M2 Heavy Machine Gun Fails Troops in Afghanistan: More on DoDIG Report

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As readers of SFTT News are aware, I had previously reported on the blithering incompetence demonstrated by the US Army and DoD in the procurement of spare parts for the M2 Heavy Machine Gun that is essential to the survival of our troops in Afghanistan.   “Blithering incompetence” are my words, but reading the Department of Defense Inspector General (“DoDIG”) on the Defense Logistics Agency (“DLA”) handling of critical spare parts for the M2, my words seem mild compared to the outrageous and indefensible behavior of those entrusted to make sure that our frontline troops have the proper combat equipment and protective gear. 

The DoDIG essentially informs  the Secretary of Defense that after eight years of combat in Afghanistan and seven years of combat in Iraq, the bureaucrats in the DLA do not have a minimally-acceptable process that gets our frontline troops the right spare parts for their M2’s in a timely fashion.

In fact, the DoDIG tested 21 different spare parts and one 98-piece spare part kit, all of which are designated “critical application items,” which are defined thusly:  “A critical application item is one that is essential to the preservation of life in emergencies or essential to end-item or system performance, the failure of which would adversely affect the accomplishment of a military operation.”   Here is the “good” news from the DoDIG report:  “At least 7,100 items did not conform with quality standards for 24 of the 103 contracts, including parts that:

  •  contractors manufactured incorrectly,
  • did not meet specific quality standards, and
  • contained inadequate phosphate surface coating to prevent corrosion

Many readers will recall previous DoDIG and GAO reports documented how the Army acquisition bureaucrats had subverted the First Article Testing process to ensure substandard body armor was issued to our frontline troop, and these readers will not be surprised that in this investigation report, DODIG found the responsible DOD agency:   “. . . did not include a first article test requirement in 79 of the 103 contracts we reviewed. For 21 of the 79 contracts, contractors ultimately provided parts that did not conform to contract specifications. If [DoD] had included appropriate quality assurance provisions in these contracts, such as a first article testing requirement, it could have identified contractor deficiencies at an earlier date.”

The DoGIG also noted that a DLA office had “performed 20 product verification tests on items associated with the M2 contracts we sampled. Contractors failed 14 of the 20 tests . . .”  So, contractors failed 70% of tests of their “products,” products designated as “critical application items” essential to our frontline troops having fully functioning M2’s.  No one pays a penalty; contractors get paid for shoddy work; bureaucrats get paid for showing up. Business as usual in today’s Military Industrial Congressional Complex.

There’s a lot more to digest in this DODIG report, but let’s end with these two findings:

“. . . did not always use appropriate and effective contracting quality assurance procedures to ensure that contractors provided M2 machine gun parts that conformed to contract specifications. This increased the risk for the warfighter, who had to wait for critical M2 gun parts.” [Duh!!]

“. . .contracting officials were not holding contractors accountable for late deliveries of critical application M2 gun parts. Monetary compensation for nonperformance is a key element DSCC can use to hold contractors accountable for complying with contract delivery terms.”

If by chance, you share SFTT’s outrage at this egregious negligence and dereliction of duty on the part of those who sole responsibility is to support America’s great frontline troops, you might want to ask your elected representative how many thousands of dollars went to DLA last year for “superior performance” bonuses?  I recall the outrage at bonuses being awarded to executives of AIG and Merril Lynch after the bail-out.   Shame on the DLA and those officials who continue to condone this serial dereliction of duty and blind incompetence in our military procurement process.  Our troops deserve better. 

Last point, the Army shares in the “joy” of this report due to its documented failures in making DLA aware of this situation with sufficient “emphasis,” and for the flaws in both technical data packages and overhaul projects for the M2.  The sad truth is that no one involved demonstrated even a minimal concern about getting critical spare parts to those whose very survival might well depend on getting them in a timely manner, i.e., before their next firefight.

Roger Charlges

Senior Investigative Report and SFTT Editor

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