5 years, 10 months ago
Are there parts problems with the M249 SAW?
A former employee of an Indiana defense contractor has filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming the company ordered him to approve parts for machine guns used by U.S. troops that didn’t meet quality standards, and that he was fired for complaining about it.
In his lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Evansville in February 2009 and unsealed in March, Andrew T. Pool accuses Dugger-based Northside Machine Co. of fraud and wrongful termination. He is seeking reinstatement with back pay and unspecified damages.
In a court filing Wednesday, the company contends that it never told Pool to falsify test results and that Pool never complained to management before he was fired. It asked a judge to dismiss his lawsuit.
Northside Machine supplies trigger assemblies and other components to defense contractor FN Manufacturing for use in its M240 and M249 machine guns, which are widely used by the military. FN Manufacturing is not accused of wrongdoing.
Attorneys for Pool and the company declined to comment Wednesday, and a spokesman at FN Manufacturing in Columbia, S.C., did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.
According to a 2006 report by the Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research group that studies military matters, 30 percent of troops surveyed reported that the M249 had stopped firing during combat, a higher percentage than with any other weapon included in the report. Problems with the light machine gun and other weapons were reported during the July 2008 battle in Wanat, Afghanistan, in which nine U.S. troops died and 27 were wounded.
U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings Jr. declined to comment on any possible link between such weapons failures and alleged substandard parts, citing the ongoing litigation. The Virginia-based Center for Naval Analyses also declined to speculate about any such connection and said its report hadn’t diagnosed the underlying causes of complaints about the M249.
There are two issues here. First off, if substandard parts are being manufactured and accepted as meeting specification, then this is both an ethical and legal problem. Any industry that accepts failure to meet specifications for parts deserves to go out of business. This allegation should be run to ground, so to speak, and either the company or the employee punished, depending upon who is telling the truth.
But there is the second issue of reports of the M249 failing to operate in combat, apparently up to 30%. All I can do is report what I know from a certain Marine. According to his reports – and he saw a lot of combat – his M249 SAW never once jammed or stopping firing for any reason during combat, period.
But then, he was properly trained to operate the SAW, and he properly trained his boots just like he was trained. He carried a paint brush on patrols, and when they stopped for a water break, the first thing he did (before water) was to clean his weapon with brush, Q-tips, fingers, etc. This required disassembling his weapon, at least partially. Then, he would remove every inch of belt from his SAW ammunition boxes and check to ensure that every round was seated properly in the belt (because they can rattle loose during fast movement on patrols).
For the M16A2 and M4s, he would assist in stretching out the ammunition clip springs to ensure that they had the capability to feed ammunition without jamming after they cleaned each weapon of dust. Finally, each and every clip was checked to ensure that it wasn’t completely loaded (each clip was loaded minus a few rounds to prevent deformation of the spring).
Before deployment, he demanded new action for his SAW, as he had monitored and cataloged its behavior for months, and refused to deploy without new action. He got the new action, and thus he knew that the weapon was reliable if correctly maintained and properly employed. It was correctly maintained and properly employed – and given a name that I will not repeat over this blog.
His view? Well, simply put, those who complain about the M16A2, M4 and SAW are either lazy or not properly trained. The system of weapons is just fine, says he. He killed many bad guys with them. Oh, and by they way. The M249 SAW is an area suppression firearm, but he deployed with an ACOG on his SAW. The 2/6 Battalion Weapons Warrant Officer was awesome, said he.