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US Defense inspector general to probe Marine delays in delivering reinforced trucks, lasers

US Defense inspector general to probe Marine delays in delivering reinforced trucks, lasers

An investigation into allegations the U.S. Marine Corps delayed sending blast-resistant trucks to Iraq also will examine whether the Marines were negligent in delivering a laser to divert drivers and people from checkpoints and convoys, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press.
Marines on the front lines sought the tool, known as a Compact High Power Laser Dazzler, but stateside acquisition officials did not deliver it, said a civilian Marine Corps official. A less effective laser eventually was sent, but delays of nearly 18 months may have led to an untold number of Iraqi civilian casualties, according to allegations by the official, an internal critic whose claims are being investigated.
The deaths and injuries occurred when civilians mistaken as enemy forces got too close to guarded areas and U.S. troops lacked a nonlethal method to force them away, according to the official. The Iraqi government has complained about such incidents in the past.
The dazzler emits a powerful stream of green light that stops or redirects oncoming traffic by temporarily impairing the driver's vision. Without it, troops open fire when warning signals are ignored or not seen.
The Marine Corps has stressed that the allegations made by the official, Franz Gayl, reflect his personal views. Gayl's conclusions stem from a series of case studies he was conducting for the Marine Corps plans, policies and operations department about the wartime acquisition system.
Gayl has been ordered to end the project, according to Adam Miles of the Government Accountability Project in Washington. Gayl filed for whistle-blower protection last year, a system that protects government employees who report slipshod or unlawful conduct.
The AP reported Monday that the Marine Corps had asked the Pentagon inspector general to look into Gayl's charges that a nearly 2-year lag in the fielding of mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks resulted in the deaths of or injuries to hundreds of U.S. Marines in vehicles hit by roadside bombs.
A Feb. 20 memo from Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, to the Pentagon inspector general requests that the dazzler allegations also be investigated.
The memo, obtained Tuesday by the AP, notes that a Naval Audit Service review of the system for rapidly shipping needed gear to be deployed was completed recently. The Marine Corps has said that audit found shortcomings and fixes are being done.
Gayl's charges are related to "human interaction and motivation" within the acquisition system, Magnus said.
After the Naval Audit Service began its review, "allegations surfaced that the Marine Corps had not acted with alacrity in responding to the needs of deployed units, and specifically that mismanagement on the part of Marine officials cost Marine lives by not acquiring (MRAP) vehicles or laser dazzlers in a timely fashion," Magnus wrote.
Lt. Gen. John Castellaw, the deputy commandant for programs and resources, told AP on Wednesday that the Marine Corps' No. 1 priority is to get the best gear to troops in combat as quickly as possible. Marine leaders take Gayl's allegations seriously, he said.
"We want to know the truth," Castellaw said, speaking to AP ahead of a hearing on the Marine Corps' budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.
"We will cooperate fully (and) openly," Castellaw told members of the House subcommittee on seapower and expeditionary forces when asked about the IG investigation.
Castellaw said he and Magnus have read Gayl's studies "cover to cover."
"The Marine Corps has not muzzled this individual," Castellaw said.
Gayl is free produce further studies, the general told the panel, but his work on the MRAP project has ended.
Also on Wednesday, four senators asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to open a wider investigation that examines the wartime procurement practices of all the military branches.
"It is difficult to reform while engaged in the fight, but we believe we must if we are going to win the fight," wrote Sens. Joseph Biden, Kit Bond, Jay Rockefeller and Ted Kennedy. Bond is a Republican, the others are Democrats.
Maj. Manuel Delarosa, a Marine Corps spokesman, cited Gayl's claims, congressional interest, and questions of troop safety as primary reasons the inspector general was asked to examine the MRAP and dazzler acquisitions.
Gayl, a retired Marine officer, is science and technology adviser to Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, who heads the plans, policies and operations department.
Gayl completed a case study on the Compact High Power Laser Dazzler on Feb. 14. In it, he notes that Marines stationed in western Iraq filed an urgent request for the tool in June 2005. And he said the 2005 request and subsequent pleas for the dazzler were not met.
"The urgency of the operational need for dazzlers was not debatable, since the tragedies it was designed to mitigate had already been experienced," Gayl wrote.
Marines in Iraq became so frustrated at the delays they bypassed normal acquisition procedures and used money from their own budget to buy 28 of the dazzlers directly from LE Systems, a small American company, according to Gayl. The dazzlers cost about $8,000 (euro5,300) each.
Because the lasers had not passed a safety review process, stateside authorities barred the Marines from using them, his report states. There were also questions raised about whether the LE Systems could build sufficient numbers of the dazzlers. LE Systems has said it could meet the demand.
In January 2007, nearly 18 months after the first request, Gayl said the Marines received a less capable laser warning device built by a different company.


Updated : 2020-11-30 12:42 GMT+08:00