Just a few hours ago, Rep. Louise Slaughter posted a blog here about the company that let the troops down by not getting body armor to the troops fast enough and having problems with the quality and the money spent. I am glad that she has brought this to the public and the media's attention and I would like to give her a suggestion.
Call up DOD Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness, Honorable P. Jackson Bell. I interviewed Jack Bell for my book, Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War, after interviewing two generals who were responsible for the initial logistics for the Iraq war. In the chapter entitled, "You Go to War with the Secretary of Defense You Have" the two generals sometimes defended the contractors, but finally said that they would have rather had troops for logistics. They also had some concerns with contractors in general.
I worked long and hard to get an interview with Jack Bell to get his civilian take on the problems of contractors in this war on the logistics and supplies. He was pleasant at first but then was unhappy and defensive as the interview went on. He made a puzzling comment that "soldiers complaining on the battlefield is actually a sign of good morale as far as we are concerned." He then made a rote statement that was clearly given to him by the Army:
"To our knowledge, none of the warfighters suffered long-term adverse consequences due to failure to provide them the equipment or supplies they needed to conduct the war fight." [p.227]
I remember at the time I interviewed him being stunned at the absolutism of his statement because the lack of body armor stories were in the press and the un-armored Humvee controversy was also getting attention.
I wonder if getting shot because you don't have the newest or effective body armor could be classified as a "long-term adverse" consequence. I would suggest that Mr. Bell be called up to Congress to explain his attitude toward the troops in light that he is one of the top people in DOD responsible for logistics and material. Maybe he could bring the Army people that gave him that statement and let them explain the body armor problems and the myriad of other contractor problems that plague this war.
As for the generals that I interviewed for the book, they were upfront to me even thought they tried to defend the contractors. One of them, Major Wade McManus, then the commanding general for the U.S. Army Field Support Group in Rock Island, Illinois, he wistfully told me that speaking up had its price, "Damned if you do, damned if you don't. If you raise a stink in uniform, you kind of disappear. If you retire and say something, they say you should have said something when you were on active duty and you're not credible now."
Maybe the Congress can get Jack Bell to speak realistically about these problems under oath in front of a congressional committee. The Congress needs to try because we still have troops on the ground and they deserve it. Rep. Slaughter has my support and help in any way she wants to proceed.
If you want to know more, go to my Follow the Money Project website.