FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The General, GM and the Stryker

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

On December 10, 2003, two Strykers, the Army’s newest armored personnel carrier, were patrolling near Balad, Iraq, when the embankment beneath them collapsed and the vehicles plunged into a rain-swollen river. Three soldiers died and another was severely injured. Three days later, another Stryker rolled over a roadside bomb south of Baghdad. The explosion left one soldier injured and the vehicle in flames.

It was an inglorious combat debut for the Army’s first new personnel carrier in thirty years. But it confirmed the worst fears of some of the Stryker’s critics that the vehicle is unsafe and its crews untrained for using it in combat conditions. One former Pentagon analyst described the 8-wheeled vehicle as “riding in a dune buggy armored in tinfoil.”

The Stryker Interim Armored Vehicle is billed as the Pentagon’s latest weapon in its new high-tech Army, a fast moving carrier designed for the urban battlefield and unconventional wars. This fall the Army deployed 300 Stryker vehicles and 3,500 soldiers to Iraq’s notorious Sunni Triangle, the Iowa-sized area in central Iraq where the most intense guerrilla fighting is taking place.

But new documents reveal that Pentagon weapons testers had expressed serious reservations about whether the Strykers were ready for battle. The Pentagon’s chief weapons tester, Tom Christie, warned in a classified letter to the Secretary of the Defense that the Stryker is especially vulnerable to rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices. These are, of course, precisely the kinds of threats faced by the Stryker brigades now in Iraq.

Advertised as rapid deployment vehicles, the Stryker brigades could in theory be rushed anywhere in the world within 96 hours by C-130 transport planes. But numerous internal studies have questioned whether the Stryker can be deployed by C-130s at all. Moreover, a newly released Government Accounting Office report scolded the Pentagon for a host of other problems with the carrier, which was meant to replace the much-maligned Bradley Fighting Vehicle. The GAO report points to serious problems with the Stryker’s design and maintenance and discloses deficiencies in training for its use.

Even Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wanted to delay funding of additional Stryker brigades until more testing and training could be completed. But congress, ever an anxious to spread the pork around to as many districts as possible, didn’t heed the warning and approved the additional purchases.

The Stryker is a joint venture of two of the mightiest industrial corporations in America: General Dynamics and General Motors. These companies waged a fierce two-year long lobbying battle, stretching from Capitol Hill to the halls of the Pentagon, to win the $4 billion contract to build 2,131 Strykers, which was awarded in November 2000.

The first Strykers, which cost $3 million a piece, more than 50% above projections, rolled off the assembly line in April 2002. Presiding over the ceremony at the Stryker rollout in Alabama was former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki. The Stryker was a key component in Shinseki’s plan to upgrade the Army, a scheme he outlined in a 1999 paper titled “Army Vision.” In that report, Shinseki called for the development of an interim armored brigade featuring “all-wheel formation”. This was a thinly veiled hint that the contract would be awarded to General Dynamics. The Stryker is a wheeled carrier, as opposed to the tank-like vehicles built by United Defense which run on tracks.

During Shinseki’s speech in Alabama, he pointedly singled out for special thanks David K. Heebner. Heebner, a former Army Lt. General, had been one of Shinseki’s top aides, serving as Assistant Vice Chief of Staff for the Army. As such, he played a key role in pushing for funding for Shinseki’s projects, including the Stryker. In November 1999, General Dynamics issued a press release announcing that they had hired Heebner as an executive at the company. The announcement came a full month before Heebner’s official retirement date of December 31, 1999. The timing of the announcement is curious for several reasons. Most glaringly, it’s clear that the Army was leaning toward handing a multi-billion dollar contract to General Dynamics at the very time Heebner may have been in negotiations with the company for a high-paying executive position.

Federal conflict of interest laws prohibit government employees from being engaged “personally or substantially in a particular matter in which an organization they are negotiating with, or have an agreement with for future employment, has a financial interest.” It’s not clear if Heebner recused himself from the negotiations with General Dynamics over the Stryker contract.

However, it’s very clear that the Stryker deal, despite the reservations raised by Pentagon weapons testers and the GAO, proved to be very lucrative for both Heebner and General Dynamics. Off the strength of the Stryker deal, Heebner quickly rose to the rank of Senior Vice-President for Planning and Development for General Dynamics, the conduit between the nation’s number two defense contractor and the Pentagon. By the end of last year, Heebner amassed more than 13,600 shares of General Dynamics stock valued at more than $1.2 million. “Based on the circumstances surrounding General Heebner’s hiring and compensation, and internal Pentagon warnings about the Stryker’s vulnerability, further investigation of the Stryker program is required,” says Eric Miller, a senior defense investigator at the Project on Government Oversight.

This article is excerpted from JEFFREY ST. CLAIR’s new book, Grand Theft Pentagon.

 

 

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 19, 2017
Melvin Goodman
America’s Russian Problem
Dave Lindorff
Right a Terrible Wrong: Why Obama Should Reverse Himself and Pardon Leonard Peltier
Laura Carlsen
Bringing Mexico to Its Knees Will Not “Make America Great Again”
John W. Whitehead
Nothing is Real: When Reality TV Programming Masquerades as Politics
Yoav Litvin
Time to Diss Obey: the Failure of Identity Politics and Protest
Mike Whitney
The Trump Speech That No One Heard 
Conn Hallinan
Is Europe Heading for a “Lexit”?
Stephen Cooper
Truth or Twitter? Why Donald Trump Is No John Steinbeck
Binoy Kampmark
Scoundrels of Patriotism: The Freeing of Chelsea Manning
Ramzy Baroud
The Balancing Act is Over: What Elor Azaria Taught Us about Israel
Josh Hoxie
Why Health Care Repeal is a Stealth Tax Break for Millionaires
Kim C. Domenico
It’s High Time for a Politics of Desire
Shamus Cooke
Inauguration Day and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
More and More Lousy
David Swanson
Samantha Power Can See Russia from Her Padded Cell
Kevin Carson
Right to Work and the Apartheid State
Malaika H. Kambon
Resisting the Lynching of Haitian Liberty!
January 18, 2017
Gary Leupp
The Extraordinary Array of Those Questioning Trump’s Legitimacy (and Their Various Reasons)
Charles Pierson
Drone Proliferation Ramps Up
Ajamu Baraka
Celebrating Dr. King with the Departure of Barack Obama
David Underhill
Trumpology With a Twist
Chris Floyd
Infinite Jest: Liberals Laughing All the Way to Hell
Stansfield Smith
Obama’s Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Ron Leighton
Trump is Not Hitler: How the Misuse of History Distorts the Present as Well as the Past
Ralph Nader
An Open Letter to President-Elect Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
NATO and Obsolescence: Donald Trump and the History of an Alliance
Zarefah Baroud
‘The Power to Create a New World’: Trump and the Environmental Challenge Ahead
Julian Vigo
Obama Must Pardon the Black Panthers in Prison or in Exile
Alfredo Lopez
The Whattsapp Scandal
Clancy Sigal
Russian Hacking and the Smell Test
Terry Simons
The Truth About Ethics and Condoms
January 17, 2017
John Pilger
The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us
John K. White
Is Equality Overrated, Too?
Michael J. Sainato
The DNC Hands the Democratic Party Over to David Brock and Billionaire Donors
John Davis
Landscapes of Shame: America’s National Parks
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Politicians and Rhetorical Tricks
Chris Busby
The Scientific Hero of Chernobyl: Alexey V. Yablokov, the Man Who Dared to Speak the Truth
David Macaray
Four Reasons Trump Will Quit
Chet Richards
The Vicissitudes of the Rural South
Clancy Sigal
“You Don’t Care About Jobs”: Why the Democrats Lost
Robert Dodge
Martin Luther King and U.S. Politics: Time for a U.S. Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Jack Sadat Lee
I Dream of Justice for All the Animal Kingdom
James McEnteer
Mourning Again in America
January 16, 2017
Paul Street
How Pure is Your Hate?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
Did the Elites Have Martin Luther King Jr. Killed?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail