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Murtha Dead at 77

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Just now posting a story to Military​.com on the death of one of the most influential defense lawmakers on Capitol Hill ever.

I’ve had my beefs with Rep. Jack Murtha in the past, but I truly am shocked and saddened by his death. He was a tireless advocate for Pentagon programs he believed in and forced them down a left-leaning Congress in years where defense spending was less than a priority. And despite our sometimes butting heads over the Haditha incident, he and his staff have always treated me with respect and professionalism.

We’ll slice and dice his record tomorrow, but today, let’s offer his family and staff our condolences and take a moment of silence to honor the decorated Vietnam vet and Marine officer/public servant.

– Christian

FBI Stings SHOT Show

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

 

I know this has been out for a day, but I got to admit I had no idea when I was trolling the booths at SHOT that this was going down. In fact, with so many attendees and so many vendors, it’s not surprising the rumors hadn’t even spread through the press by the end of the day.  

According to FBI releases, the Justice Department arrested 22 execs from a variety of tactical and weapons products companies (both large and small) on Tuesday for allegedly agreeing to pay bribes to a fictional African government to outfit its presidential security detail. Twenty one of those execs were arrested Tuesday at SHOT in Vegas (guess they missed the Crye bash with Mini KISS)…  

The FBI won’t say which companies the arrested execs work for, since the companies themselves are not alleged to have committed any crimes, a spokeswoman told Defense Tech/Military.com today. But she did point me to a list of the indictments where you can put two and two together and find out which companies are in the sting.  

One of the alleged bribers is Patrick Caldwell (with alleged co-conspirator Stephen Giordanella), who was only 10 days ago named named CEO of Sunrise, Fla.-based Protective Products, a big time competitor to Point Blank for body armor contracts. PPA was the original winner of the Marine Corps MTV contract.  

Caldwell’s indictment alleges he:  

On or about May 14, 2009, at the Mandarin Oriental meeting in Miami, CALDWELL and GIORDANELLA agreed to proceed with the Country A deal, after being told that in order’ to win the Country A business, Company A would need to add a 20% “commission” to the invoices it sent to VA-J in connection with the Phase One and Phase Two deals, half of which would be paid to Country A’s Minister of Defense and half of which would be kicked back in the form of a commission split between Individual I and VA-I as a fee for their corrupt services. CALDWELL and GIORDANELLA further agreed to proceed with the Phase One deal knowing that the purpose of the Phase One deal was to show Country A’s Minister of Defense that the Minister of Defense would personally receive a 10% “commission” on the deal.  

Whoa…And the rest of the alleged conspirators are accused of doing almost exactly the same thing.  

In another indictment, Israel “Wayne” Weisler, the CEO of US Cavalry, a huge supplier of uniforms, armor and other tactical gear is accused of doing basically the same thing Caldwell and Giordanella are accused of. In meeting at the Ritz in DC back in May, FBI agents posing as officials from African country “A” convinced Weisler and his colleague, Michael Sacks, to pay 20 percent kickbacks on an upwards of $15 million deal.  

The list is long, and through some Google-ing, I found what I think are a couple of associations (thanks to Laura Rozen over at Politico for doing some digging as well) but let’s “energize the grid” and see if our astute readers can dig up some more (I’m adding the companies that I think are associated with the accused in BOLD)…

Some of them are small fry, trying to horn in on some of the lucrative arms and gear business. But some like Protective Products, US Cav and Smith and Wesson whould know better. 

  • Daniel Alvirez, 32, and Lee Allen Tolleson, 25, the president and director of acquisitions and logistics at a company in Bull Shoals, Ark., that manufactures and sells law enforcement and military equipment (ALS Technologies)
  • Helmie Ashiblie, 44, the vice president and founder of a company in Woodbridge, Va., that supplies tactical bags and other security-related articles for law enforcement agencies and governments worldwide; (i-SHOT, Inc.)
  • Andrew Bigelow, 40, the managing partner and director of government programs for a Sarasota, Fla., company that sells machine guns, grenade launchers and other small arms and accessories; (GunSearch​.com)
  • R. Patrick Caldwell, 61, and Stephen Gerard Giordanella, 50, the current and former chief executive officers of a Sunrise, Fla., company that designs and manufactures concealable and tactical body armor; (Protective Products)
  • Yochanan R. Cohen, aka Yochi Cohen, 47, the chief executive officer of a San Francisco company that manufactures security equipment, including body armor and ballistic plates; (HighCom Security)
  • Haim Geri, 50, the president of a North Miami Beach, Fla., company that serves as a sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries; (HighTech USA)
  • Amaro Goncalves, 49, the vice president of sales for a Springfield, Mass., company that designs and manufactures firearms, firearm safety/security products, rifles, firearms systems and accessories; (Smith and Wesson)
  • John Gregory Godsey, aka Greg Godsey, 37, and Mark Frederick Morales, 37, the owner and agent of a Decatur, Ga., company that sells ammunition and other law enforcement and military equipment;
  • Saul Mishkin, 38, the owner and chief executive officer of an Aventura, Fla., company that sells law enforcement and military equipment;
  • John M. Mushriqui, 28, and Jeana Mushriqui, 30, the director of international development and general counsel/U.S. manager of an Upper Darby, Penn., company that manufactures and exports bulletproof vests and other law enforcement and military equipment; (Mushriqui Consulting L.L.C.)
  • David R. Painter, 56, and Lee M. Wares, 43, the chairman and director of a United Kingdom company that markets armored vehicles;
  • Pankesh Patel, 43, the managing director of a United Kingdom company that acts as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries;
  • Ofer Paz, 50, the president and chief executive officer of an Israeli company that acts as sales agent for companies in the law enforcement and military products industries;
  • Jonathan M. Spiller, 58, the owner and president of a Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., company that markets and sells law enforcement and military equipment;
  • Israel Weisler, aka Wayne Weisler, 63, and Michael Sacks, 66, owners and co-chief executive officers of a Stearns, Ky., company that designs, manufactures and sells armor products, including body armor; (US Cavalry)
  • John Benson Wier III, 46, the president of a St. Petersburg, Fla., company that sells tactical and ballistic equipment. (SRT Supply)

[UPDATE: At the request of DT reader and commenter “Anon” I have posted a link to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which the FBI alleges these suspects violated with their 20 percent kickback]

– Christian

Intel: US Shuts Down Arms Shipment to Georgia

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Reliable sources are telling me the US recently shut down a massive arms shipment to the Republic of Georgia because the country was working with the Israelis on a strike against Iran.

My weapons and private security sources tell me that Georgian officials were stunned when the Obama administration halted the flight of a planeload (or several) of weapons, including small arms, helicopters and “heavy weapons.” Apparently, the shipment of US-made equipment was stopped by the White House, going around DoD and State, my sources tell me.

The reasons are twofold and admittedly speculative, since my sources are talking to the Georgian side who are perplexed. One, the Russians may have pressured the administration to halt the deal, preferring to sell the arms to the Georgians themselves — or NOT have the US sell the weapons to them. Second, and more controversial, apparently the Israelis have been in close negotiations with the Georgians to use airfields around Tbilisi as a hopping point for a strike against Iran’s nuclear capability. My sources say 3,000 Israeli advisors and military people are in Georgia right now.

If you look at a map, it’s a long route, but Israeli planes would have to fly over Turkey (which is a very close ally) and Georgia and a very small sliver of Russia to reach the Caspian, where it can fly unencombered to points in Iran. My back of the napkin/Google Earth calculation is that the trip would be a little over 2,000 miles from Jerusalem to Esfahan. How would Russian let Israeli planes fly over its territory on a trip to blow up Iranian reactors which Moscow has helped build? My sources aren’t sure, but maybe the diplomatic hassle of doing business with Iran is outweighed by an under the table agreement to buy Georgia’s arsenal through Russian companies and transport, thereby handing more control of Tbilisi’s affairs to Moscow.

More as it unfolds.

– Christian

Going to the Dogs

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Bet you all didn’t realize I was an expert on everything from the F-22 to Military Working Dogs, huh?

Well, Fox News sniffed me out and threw me a bone this morning on the story of that precocious pooch Sabi– the Aussie EOD dog that went on a 14 month Walkabout in Uruzgan.

They should clearly keep me on a much tighter leash at Military​.com.

– Christian

Did Someone Move the Furniture Around?

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

clowe-shooting-osprey

Out with the old, and in with the new.

Change is good in the digital age, and while Defense Tech certainly hasn’t adhered to the blogger’s developmental equivalent of Moore’s law, we’re at the top of our game as far as content is concerned.

But now it’s time to step it up a notch and give that killer content a format that befits its punch. So with great excitement and pride I welcome you to DT 2.0.

In this revamped version of the world’s premier military technology blog, the changes are more than skin deep. Sure we have a new logo and layout, yes we preserved the scrolling nature of the 1.0 version, of course we kept all the categories you’ve grown to love (even legacy ones) and the colors and features are this-gen.

But more than that, we have expanded comments and discussion capabilities to feed your appetite for debate. We’ll have features rolling in throughout the next few months that expand the blog’s reach and provide richer, more vibrant content.

The site will be more secure (no more “Ugg” spam) and more agile to your feedback, so please consider yourselves a key part of Defense Tech’s continued evolution.

Thanks, and enjoy the new site!

– Christian

Beyond Duty Released

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Beyond Duty.jpg
Few stories break the heart like Shannon Meehan and Roger Thompson’s Iraq War memoir, Beyond Duty. Meehan, a 1st Cavalry Division tank commander and VMI graduate, may as well have titled it “heavy lies the crown,” as Beyond Duty is the first book I’ve read that fully captures the crushing burden of combat leadership.
Meehan and Thompson (a professor of English at VMI), started writing the book after disaster struck — Meehan, freshly promoted to acting company commander during an offensive into insurgent-infest Baquba, called in an airstrike which killed a house full of Iraqi civilians. Beyond Duty details that fateful day in the prologue, the rest of the story’s arc rides wave after wave of hyper-realistic tension ultimately leading to Meehan’s antagonizing decision — send his men into the dragon’s mouth and possible death, or safely negate a house full of unknown occupments with a precision guided airstrike.
I’ve read my share of Iraq and Afghanistan war memoirs, God knows there’s plenty of them out there. This, however, is the first “under the helmet” account of the terrifying nature of MOUT operations that I’ve read. Further, Beyond Duty forces the audience to come to terms with the immense responsibility we place on kids who are often times fresh out of college. The decisions Meehan faced were terrifying, yet through those unforgiving experiences, the light of this wonderful generation of young men and women shone through. The tougher the fight became, the faster Meehan ascended into a strong, confident leader. The great tragedy of Beyond Duty –and indeed it is a tragic tale– was that after an uninterrupted record of deeply admirable and virtuous leadership, one bad decision completely unraveled Meehan’s confidence and demeanor. Indeed, the pain doesn’t stop after the wound has healed.
Read Beyond Duty. Understand what we ask of these young men and women, the angry seas we ask them to navigate, the agonies of combat, and the crushing burdens of leadership.
Shannon and Roger will be on the Ed Morrissey Show at 4pm EST, Thursday 24 September. WRKO Boston also has a must-listen interview up with Shannon and Roger, click through for the link.
Cross-posted at www​.op​-for​.com
–John Noonan

A Hearty Welcome to the Team

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

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I’m about to board a plane headed back to DC, but I wanted to quickly introduce — with much excitement — our newest member of the Military​.com team.

Many of you know Jamie McIntyre from his days at CNN. He covered the military for the network for 16 years and was a CNN plank owner until recently when he left the network to get an advanced degree in journalism.

After months of back and forth we snagged him and just yesterday launched a cool new blog that he’ll run called The Line of Departure where he’ll bring to bear his vast experience and source base to analyze the current debate on defense and strategy and also delve into the issues that surround the military’s relationship with the public and the media.

Be sure to bookmark our new site and stay tuned for more from Jamie throughout Military​.com. We already crashed the site on Friday with his breaking news story about Cami McCormack’s injury in Afghanistan, and that was before we officially launched the site. Clearly a sign of things to come from our new teammate.

– Christian

Reporter’s Notebook: Murtha Speaks

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

murtha.jpg

As you all well know, I’ve been dogging Rep. John Murtha, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, pretty hard ever since his fly-off-the-handle accusation of murder by a squad of Marines in Haditha back in mid-2006.

Well, I nervously attended a roundtable interview this morning in DC with Murtha and a group of the country’s top defense writers — figuring I might get the cold shoulder from the Democratic Bull. But I was surprised to find that he was remarkably candid, brewing with news and even friendly. A far cry from the confrontational chairman I’d peppered with questions in the past.

He said a lot of stuff on defense tech issues — info we’re going to build into longer stories in the coming hours — but what I thought I’d do is give you all a data dump of the basics of what he said…a sort of tear out of the pages of my reporter’s notebook, if you will:

Tanker — Murtha said he was strongly in favor of a split buy because he thought no matter who “wins” a recompete, there will be yet another protest that will delay the fielding and hamper global reach efforts. He wants a production throughput of three planes per month which he says even with the split buy, will save money in the long run because of the near crushing maintenance costs of keeping the KC-135s aloft. Murtha had just met with DefSec Gates the previous day, and though Gates has said publicly he’s against a split buy, Murtha said “I don’t know that he’s against it” hinting that the White House might be driving that argument and Gates might have some flexibility on the issue.

Raptor — Lots here. First, Murtha is against the shut down of the F-22 line for what he says are purely national security issues. He says he’s going to try and find $3.2 billion (my notes said $20B but i re-listened to the recording and he said $3.2B — not sure why I wrote $20B) to build 20 more next year and has asked Gates to provide him with some national security threat estimates that would justify NOT buying more Raptors. Murtha says he’s concerned about a rising China competing for energy resources in the coming years and noted that “World War II started because we cut off Japan’s energy supply” (though I gather some historians would object to that characterization). Murtha said he’s 50/50 on whether he can get the money for more F-22s, but he said “Lockheed has given up” on getting the extra orders.

Also, Murtha touched on the issue of an export version of the F-22 — principally to Japan who says only the F-22 can meet its range and speed requirements for a new interceptor. Murtha said Sen. Daniel Inouye is working with Japan to come up with the cash needed to “de-militarize” the F-22 (to remove the secret gadgets and gizmos from the US version) which he estimates will be around $300 million. Murtha thinks that’s way too optimistic and that gutting the F-22 for export will cost more along the lines of $1 billion.

Murtha said he’s worried about the high cost of maintaining the Raptor as well — that it might be difficult to bring that cost under control and will contribute to major sticker shock among lawmakers (and a White House) who are looking for money to spend elsewhere.

F-35 — Murtha said he was just as worried about the long term costs of the F-35 and the delays in production and technological maturity with that program as he is with the travails of the F-22. He said that even though the JSF is a priority for the Obama administration, his committee may not give them the requested money for 2010. “I’m for the F-35. I’m for buying the F-35. But I’m not necessarily for buying it this year.“

EFV — Murtha was stunned when his staff learned that the EFV had an aluminum underbody that would be warm butter to a mine or IED when ashore. He told the commandant that the EFV program was “on the bubble” and that he’d better get control of it and make good on the billions invested in the program already. Murtha talked to Gates about the EFV as well at his meeting the previous day and revealed that Gates has his critical eye on the program as well. “This has been going on for 25 years, this research, and it’s expensive as hell. You can’t keep spending money on research and then come to us and say you’re just going to cancel the program. That’s just not acceptable.”

(more…)

2010 Budget Detail Rollout LIVE

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

We’re going to host a live blog event today at 12:30pm EDT with Military​.com Editor Ward Carroll who will discuss with Defense Tech and DoD Buzz readers the detailed 2010 Pentagon Budget rollout.

Make sure to watch the budget overview press conference on the Pentagon Channel at 12:30pm and come back here to chat with Ward as defense officials get into the weeds on what programs will survive the budget ax or fall victim to DoD belt tightening.

The gumshoes from Military​.com, Defense Tech and DoD Buzz will be covering the individual service budget rollouts after the press conference, so stay tuned for further details as they emerge.

– Christian

Mabus for SecNav

Monday, March 16th, 2009

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Defense Tech has learned that the Obama administration is likely to name Amb. Ray Mabus to be the next Navy secretary.

As you know, Donald Winter resigned Friday, March 13, per his plan to give the Obama administration time to find a successor. As far as we know, no one else has broken this story (correction: Inside the Navy broke it back in January), but I learned today from a well-placed source that Mabus has gone through most of the vetting needed before being named.

According to open source data, it looks like Mabus might have been a Harvard Law protoge of Obama’s. He was the Democratic governor of Mississippi from ’88 to ’92 and was really interested in becoming SecNav back when Clinton was elected. He lost out to John Dalton, a Little Rock, Ark., banking mogul and Clinton confidant.

Instead, Mabus got picked to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia — but his quest for SecNav didn’t end there, my sources tell me. Mabus jumped on Obama’s bandwagon in the spring of 2007, helping solidify Mississippi for the Blue candidate. He was also an unpaid advisor to Obama on Middle East issues.

MSNBC reported in November that Mabus was in the hat for Education secretary, but as we know that didn’t happen.

No one in the Pentagon or the Hill was able to confirm Mabus’s pick, but no one denied it either. Two tapped in sources confirmed it with me.

– Christian