How does your Govt treat the soldiers risking their lives for the nation? Pretty effing badly if it's Australia
Have heared of our soldiers attempting to buy spare US materiel (particularly boots) from individual soldiers when they get to Afghanistan...not good.
Dud's army: dodgy kit puts troops at risk
LINTON BESSER AND DAN OAKES
May 6, 2010
Australia's troops are exposed to unnecessary risk because of defective equipment issued by a Defence procurement unit riddled with questionable tender practices and incompetence.
A Herald investigation has discovered that hundreds of complaints by soldiers about their gear have not been acted on by Defence officials, leaving front-line combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan with equipment known to fail.
Some of the standard equipment was designed during the Vietnam War.
Restricted Defence documents seen by the Herald demonstrate soldiers have persistently rejected the gear they are issued with by the Defence Materiel Organisation.
Their fears about the equipment are borne out by real and potentially deadly malfunctions.
In March last year, a team of soldiers in Afghanistan were put under prolonged exposure to enemy fire while removing a dead colleague whose body armour released prematurely - making it harder for them to drag his body to safety. Six months earlier, Defence officials were warned officially of exactly this type of equipment failure.
Serving defence force members, who have spoken to the Herald on condition of anonymity because they fear reprisals for speaking without authorisation, say this outmoded equipment exposes them to unacceptable risks.
Infantry soldiers, for example, say they cannot fit their ammunition magazines into the pouches designed to carry them; the buckles repeatedly break on their packs, chest webbing and pouches; the quick-release mechanism on their body armour either fails to release or releases inadvertently; and their backpacks are uncomfortable.
It also costs them. Soldiers spend up to $1000 replacing gear issued by the government, army reports reveal.
At the heart of the problem is the Defence Materiel Organisation which is charged with sourcing equipment. In the past nine years the clothing and personal equipment division has been investigated as many as 10 times over allegations of collusion and maladministration.
Four years ago, a damning report recommended sweeping changes to the way the DMO carries out its business.
Yet despite these investigations the Herald has established incompetence continues to mar procurement practices. Restricted documents show hundreds of reports of defective equipment have had little effect on officials charged with fixing it.
One insider described the unit as having ''repeated failures''.
''People are lazy, they don't want to take the time,'' he said. ''If you don't get held accountable then you don't care.''
Defence officials acknowledged that the clothing division has suffered from problems, but said it had improved considerably over the past four years. They say an element of dissatisfaction about equipment will always exist among troops, regardless of its quality.
In the latest blunder, a $23 million project for backpacks, webbing and pouches was halted partly because the newly appointed project manager, Lieutenant-Colonel Anthony Heath, mishandled the tender.
Lieutenant-Colonel Heath contacted a company that had been eliminated from the tender, and was alleged to have sought its assistance on behalf of BAE Systems, which was still competing for the contract.
He denied the allegation, but the tender was abandoned late last year after three internal investigations. Two of these found ''perceived bias'' had damaged the tender process.
A US company, Eagle Industries, which was not a bidder on the so-called ''modular load carriage'' project, was awarded a similar contract without tender, worth at least $2.7 million.
Dud's army: dodgy kit puts troops at risk
31 pages of complaints seem to suggest nothing much has been addressed over several years: http://www.smh.com.au/pdf/soldier%20complaints.pdf
This is a classic comment -
"Mark 3 combat boots never seem to fit. I resize my size every time to show my size hasn't changed, but every pair of the same size seems to be different. It takes a good deal of my blood to soak into the leather to make them more comfortable then by that stage the sole has worn away or eyelets fallen out meaning I must change for a new set and start again."
A goddam disgrace. Doesn't help that there are strong rumours of all sorts of dodgy tendering either
The tender that blew up in the army's face
The second was puzzling. BAE Systems, which that year turned over £18.5 billion, must have had trouble meeting the tender requirements. How then could the firm possibly have been the preferred tenderer?
Heath's phone call was made less than two weeks after an extensive trial of the samples provided by both bidders, and three months before he recommended BAE win the contract in his formal report....
...BAE has gained a reputation for its ruthlessness. In February this year, it pleaded guilty to charges it had paid £29 million and $US9 million in bribes to the governments of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Saudi Arabia during the 1990s - and that the £135 million it had paid agents through offshore accounts since 2001 had not been subject to proper scrutiny.
The Herald is not suggesting Heath was party to any corrupt arrangement with BAE, but the company's guilty plea to the FBI indictment is an illustration of the tough, competitive environment in which such multimillion-dollar defence contracts are let.