were made from the late 1980s to last year.
The issue at the heart of the suit were two former employees of the company who maintained (and never were disproved) that Sioux was not weaving their Kevlar at the mandated 35 by 35 thread per square inch count, but 34 by 34, and making up the weight difference by just applying more hardened resin. I think in anyone's book, that would be considered reason enough to never place a contract with the same company again. But, what's worse, that extra resin makes the helmets more brittle, which doesn't give the necessary head protection to the troops.
In the suit, it seems like everyone at the company knew what they were doing:
In the evidence in the suit were hundreds of daily inspection records showing repeated violations of the weaving standards, as well as tape recordings of six managers and employees' admitting covering up violations.
In a conversation Mr. Kenner secretly taped, Rhea Crane, quality assurance officer, worried "if we ever had someone get killed, and they decided to investigate because they thought maybe the helmet wasn't any good."
"If we ever got audited," she said, "you know what they would do to us. Shut us down and fine us big time. Probably never see another government contract."
Oh, you think so, Mrs. "Quality Assurance Officer?" Well, lucky for you all at Sioux Manufacturing, the Bush administration is on the scene, where substandard products for the troops are awarded with MORE contracts! We've truly entered the Bizarro World.
Thankfully, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has taken up the case and written to Congress to investigate this matter. We at VoteVets.org fully support their call for an investigation, and we'll be doing more in the coming days to support their efforts.
There have been many, many things wrong with how the wars have been waged. I don't think I need to go through a litany of them. But, to me, there is no issue more tragic than how Donald "The Army You Have" Rumsfeld, and this administration have been absolutely and totally irresponsible -- indeed wreckless -- in how they go about protecting our troops at the most basic levels, from body armor, to Humvee armor, and now, to helmets.
As always, you can read more about this, and how the troops and veterans see this, at VetVoice.com