Franz Gayl is a retired Marine and current civilian science adviser to the Marine Corps. In recent years he has championed a wide range of potentially game-changing technologies: some quite simple, like non-lethal laser “dazzlers,” and others truly cutting edge, such as his proposed squad space transport. The one thing many of his favorite techs had in common: the Marine Corps bureaucracy usually wanted nothing to do with them.
In 2006 Gayl deployed to Iraq to study Marines’ weapons needs. His experiences reinforced his conviction that the Corps’ weapons-buying bureaucracy in Quantico, Virginia, was fundamentally disconnected from the real world — and that that was costing troops’ lives. The most egregious example: despite repeated urgent requests from Marines on the ground, Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico for years had refused to provide blast-resistant trucks to protect against roadside bombs. It wasn’t until Secretary of Defense Robert Gate called these trucks (then known by the moniker “Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected,” aka MRAP) his number-one procurement priority, that the Marines finally caved, and ordered thousands of the trucks.
Last year Gayl, who had been in touch with media, filed for whistleblower protection. Even so, the Marine Corps asked him to write a study on blast-resistant vehicles. Then, after a scathing A.P. story, the Marines ordered him to stop. After that, Congress got involved. Now the Marines have turned the issue over to the Pentagon’s inspector general.
Notably, this is no longer just about MRAPs. The Pentagon has (belatedly) fielded thousands of the blast-resistant trucks — and they, along with sound counter-insurgency tactics, have helped reduced deaths in Iraq due to roadside bombs. What’s really the issue here is ensuring that bureaucracies respond to troops’ needs rather than serving their own narrow agendas and selfish interests.
If — and this is a big if — MCCDC ever changes its ways, we’ll have Franz Gayl to thank.
P.S.: Project on Government Oversight is calling for hearings. Go, POGO!
One whistleblower we have worked with, Marine Corps science advisor Franz Gayl, has suffered reprisals for his disclosures to Congress on unnecessary and egregious delays in the Marine Corps’ acquisition system. His disclosures to Congress have led to heightened attention to requests for non-lethal weapons that could prevent unnecessary civilian deaths, the procurement of significant quantities of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), and surveillance technologies necessary to interdict insurgents in the vast geographies our stretched troops are responsible for covering.
We believe these critical national security issues should be debated at a public hearing. Moreover, without public accountability for the failures that have occurred, additional failures are more likely to occur in the future. Our nation’s uniformed men and women rely on Congress to exercise its constitutional prerogative to oversee the executive branch; hearings on this issue would be an excellent opportunity to do so.