Interceptor Body Armor: End of a Chapter, Stench Remains

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A colleague at Stand For The Troops (“SFTT”) sent me an email a few days ago informing me that David H. Brooks, the founder and former chief executive of DHB Industries, died on Thursday at the age of 61 in a prison in Danbury, CT.

david brooks and co

David Brooks and co-defendant Sandra Hatfield, photo source unknown

Convicted in 2010 of insider trading and “fraudulently enriching himself” with company funds, Mr. Brooks was a contractor who supplied bullet-resistant vests and other body armor to the military and other law enforcement agencies.   In particular,  DHB Industries and its successor, Point Blank Industries, supplies Interceptor Body Armor to the U.S. Army.

Interceptor Body Armor

My colleague has been following this tragic story for approximately ten years from the perspective of “boots on the ground” who rely on government-issued protective gear to insure their safety.

As readers of SFTT are aware, senior U.S. Army officials have consistently claimed that the U.S. has “the best body armor in the world” and that there have been no battlefield fatalities as a result of defective body armor.

Of course, none of these outrageous claims are true, but the U.S. Army apparently went one step further arguing that medical and survivor benefits might be withheld if personnel were wounded or died if they were not wearing mandated government-issued body armor.

There have been many GAO and IG reports condemning flawed testing procedures by the military on body armor, but little was done to correct these deviations from well-established testing protocols.   After the stench of incompetence and, perhaps corruption, could no longer be contained, in 2009 the military brass decided to kick the process into a higher sphere of bureaucratic red tape: the National Research Council.

Since then, there have been periodic recalls of defective ceramic plates, despite repeated claims by the military brass that “the recalled plates have passed all ballistic tests so Soldiers who may have been using the plates were always properly protected.”   Clearly, if the ballistic tests were flawed (and they were), then it follows that our Soldiers were not adequately protected.

In fact, for any military officer in authority to assert that that our troops were “properly protected” despite repeated IG and GAO claims to the contrary should – in my opinion – be Court-martialed.

Of course, we know that will not be the case as subsequent actions by the Beltway spin-doctors showed.

Roger Charles, editor of SFTT,  filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) to have the autopsy records released on 103 military personnel who had sustained fatal wounds to the torso.  Some of these bodies were shipped back with their body armor strongly suggesting that the body armor was flawed.

Although Mr. Charles received a favorable ruling by a Federal Judge to have the records released in 2010, those records continue to remain secret as a result of continued legal gymnastics by Defense Department lawyers.  Ir is unlikely that these records will be released anytime soon.

As someone who has served in the military, I find it difficult to believe that our military leaders would expose the brave young men and women in uniform to hostile fire without the best possible protective gear.   Sure, everyone knows that military equipment may sometimes be compromised, but we would expect after action follow-up to insure that improvements are made to improve reliability.

In the case of Interceptor Body Armor, I find little evidence of a sincere effort by military leaders to deal with this problem.  Rather than face up to faulty test procedures and clear evidence of deficiencies in the body armor, our Beltway military leaders tried to spin a tale to convince Congress, the public and the men and women who serve our country that they were wearing the best protective gear.

These frauds know it was a lie. Anyone with common sense knows it is a lie. Many serving in harm’s way knew it was a lie.   Frankly, continued denial by our military leaders that consciously misled our troops on the effectiveness of body armor disqualifies them from a position of leadership.   You know who you are.

Now, you can continue to deny responsibility in the coverup, but try explaining your complicity to grieving family members who have lost a loved one through your gross incompetence and lies.

While Mr. Brooks death in prison closes one chapter in this painful saga, the stench of self-serving incompetence, dishonesty and possibly corruption continues to foul the air.

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Brooks and Body Armor: Lies Kill Brave Patriots

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SFTT summarized a report yesterday from Wall Street Journal reporter Kristen Jones which reported that Body Armor King David Brooks was sentenced to jail for 17 years for a $200 million fraud scheme.   In the article, it was suggested that the Justice Department decided not  to pursue more serious charges of corruption in the military procurement process of body armor supplied to our brave young men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sadly, the stench of corruption and dishonest procurement process by our military far exceeds the 17 year “slap on the wrist” given to David Brooks.  Found below is a more gut-wrenching account of the “real” story from former  DHB President, Jim Magee.

 

This (sic the David Brooks story) goes deeper than “defective body armor.” I quit as Point Blank Body Armor’s president after designing the Intercepter vest, and managing the Arthur D. Little Modular Body Armor (Intercepter) program when my DHB boss, David Brooks agreed to a US Army procurement office demand that Point Blank meet the Army’s target price of $626 each, regardless of what had to be given up in wearer protection. The price was Army procurement’s ONLY concern. When I pointed out we would have to reduce the vest’s protective coverage areas to reduce the Kevlar costs, coverage required by the Army’s Natick R+D and PM-Soldier Intercepter spec’s, Army procurement’s response was “…that’s not our problem; make coverage changes to cut your costs if you have to, but we’re only paying $626 per vest.”

Brooks told me to cut out all of the Army’s Protection Area III, (244 sq inches of lower abdomen and kidney area coverage), “make the vest in size medium but mark them large, etc.” and cut way down on the side and shoulder coverage to make it cheaper to manufacturer.” I told him we’d be screwing the wearer, and that I would resign first.

He laughed, and I quit. Brooks was a horrible human being; consistently abusive of all around him; a belligerent, hateful person. In one particularly doped up incident (he was either over medicated or under medicated-read doped up), he yelled at me on the production floor to “fire all the niggers.” My thirty or so Haitian and Jamaican-born sewers went nuts until I physically pushed Brooks out of the plant’s loading dock, and then told them I’d give them a couple of paid hours of unearned overtime to defuse the atmosphere.

Making lots of money was Brooks only concern. He routinely told anyone who worked for him, “people were to be used.” He had no idea why short changing the war-fighter, and delivering a substandard vest – short of PM Soldier’s specs – bothered me to the point where I would walk away from a potential million dollars in income and stock. Integrity and honesty were unknown character traits in Brooks. He viewed them as “weaknesses.”

I still haven’t decided whether he was a sociopath or a psychopath. Either way, he had and has no redeeming qualities. Prison is too good for him. A violent death would have been more suitable.

While one can argue whether Brooks is a sociopath or psychopath, the fact remains that our military leadership knowingly sanctioned the use of  defective body armor.   The Inspector General has reported many body armor testing violations that have been conveniently covered up by our military leadership.  In fact, the DoD continues to  block favorable court rulings requested by SFTT to release the autopsy  reports of military personnel killed in action wearing defective body armor.

More to the point, the public has been aware for quite sometime that “something is wrong in Denmark” when NBC’s Lisa Meyer reported on quibbling within the Army over the best body armor.

The corruption goes far deeper than the simple incarceration of  David Brooks. The dreadful and dishonest sycophants who approved and promoted this defective body armor are – in my opinion – accessories to manslaughter or even worse. Why aren’t they in jail? I suspect that most have been promoted or are now in lucrative contracts as “outside consultants”  perpetuating the merry-go-round of corrupt behavior or “business as usual” in our military procurement process.

How many more brave heroes have to die to feed the insatiable greed of people like Brooks?

Thanks for coming forward Jim.  I know it has been painful.  If more concerned individuals would do so, we could weed these monsters out of positions of trust.  Our men and women in uniform deserve better.

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Body Armor King Goes to Jail

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David H. Brooks, the founder of DHB Industries Inc., a company  that supplied body armor to the U.S. military was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his role in a $200 million fraud scheme.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal by Kristin Jones:

 

“DHB Industries made body armor that protected the men and women of the U.S. military, who risk their lives to keep us safe,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta E. Lynch. “To David Brooks, it was merely a vehicle for plunder and a means to feed his own greed.”

Mr. Brooks was convicted of stealing more than $6 million from the company to finance a horse-racing business, and to buy a luxury car, plastic surgery for his wife, a burial plot for his mother, $40,000 in leather-bound invitations to his son’s bar mitzvah, and a $101,000 belt buckle adorned with diamonds, sapphires and rubies.

He was also found guilty of accounting fraud intended to increase DHB’s profits and inflate the value of its inventory, the Justice Department said. After the company filed reports based on his manipulations, Mr. Brooks sold shares before the stock price plummeted and the company was delisted from the American Stock Exchange, the Justice Department said.

Well, I guess one can argue that Al Capone when to jail for tax fraud rather than murder, but David Brooks has more than corporate and securities fraud to answer for by supplying our military with defective body armor.   While Mr. Brooks may now be behind bars, the Defense Department still insist on hiding the truth of the defective Body Armor supplied to our brave young men and women serving in harm’s way.

A sad comment on our leadership by not getting the bottom of this sad story of our military procurement system.

 

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Body Armor Contracts: The Stench of Corruption

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With Wall Street protests popping up in many cities in the United States and over 150,000 signatures now collected on a new Constitutional amendment to “get the money out” of politics, it was a bit of surprise to read that Point Blank Solutions  has recently received a new $30 million order to produce “Outer Tactical Vests” for the US military.

Why should I be surprised?  Well, Point Blank Solutions has been in Chapter 11 (a court-sanctioned “voluntary reorganization” to avoid bankruptcy) since April, 2010.  One of the reasons cited by Point Bank Solutions in soliciting the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware for a Chapter 11 reorganization was the mounting legal costs associated with defending the former CEO and Founder of Point Blank Solutions, David Brooks, for tax fraud and securities fraud.     While Point Blank’s current management insist that David Brooks has no role in the company, one must certainly be disturbed by the pedigree.

The Department of Defense may have very good reasons to award large contracts to a company in Chapter 11; however, equipment reliability and the integrity of body armor testing procedures don’t seem to be high of the list of priorities mentioned by military officials.   As recently as August of this year, the Inspector General of the Department of Defense found serious flaws in the testing procedures of Interceptor Body Armor plates.   This is just one of a series of disturbing reports issued by government auditing agencies over the last several years finding major shortcomings in the test procedures used to evaluate the reliability of body armor worn by US military personnel.

Let’s face it, our military and civilian leaders don’t give a damn!  If they did, the people responsible for testing body armor and conducting fair and impartial testing would have long ago been fired.  Furthermore, those who continue to quibble and provide false information to Congressional leaders and the public, such as, Lt. Gen. William Phillips (principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), Col. Cole, Project Manager for Soldier Protection, and US Army Brigadier General Peter N. Fuller, the Program Executive Officer of the Soldier Systems Center, should be relieved of command.

Will this happen?  Of course not.  The military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about continues to thrive in DC.  The victims are gullible taxpayers and the young men and women who defend our country so valiantly.    The blood of these brave warriors is on our hands if we don’t insist on accountability.

Become a Member of SFTT and add your voice to help get the best protective gear and combat equipment for our Troops.   Together, we can make a change.

Richard W. May

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Military Body Armor Supplier Files for Bankruptcy

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Point Blank Solutions Inc.,  who claims to be the leading manufacturer of body armor,  filed for bankruptcy protection on April 14, 2010.   Citing Court filings, Reuters reports that the Florida-based (Pompano Beach) company “supplies more than 80 percent of the U.S. military’s soft body armor vest requirements . . .”  

Claiming mounting legal bills in the trial of former CEO David Brooks – currently on trial in New York for securities fraud and other related crimes – Point Blank Inc. and three affiliates  filed for Chapter 11  protection in US Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.  Tom Hals reports that  “former CEO, David Brooks, was listed as the company’s largest shareholder with a 22.6 percent stake. The company has also been investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, is the subject of a shareholder lawsuit, and spends about $600,000 a month on legal fees, according to court documents.”

The South Florida Business Journal reports that Point Blank CEO and Chairman of the Board, James Henderson issued a news release stating that “We have won several key contracts, paid down a substantial amount of our debt and realigned our business to return to profitability.  Without a financing facility and with mounting legacy expenses, however, we had to take this step to reorganize.”

The South Florida Business Journal goes on to report that “in 2007, Point Blank sued its former CEO  (Brooks)  for the return of more than $4 million and other company assets.  Also, in 2008, the company settled a class action lawsuit and a shareholder derivative suit for $34.9 million in cash and 3.18 million shares of its common stock.”

Formerly known as DHB Industries, Point Blank was also cited for supplying body armor to the Marines in 2004 that didn’t meet specifications.  As reported by Nathanial Helms for Defense Watch, “as early as July 19, 2004, according to memos obtained by the Army Times newspaper, the Marine Corps found ‘major quality assurance deficiencies within Point Blank.’ One month later, on August 24, 2004, the military rejected two orders from Point Blank after tests revealed that the vests did not meet safety requirements.   Faced with a severe shortage of body armor the Army decided that nine Point Blank orders that did not meet safety requirements would be sent to troops overseas anyway, according to court records. On May 4, 2005, the U.S. Marine Corps recalled 5,277 Interceptor vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor.”   Despite the fact that Point Blank had been consistently supplying the U.S. Marines with substandard equipment, on July 20 Point Blank received an additional $10.1 million contract from the U.S. government.”  Go figure. 

It does seem grossly negligent that the US Army and Defense Department continues to employ contractors whose very public financial problems, questionable integrity and lax quality standards should be allowed to bid upon body armor contracts let alone supply our troops with critical protective gear.   SFTT, families of troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and the media have been questioning US military body armor procurement practices for years.   At every step of the way, we have been stonewalled. 

The October 2009 GAO report recommending independent body armor testingconfirms what everyone knows:  there is something rotten in the State of our military procurement process.   Why should our frontline troops and their families continue to suffer because our military leadership has for so long turned a blind eye to this situation?  Will the bankruptcy of Point Blank finally bring about needed changes? 

If past history is any indication, our military leadership will coddle Point Blank through their bankruptcy reorganization.   Our military leadership needs to make a clean break with Point Blank and get our troops the body armor they deserve.  Let’s hope they do, but we will be vigilant.

Richard W. May

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