SFTT Editor Roger Charles Live on Radio

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We are thrilled to announce that  Geoff “Jeff” Metcalf will conduct a LIVE RADIO INTERVIEW with Col. Roger Charles, editor Stand For The Troops, Wed. Jan 4th at 8PM PST (11 PM EST) Topic: Procurement Scandal over Shoddy Dept. of Defense Approved body armor.    SFTT readers are encouraged to call in and listen to the interview by calling in on the following numbers:

703-836-0384 (land line, VOIP) and (cell)

703-980-7551 plus 2d land line (VOIP) 703-836-6736.

Roger Charles, Vice Chair / Secretary of Stand For The Troops

A career Marine Corps officer from 1967 to 1990, Roger Charles has enjoyed a second career as an award-winning investigative journalist. He was a member in 2004 of the 60 Minutes II production team that earned a Peabody Award for the segment “Abuse at Abu Ghraib.”

Among his other journalistic achievements: Charles was awarded a Medal for Excellence in Investigative Reporting by journalism’s Investigative Reporters and Editors (I.R.E.) association for his 1992 Newsweek cover story, “Sea of Lies,” and was an Emmy finalist for best investigative piece for the Nightlight Special “The USS Vincennes: Public War, Secret War” in 1992.

For television, Charles has served as a consulting investigative reporter and contributor to segment development for 20/20 (a special project on the Oklahoma City bombing), ABC World News Tonight, Nightline, Frontline, Prime Time Live, BBC News, and CNN, among others.

Charles has served as an advisor on numerous stories for various print and electronic media outlets including: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and The New Yorker. He has been published in Newsweek, Insight, The Washington Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune, Soldier of Fortune, Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, and the Marine Corps Gazette, where he served as editorial board member from 1987-1989. In 1996, Charles broke the story of the fraudulent use of combat insignia by Admiral Jeremy Michael Boorda, Chief of Naval Operations.

“I saw while I was on active duty that many of the national media that cover security and defense issues are truly ill-informed about basic things they need to perform their job properly,” says Charles of his shift to a civilian role as an investigative journalist specializing in a range of national security issues. “This just destroys any kind of credibility this reporting has for any military audience.”

In 1998, Soldiers For The Truth Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan, apolitical, educational foundation whose purpose is meaningful reform of the U.S. defense establishment, was formed, with Charles serving as the editor-in-chief of its newsletter, Voice of the Grunt. Charles remained active on the non-profit’s Board of Trustees until December 2004, when an ailing Hackworth asked him to assume the foundation presidency and Charles now fills the role of Vice Chair, “The foundation was created around three issues: leadership, training, and equipment,” says Charles. “Think of a stool with three legs. Remove any one of those legs and the stool falls apart.”





Point Blank settles body armor suit with DoJ

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In yet  another indication that our military procurement process is out of control is the news that Point Blank – who makes much of the body armor vests worn by our military –  has finally settled a long-standing suit with the Department of Justice.

According to a news release cited by Thomson Reuters, “The government asked for “tens of millions” of dollars in penalties and damages, saying that from 1999 to August of 2005 the company knew or disregarded the fact that the fabric was defective. Other companies including Hexcel Corp., Second Chance Body Armor, Armor Holdings and Gator Hawk Armor, used this fabric as well, according to a statement from the government issued when it settled with Hexcel in 2007 for $15 million.”

“The settlement, which Point Blank submitted to bankruptcy court for approval, will allow its proposed sale in bankruptcy court to private equity firm Gores Group to move forward, according to the documents.”

Despite Point Blank’s long record of delivering substandard and often untested equipment to the US military, Point Blank was recently awarded another $30 million contract to produce the outer body armor vests.  I realize that it is beyond the comprehension of most taxpayers and the service members who wear Point Blank’s armor, but this appears to be modus operandi for the folks in charge of protecting the well-being our troops in combat.

As I wrote earlier, “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.”

Again, despite adjudicated evidence that our body armor is not reliable, our military procurement leaders still return to the same corrupt and tainted trough to equip our troops.  When will the public and our Congressional leaders wake up and say “No mas”?

This is clearly a sweet deal for the Gores Group since any potential  liability will have been settled or dismissed if Point Blank is to emerge from bankruptcy.   Partners and Managing Directors of Gores Group should think twice before allowing the stench of corruption at Point Blank contaminate their existing investment portfolio.

Richard W. May


Point Blank Solutions Bankruptcy Proceedings

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Reuters reports that unsecured creditors of Point Blank Solutions Inc. have asked the Delaware bankruptcy court to appoint an examiner or Chapter 11 trustee to displace the company’s board. 

According to the Reuters news release,  “the official committee of unsecured creditors claimed that the company had placed the interests of insiders above maximizing value of the business.  The filing claims that “restructuring alternatives had benefited Steel Partners, which provided Point Blank with a $20 million debtor-in-possession loan.”   According to the filing, Steel Partners controls the Point Blank Solutions Board of Directors and, as such, unsercured creditors believe that their interests are not adequately addressed.

Point Blank Armor, a subsidiary of Point Blank Solutions,  reportedly supplies more than 80 percent of the U.S. military’s soft body armor vest requirements, according to court documents.   It has been involved in a number of litigations and SEC investigations.


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


Point Blank Body Armor and Dragon Skin II

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By Nathaniel R. Helms

At the time of this report, despite repeated inquiries, the Department of Defense and the US Army had not commented on this report.

So-called “SAPI” plates do not provide complete protection from sniper bullets because of gaps in coverage around the torso.

Two weeks ago the Armed Forces Network (AFN) radio in Iraq reported enemy snipers are now shooting their intended Coalition victims between the so-called hard armor SAPI (Small Arms Protection Inserts) plates attached to the Interceptor OTV body armor, reporter Michael Yon told DefenseWatch after hearing the broadcast warnings in Iraq. The Interceptor’s OTV SAPI plates are intended to defeat most common rifle ammunition used by enemy soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, because they are gaps between the plates the wearer is not fully protected from a well-aimed shot.

Dragon Skin plates, called “panels” because they are flexible and cover the entire upper torso, are not susceptible to the sniper’s deadly new tactics, Pinnacle Armor officials said. Despite being a better design the Defense Department in 1999 rejected Dragon Skin without comment in favor of its home-gown Interceptor OTV armor although its inferior SAPI plate arrangement then as now presents gaps in the coverage of its hard armor plates on the wearer’s front, back and sides, Pinnacle Armor founder and patent holder Murray Neal said.

The Interceptor body armor system has been in production since 1999. At the time Natick, who designed and approved the body armor, awarded five-year contracts to manufacture it to Second Chance and Point Blank Body Armor of Oakland Park, FL. Armor Holdings didn’t get its share of the pie until later on.

In 1999, Point Blank was losing millions for its parent company DHB Industries. Things didn’t get much better until the events of 9/11 sent the United States to war. In 2001 and 2002 the lucrative DOD contracts provided to the Florida-based company boosted its profits to $10.1 million and $16 million respectively on a combined $228.3 million in revenue, according to industry sources.

Soon after the company received another $9.2 million contract in 2002 to produce body armor for Army engineers charged with disposing of landmines a labor dispute revealed that company was allegedly putting profits before quality. Attorneys for the labor union involved (UNITA) in the dispute submitted 150 pages of evidence in a Florida court that alleged quality problems with Point Blank’s body armor. Among the documents were Department of Defense reports from American soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DOD documents showed 43 percent of soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom complained that Point Blank’s body armor “hindered their mobility,” the court records showed.

In 2004 the Marine Corps found “major quality assurance deficiencies within Point Blank,” Marine Corps officials announced. 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 the court records filed in the UNITA case showed.

On May 3, 2005 Point Blank hired retired four-star Army Gen. Larry Ellis to lead the beleaguered company. Before retiring Ellis was the commander of US Forces Command (FORSCOM). FORSCOM is the Army’s largest major command, consisting of more than 760,000 active Army, U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers. Formerly, Ellis served as deputy chief of staff for operations and plans at the Pentagon. On May 4, 2005, the U.S. Marine Corps recalled 5,277 Interceptor vests manufactured by Point Blank Body Armor. On July 20 Point Blank received an additional $10.1 million contract from the U.S. government. Apparently it doesn’t hurt to know somebody, one Pentagon wag exclaimed. As the reader will discover in Part III of this series it really doesn’t hurt to know someone.

During the course of its investigation into the matter DefenseWatch spoke with several contemporary armor experts who are currently doing business with the Department of Defense supplying either expertise, technology, or both to Puzzle Palace procurement officers and officials. With the exception of Pinnacle’s Murray Neal they declined to go on record and spoke only after multiple assurances of anonymity.

One of these men, who began developing and selling body armor and associated products to the DOD before the Vietnam War, said speaking publicly about the procurement procedures used by the good ol’ boys in ultra-plush E Ring charged with obtaining equipment for America’s war fighters is tantamount to committing professional suicide.

“Just check the last three contracts awarded for helmets – three old boys,” he explained. “They didn’t get them talking about it. I can only be a background source mainly because I don’t want people to home in on me.”

In Part III DefenseWatch will explore just who those good ol’ boys are and how they control who gets what on the battlefield.

DefenseWatch Editor Nathaniel R. “Nat” Helms is a Vietnam veteran, former police officer, long-time journalist and war correspondent living in Missouri. He is the author of two books, Numba One – Numba Ten and Journey Into Madness: A Hitchhiker’s Account of the Bosnian Civil War, both available at www.ebooks-online.com. He can be reached at natshouse1@charter.net. Send Feedback responses to­ dwfeedback@yahoo.com