In the September 12th New Yorker article “Coming Apart” by George Packer, I learned a disturbing piece of information:
A former Navy SEAL has come up with a manufacturing strategy to make “armored” vehicles much more resistant to IEDs and other attacks – BUT the former Navy SEAL cannot bid on undertaking this important mission the Pentagon has said it wants done for Humvees because BIDS ARE NOT BEING ACCEPTED.
(As Mitch and I wrote in the novel LT. COMMANDER MOLLIE SANDERS, “IEDs are not an electronics problem. They’re an engineering problem.”)
The information on this situation is only part of Packer’s overall article, which is an essay on the American public’s attitude since 9/11.
Let me explain this “armored” vehicle situation in more detail:
Packer begins his New Yorker article with the story of former Navy SEAL Chris Berman, who was hired in 2004 by the private security company Blackwater.
Berman volunteered to go on a “food-escort detail” to Falluja, “but at the last minute his place was taken by one of his friends, Scott Helvenston.”
Helvenston and three other Blackwater security guards, riding in a Mitsubishi Pajero, were ambushed and killed on their way to Falluja. While waiting to escort Helvenston’s coffin back to the U.S., Berman began drawing designs for armoring the Pajero so that Helvenston and the other three men might have survived.
Berman opened a factory in Kuwait that successfully produced an armored vehicle for security companies working in Iraq. He closed this factory in 2008 to focus on the project he’d moved onto five years after 9/11:
His new goal was to do something about the lightly armored Humvees used by U.S. military personnel. Surviving a blast while riding in these is also a major “armored” vehicle issue.
According to Packer, “For several years, the Pentagon has had plans to rebuild Humvees used in the war, and improve their armor, instead of buying new ones.”
In 2007 Berman started the company Granite Tactical Vehicles and developed a model design to improve the armor on existing Humvees. BUT there have been no government bids on this supposed Pentagon project. This is because, according to Packer:
[T]he government kept putting off requests for bids, in part because the main Humvee manufacturer, a large corporation in Indiana called AM General, appeared to have enough clout in Congress to get the process delayed, staving off competition.
Packer goes on to say that ”the rumored date for accepting bids is now this fall.”
I’m not an engineer – I cannot say that Berman’s design is the best (although Packer says: “People who knew the business said that Berman’s design was among the best.”).
What I can say is:
Let’s get out the word about this situation to people (such as our House and Senate representatives and any friends you may have in the Pentagon) to “motivate” the Pentagon to open bids right now – and quickly choose a good design – to get much better protection for the Humvees.
Will you help?