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Rep. Louise Slaughter

Rep. Louise Slaughter

Posted: July 17, 2007 01:57 PM

Our Soldiers Deserve Armor -- And Answers

Update: New Video of Rep. Slaughter speaking about the issue on CNN's The Situation Room.

In yesterday's USA Today expose on the ignored pleas from troops in the field for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to protect from the growing threat of IEDs, we learned of a heartbreaking statistic that "'621 to 742 Americans' who would have survived explosions had they been in MRAPs rather than Humvees."

It's an issue that I have long been troubled with in this mismanaged war. In January 2006, I grew concerned after reading an article in The New York Times that revealed sole-source contracts that had been issued to contractors that had significant issues in delivering the vehicles to Iraq, including one, Force Protection "that had never mass-produced vehicles."

In light of this shocking report, I demanded answers from the Department of Defense's Inspector Generals (IG) Office on the procurement policies for body armor and armored vehicles, specifically asking them to focus on the sole-source contracts issued to Armor Holdings, Inc. (AHI) and Force Protection, Inc (FPI).

Last week the first of those reports was released by the Pentagon on the "Procurement Policy for Armored Vehicles." The 49-page report details how the Pentagon regularly violated federal procurement policies in order to justify the sole-source awards to AHI and FPI. The IG documented that senior military officials wanted to multi-source the contracts, but that they were overruled by a Task Force report to the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

As a consequence of these sole-source awards, AHI and FPI regularly failed to get the vehicles to theater. Those companies were rewarded with additional sole-source contracts despite delays in providing vital armor or broken equipment arriving in Iraq.

Twice in the report, the Inspector General writes that the problems "increased risk to soldiers' lives."

The 15 sole-source contracts issued to these two companies were worth a total of more than $2.2 billion. From the beginning, these contracts should have raised more questions as decisions for procurement from other companies were overruled at some of the highest levels of the Defense Department. Force Protection was unable to meet production deadlines even after the Pentagon paid $6.7 million to build up their capability. The results were unsurprising and tragic. Armor Holdings sent cracked equipment that had been painted over, and even two armored left doors for the same vehicle, instead of one right and one left. All of this put our troops in greater danger all while these companies continued to receive additional contacts.

This report and the fine reporting from USA Today and The New York Times unearths more questions than answers. Our soldiers deserve nothing less than best equipment and answers to why they are not receiving it -- and we are determined to get them both.