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THE ARMY’S NEW CAR IS A “LEMON”
STRYKER PROGRAM - A BOONDOGGLE
SHINSEKI AND HEEBNER CRAWL IN
BED WITH GENERAL DYNAMICS

By LONNIE T. SHOULTZ


In their fawning and congratulatory stories written in June 2003 when Army Chief of Staff Eric “Rick” Shinseki retired, most reporters referred to him as the “father of the Army Stryker Brigades.” Few of the writers mentioned the “Black Beret” fiasco that destroyed morale during Shinseki’s watch, since the little general preferred to be known for sheep herding the controversial weapons system, instead.

Shinseki needs to be careful of what he wishes. When the final chapter is written about the shady deals, accommodations, strong arming, bribery and other misdeeds that brought the Army “Stryker” armored car program to life, it will be one of the darkest chapters in the Army’s history.

GUNG-HO FOR LIGHT VEHICLES

When the Senate confirmed Eric Shinseki as the first Asian-American chief of Staff of the Army in June 1999, Bill Clinton’s “politically-correct” general had four years to leave his mark on the service. In a speech made on October 15 of that year, Shinseki stated. “In order to become more deployable and maintain lethality, the Army must field a prototype brigade-size force. The intent is to establish brigades in the next few months that will use off-the-shelf systems, as resources permit and as quickly as possible, to jumpstart development of concepts and doctrine, organizational design, and training.”

It appears that Sinskeki began his task of “lightening” the Army will a willing spirit and a clean heart – then the money got to him.

But instead of buying “off-the-shelf” items for the Army’s new Brigade Task Force, as he stated he would, in many speeches to friendly audiences and both Houses of Congress, Shinseki worked with others to design a new, extremely expensive, overweight and less survivable vehicle than the M113A3 tracked armored vehicle of which the Army already owned over 11,000 chassis.

The M113A3’s could have been refurbished, had digital communications installed, and been field-tested for less than $400,000 each. The wheeled “Stryker” vehicle that Shinseki ultimately approved for purchase is a knockoff of the Swiss MOWAG design, manufactured mainly in Canada (a clear violation of the Berry Amendment that requires the Department of Defense to “Buy American”), costs the U.S. taxpayers $2.8 million dollars each, and is not as survivable as the tracked M113s already in the U.S. Army inventory. Here’s how he went so wrong . . .

SHINSEKI AND HEEBNER – THE TWO CRONIES

In 1996, Shinseki and his fellow member of the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army’s office, Maj. Gen. David K. Heebner, were both assigned to a RAND Corporation study group. More importantly, they were assigned to the RAND Arroyo Center, which is described as the United States Army’s only federally-funded research and development center (FFRDC) for studies and analysis.

Some sources from this assignment state that Shinseki and Heebner co-authored a report. Since the center’s publications are often classified, that claim cannot be independently verified. What is uncontested however, is that they had the same boss and place of work – The Army’s Chief of Staff’s Office – and they were assigned to the RAND Corporation at the same time. Interestingly, the Army’s new Chief of Staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, was in the same study group, but since he worked at the Special Operations Command, he did not have the proximity that Heebner and Shinseki had in rank and interests.

As soon as the U.S. Senate confirmed Shinseki as the Army Chief of Staff in June 1999, he reunited with his RAND classmate, now-Lt. Gen. David K. Heebner. The only project at that time that drew any attention or publicity from Shinseki or Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera was the transformation of the Army to a “lighter force.” They made countless speeches about the “transition force” that would bridge the gap between the present “heavy” Army and the future “lighter” Army. In their speeches and testimony to Congress, seeking Congressional approval to proceed with the development of the transition units, Shinseki and Caldera used the same speech on many occasions which centered around three factors that would be a guide to developing a new force.

FAILURE TO MEET SPECIFICATIONS

Those three factors found their way into the Army’s solicitations for bids for the “Interim Combat Vehicle” (ICV). The Army solicitation stated: “The ICV shall have the capability of, (1) entering, being transportable in, and exiting a C-130 aircraft under its own power and (2) be capable to immediate combat operations (does not require a full basis load, but is desired). However, there was another ICV performance parameter that reflected an operational impact on C-130 transport, and that was the weight.

“The ICV combat capable deployment weight must not exceed 38,000 pounds gross vehicle weight to allow, requirement (3) C-130 transport of 1,000 nautical miles without requiring a USAF waiver for maximum aircraft weight on fixed runways. Two other complimentary performance requirements stated for the ICV were: “The combat-loaded ICV shall be capable of carrying an infantry squad (nine soldiers with individual equipment), outfitted for any season clothing (cold weather),” and “ICV shall provide space for each squad member, two sets of NBC protective clothing and food/water for 72 hours.” In addition, the Army’s requirement was for the vehicles specified “to arrive with three days of supply, and (the Brigade) will then get resupply “in theater.”

The only occassions on which the Stryker has even been able to get into the air in C-130s, was when the Air Force could send them one of the newest, highest-powered “J” model C-130s. However, the C-130J comprises less than 10% of all 500 Air Force C-130s, and there is no money or plans to upgrade the rest of the transport plane fleet.

So, once again, the Army is trying to come in through the back door because it cannot come in the front.

CHANGING THE REQUIREMENTS IN MID-STREAM

In the months since the Army learned that General Dynamics could not lighten the “Stryker” and make it meet its contracted weight, instead of leaning on the contractor to perform up to standard in the contract, Army liaison personnel approached all Congressional points of contact and convinced them that they never “really, actually meant” flying the Stryker in Air Force C-130s was required. The Army under Shinseki told lawmakers on Capital Hill that the Stryker should really be flown into theater on USAF C-17s and then sent to forward air strips on C-130s. Obviously that reasoning falls under the weight of knowledge that if the Air Force could get these overweight cars off the ground and fly them for the contracted distance of 1,000 nautical miles on its C-130’s, there would be no reason to ever load them onto a C-17.

There is a reason that Congress mandated the Strykers use C-130s. If a Stryker brigade is to be deployed anywhere in 96 hours, as promised by Shinseki, the Air force would have to use all of its 500 c-130s to transport the 308 Stryker variants in a brigade. The Air Force only has a little less than 120 C-17s. They cannot allot all of them to the Army’s Strykers, so either the Stryker brigades are going to meet the weight requirement in the contract, or General Dynamics is going to have to take its toys and go home broke.

A SHINSEKI “BULLY-BOY” GETS REWARDED

The first solicitation for bids was made public at the National Industrial Defense Association sponsored conference in Ypsilanti, Mich. in December 1999. Several Army officers took personal leave and attended the conference while others were assigned by their commands to note any information that came from the conference. Two officers used their own money to rent one of the ten tables sold by the conference sponsors to people advocating different types of vehicles for the ICV.

One of Shinseki’s “knuckle draggers,” then-Col., now Brig. Gen. Donald F. Schenk, told the officers to “take down” the table they rented. The officers informed the colonel they had rented the table with their own funds and that no government money was involved. To that, Schenk announced that no tracked armor, air mechanized infantry or any other variation of combat vehicle would be allowed to compete for the bid. The “fix” was in, and the Interim Brigade Vehicle would definitely be a “wheeled vehicle.”

Schenk took down the names of the dissident officers at the conference as well as that of their commanders, calling them to claim their subordinates were “disrupting” the conference. Most of the commanders involved must have already known Schenk was an idiot, because no officer who attended the conference got in trouble, even after theircommanders received “intimidation calls” from Schenk.

However, in Shinseki’s Army, no bad deed goes unpunished.

The “strong-arm tactics” of then-Col. Schenk at the Michigan conference earned him enough “brownie points” for him to make his first “star” and win him a new job as Program Manager, Future Combat Systems. Since no competing ideas were allowed at the conference, it appeared that Shinseki had succeeded in ramming wheeled vehicles right through the bid process.

AND NOW, THE “PAYOFF”

Just one month after Shinseki announced the need for billions of dollars for Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs), General Dynamics secured its role in the LAV “Stryker” program when it made a job offer to Shinseki’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Gen. Heebner. General Dynamics announced November 19, 1999, six weeks before he was scheduled to retire, that Heebner would become a new “vice president” with the huge government contractor.

Since Heebner had only been promoted to three-star general in May 1997, retiring in January 2000 wouldn’t allow him enough time to complete the required three years in his newest rank to draw a pension as a lieutenant general. By retiring before his higher rank was permanent, Heebner would end up drawing the retirement pay of only a major general. That would cost him tens of thousands of dollars to leave early and take the job at General Dynamics.

Heebner’s contract with General Dynamics was obviously negotiated while he was still a general officer on active duty in the U.S, Army. The terms of that sweetheart contract between the general and the contractor are supposed to be in the public domain. However, all efforts by me to view or learn the terms of that contract have been ignored by both Heebner and General Dynamics.

A BIG PILE OF STOCK SWEETENS THE POT

On December 31, 2000 Heebner finally retired and joined the government contractor. In a little over 30 days, General Dynamics bought out General Motors, its only competitor for the wheeled Interim Brigade Vehicle. And just 60 days after Heebner went to work for General Dynamics – in violation of a law that prohibits him from lobbying his former place of employment for at least a year – General Dynamics made the brass hat a gift of 4,000 shares of its stock.

In the first week of March in each succeeding year, General Dynamics gave former Army Gen. David K. Heebner “gifts” of its company stock. He received the first 4,000 shares on March 1, 2000; another 1,650 shares on March 7, 2001; 1,600 shares on May 1, 2002 and 4,050 shares on March 5, 2003. In Heebner’s stock summary on file at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), it shows he now owns 13,643 shares of General Dynamics stock and an additional 929 shares of stock known as “shares held indirectly.” I certainly hope the U.S. Attorneys Office will ask the FBI to check on the ownership of those last 929 shares of stock.

IT’S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, BUT WHO YOU KNOW

It’s very interesting how General Dynamics has no compunction about hiring the friends of its new customer, Gen. Shinseki. In this era of corporate malfeasance, such as Enron and WorldCom, General Dynamics diligently recorded the details of every “bribe” paid to Gen. Heebner on inside trading stock reports at the SEC. Serving military officers are still livid at the disgraceful manner in which Heebner has treated his oath, his uniform and his country.

SHINSEKI “TAKES CARE OF” THE POLITICIANS

Probably the most widely-disliked aspect of the Stryker program among military affairs professionals is how Shinseki parceled out the six brigades of LAVs. The where and why is something of a mystery, but can be deduced. What is less clear is why the initial decision was made to create six brigades, since the Air Force can only deal with one at a time? After the initial entry by a Stryker Brigade, the follow-on forces and supplies will not necessarily be Stryker Brigades. It seems that the planning staff at the Pentagon could have been better stewards of our tax money by giving more thought to the mix of forces rather than creating six of the same unit, hoping to get one good one.

SEN. INOUYE GETS WHAT HE WANTS

In 1999, there were two American Army infantry brigades at Ft. Lewis, WA with no mission. The 3rg Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, and the 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division were identified in November 1999 as the units to become the first Stryker units. The Brigades stationed at Ft. Lewis had no stated mission other than “theater support for the Pacific Theater.” That suited Shinseki and his cronies just fine. They needed a brigade to be a “show horse” for the Stryker program and one to quickly be a follow-on unit.

Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii recently mentioned the 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division when he promised to try and get them a second Stryker Brigade stationed in the Hawaiian Islands. That effort obviously was tied in with Gen. Shinseki’s well-known desire to run for his mentor – Sen. Inouye’s – seat from his native Hawaii in the 2004 elections. Having two Stryker Brigades in the Islands would provide great “photo opportunities” for slick Senate candidate Eric Shinseki.

The mention of Sen. Inouye above is a good point of departure to discuss how Shinseki determined which units would be turned into Stryker units. After he got his authority from Congress to (1) buy “off-the-shelf” vehicles to rapidly transform the Army into light units; (2) to keep them light enough to fly in Air Force C-130s with their crews, ammunition, fuel and needed consumables for 1,000 nautical miles without refueling and arrive ready to fight, and (3) the brigades had to be light enough to move the brigade combat teams anywhere in the world within 96 hours after liftoff, a division on the ground in 120 hours, and five divisions within 30 days, Shinseki needed money to even begin the bidding process.

WHY ALASKA AND PENNSYLVANIA? YOU’LL SEE

After the explanation of the location of the first two Stryker brigades, why would Shinseki place one of the quick reaction forces in the frozen tundra of Alaska where the weather is unpredictable for many months of the year? To answer that question, you must examine the structure of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, and more importantly, its subcommittee for defense appropriations.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) is the ranking member of both of these two powerful Senate committees. And Sen. Ted Stevens (R- AK) is the present chairman of both committees. If you need money in the military, all you need do is station the product of that money in the states of the appropriators. Inouye got at least one Stryker Brigade for Hawai’s 25th Division and is discussing obtaining another one for the islands, while Sen. Stevens got a fast-response Stryker Brigade promised to the 172nd Infantry Brigade, located in that international hub of transportation – chilly Alaska.

The 172nd calls themselves the “The Snow Hawks” and on their web page, the text reads: “Authorized 3,809 soldiers, this is the largest infantry brigade and the only arctic infantry brigade in the U.S. Army.” It is difficult to understand why Sen. Stevens would even allow Shinseki to discard America’s only Artic-trained unit just to have a couple of garages built in his state on military installations.

Shinseki’s predecessor, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis J. Reimer, took away all of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment’s M1A1 main battle tanks and M2 Bradleys and made them a lighter force by requiring them to take the field in nothing heavier than the Army’s Humvees. That regiment, stationed at Ft. Polk, LA, is paying the price in Iraq today for such a stupid decision. The thin-skinned Humvees are called “RPG magnets” by the soldiers of the 2nd ACR in Iraq. Shinseki selected the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment for transitioning to a Stryker brigade when it returns from Iraq to get it out of the same vehicles that led to the bloody debacle for the Rangers in Mogadishu, Somalia. The Humvee is a light truck. Only Gen. Reimer ever saw it as a “battle vehicle.”

That accounts for four of the six funded Stryker Brigades. If Sen. Inouye is correct and he is able to get another Stryker Brigade stationed in the Hawaiian Islands as a “prop” for Shinseki’s expected run for his long-held Senate seat in 2004, there will be only one more front line, quick deployment Stryker Brigade to be assigned. Where will that unit go?

On March 21, 2001, Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland Subcomittee, signed a letter with his ranking member, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut requiring the Army to stage a “competition” between the Stryker and its nearest competitor, the United Defense M113A3. Shinseki might not have been sure he could “control” the conduct of that competition, but he could control the interpretation of the results in the U.S. Senate. Shinseki allotted his last planned Stryker Brigade to Santorum’s home state’s National Guard.

AMERICAN DEFENSE JOBS LOST TO CANADA

The allocation of a fast reaction strike force to a part-time reserve unit has probably become the most discussed Stryker assignment of the six brigades. Even the “money guys” on the Appropriations Committee, Sens. Stevens and Inouye, could make the argument that the Strykers “had to be based somewhere,” so why not their states? Santorum can make no such claim. Shinseki is placing one of his prized quick reaction brigades that must deploy in 96 hours in a National Guard unit that would be fortunate to even finds all of its members in 96 hours! They would never get their Stryker’s off the ground in anything close to the required time.

However, Santorum has made no further objection to the Stryker program, although it sucked 1,500 high-paying jobs from the United Defense plant in his home state at York, PA. and allowed the General Dynamics plant up in London, Ontario, Canada to resume full production. Santorum, in effect and in fact, exchanged 1500 full-time union jobs in York for 3,700 part-time National Guard jobs that probably will have to be shared with several other states.

THE PHONY “WAR GAME” AND GEN. VAN RIPER

The competition mentioned above, as mandated between the Stryker Brigade and an aggressor force of M113s was set for an operation known as Millennium Challenge 2002. It was scheduled to be a three-week long, $235 million dollar exercise. The Army contracted with a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general named Paul Van Riper to command the Red “aggressor forces” that opposed the Blue defenders with a U.S. Army Stryker unit. According to an MSNBC report on the war game written by Brendan I. Koerner, the “game” turned into a fiasco. In the first place, the vaunted Styrkers had to stop and change 13 of their big wheels and tires in the first four days of the exercise.

Then, according to Koerner, “controversy erupted when Red forces, commanded by Van Riper, engaged in some clever free play tricks that deviated from what the Blues were expecting. Van Riper used virtual motorcycle messengers to relay orders to his virtual field commanders, thereby negating the Blue Force’s ability to eavesdrop. Mere days into the game, a squad of Red digital soldiers had “sunk” several Blue ships in the “Persian Gulf” by carrying out suicide attacks with explosives-laden speedboats. “That’s not in the script,” countered the referees, who ordered the Blue fleet to be magically resurrected.

Gen. Van Riper told the Army Times that the sprawling three-week millenium challenge exercises were “almost entirely scripted to ensure a [U.S.] win.” He protested by quitting his role as commander of the enemy forces, and warned that the Pentagon might wrongly conclude that its experimental tactics were working.

“SMOKE AND MIRRORS” AT ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT

Before we leave the subject of Congressional interference in war fighting, the congressman from Alabama’s 3rd District that includes Anniston, went to the Army Depot there, where General Dynamics rents some space to do the final assembly of the Stryker. Rep. Mike Rogers arrived at the Depot full of “fire and fury” and with the press corps in tow. The congressman asked about some rumors he had heard about the Stryker, that only men under five feet five inches tall could get into one. It took me a week of pouring over fact sheets, briefings and other data to even find a reference to the “five feet, five inches” misunderstood quote.

In a Powerpoint presentation prepared by the contractor, General Dynamics, the statement is printed that “due to the amount of electronic gear” the Army wanted stuffed into the operating area of the Stryker, the driver and vehicle commander would have to be drawn from 1-5% of adult men to fit comfortably in the cab area of the vehicle. I don’t know if that is the figure the congressman misinterpreted as only an army of dwarfs being able to ride in the vehicles, but it is the only reference I found to a size limitation for the Stryker. That crew size limitation will also cover the gunners and the main gun operators if that system is ever built by General Dynamics as it contracted to do. Other questions asked by Congressman Rogers were equally as stupid and were asked, of all people, of the contractor’s General Dynamic’s site manager!

I don’t know if Congressman Rogers really expected the employee of the contractor to tell him that the vehicle should never have been built, but that’s who he asked! Even if it is in his home district, Rogers should recognize his own limitations of having never served in our nation’s military. He wouldn’t know a squad from a squadron, but he wants to familiarize himself with the suitability of the Army’s radically new and different transformation vehicle. He knows nothing about the old vehicles the Army is switching over form. How could he be competent to know the subtle difference between the two systems? He can’t. People like him should be charged with practicing military affairs without a brain.

If I were reading this material as another, less informed, law-abiding American, I’d ask, “where were the cops when this theft occurred?” Calling for the “cops” is not that simple in military acquisition matters. One route of protest is to Congress. But both houses of Congress depend on the General Accounting Office (GAO) to be their investigators. Shortly after winning bids were announced, one of the losing bidders, United Defense, protested the nutty methodology used by the Army in determining which vehicle would be the “cheapest” to operate.

WHY THE GAO “ROLLED OVER” FOR SHINSEKI

The army has 40 years of documentation of “costs per hour” to operate the M113 family. The General Dynamics engineers had to guess at the cost per hour to operate the LAV III “Strykers.” When the GAO rendered it’s ruling, it determined that guessing was a perfectly acceptable way to fix costs. So the GAO allowed the “guesstimated” cost per hour of the Stryker - at $8.33 versus the documented $10.53 for the M113s - to stand. There were several other points of confluence that saw protests filed with the GAO and yet the General Accounting Office consistently ruled for whatever Shinseki wanted. Nobody I spoke with in the defense industry had ever seen the GAO “roll over” like that for one defense system, but they did for Shinski. It was almost as if the general had a spy at the GAO.

WEST POINT CLASSMATE – THE “INSIDE” CONNECTION

Some weeks back, I began an Internet background investigation on all the people I could identify from the documents released by the GAO. The official who signed or approved all GAO rulings in this and other matters is named Anthony H. Gamboa. He identified himself on the GAO rulings as “General Counsel, General Accounting Office.” When I ran him on the Internet search engines, I found him listed with the University of Maryland Law Class of 1972 as Anthony Horace Gamboa. That page also listed his bachelor’s degree from the United States Military Academy.

West Point classes communicate and stay in touch by classes, - not as the giant alumni association called the U.S. Army. By accessing an online Class of 1965 database at El Paso, TX, I found that Anthony H. Gamboa of the Maryland Law School “Class of 1972” was a four year classmate of Gen. Eric “Rick” Shinseki in the USMA Class of 1965!

One source I spoke with from a class behind theirs told me that he believed they were two of the four-man West Point Chess team, but I could find no yearbooks online. Simply having his classmate of four years running the legal affairs of the General Accounting Office allowed Gen. Shinseki to do anything he wanted because his fellow Academy “ring knocker” was in a position to make his desires have the force of law.

You can’t help wondering how all of this would have changed if Gamboa had followed the canons of ethics of the legal profession and disclosed his close connection to one of the principles in the Stryker case. We’ll never know, because Anthony Horace Gamboa kept it a secret that he and the most recent Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army spent four years together at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

WHAT ABOUT ETHICS? DID SHINSEKI SELL US OUT?

It’s nice to have friends, but I don’t want mine turning their backs while I fleece the American taxpayers for an overwight, overpriced vehicle and put American workers out of their jobs to keep another flag officer buddy, Gen. Heebner, a vice president at General Dynamics, fat and happy at the taxpayers’ expense.

Heebner doesn’t have to collect unemployment checks in York, Pa. like the defense workers victimized by the Stryker. He’s a millionaire with all his stocks. And the faulty Stryker vehicle is still off from its targeted weight of 38,000 pounds. The last figure I heard was 40,000 pounds, - if they left a few people at home

All this makes you wonder why the government even signs contracts with its suppliers if they’re simply going to hire generals to run the program and violate the contract at will.


The author is a multiple Purple Heart veteran of an 18-month combat tour in Vietnam as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division and a Green Beret with the 5th Special Forces Group. When he returned home, he entered police work and rose thorough the ranks from uniformed patrol officer with the City of Birmingham to finally serve as a Special Agent with the U.S. Treasury Department. He holds a BS in Accounting and Finance, an MA in Military History, and has completed postgraduate academic work toward his doctorate at the University of Alabama and George Washington University in Washington, DC. He now resides in Foley, Alabama, on the Gulf Coast, and can be reached at: lshoultz@gulftel.com.

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