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Marine whistleblower Franz Gayl: Security clearance removal is retaliation

Gayl said he and his colleagues grew impatient about what they considered lackluster responses by Quantico-based Combat Development Command to requests for lifesaving gear. It felt as if the unit's soldiers were "essentially fighting their own war," without proper support.

He was particularly appalled when colleagues showed him a 2005 urgent request for 1,169 Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) troop carriers that had been squashed in Washington. Virtually everyone considered the MRAPs, coated with heavy armor and designed with a V-shaped bottom to deflect the force from implanted explosives, vastly superior to the lighter, flat-bottomed, armored Humvees then in use.

But MRAPs cost an average of $1 million each, compared to roughly $200,000 for an armored Humvee. According to those involved in the deliberations, some officers worried that the costly purchase and potential success of MRAPs would undermine support for two lighter troop and amphibious carriers at the heart of Marine planning for a decade.

Gen. Dennis Hejlik, who now commands Marine Forces in the Atlantic region, said in the 2005 request that the force cannot "continue to lose . . . serious and grave casualties . . . at current rates when a commercial off the shelf capability exists" to mitigate attacks. As an urgent battlefield request, his message was supposed to provoke an immediate response.

But the Corps did not embrace MRAPs until late the following year, after desperate officers at Camp Fallujah sidestepped the Combat Development Command and submitted a similar request directly to the Joint Staff, which enthusiastically approved it, according to documents and interviews.

When the Army and Marine Corps sought $5 billion for MRAPs in early 2007 - the down payment on a program that has cost $30 billion - they refused to take that amount out of existing programs and demanded supplemental funds. "The reality is that decisionmakers in the Pentagon's requirements system were not enthusiastic about any additional armor, much less heavy, expensive MRAPs," even though the vehicles would immediately save lives, three defense experts wrote in a study of the episode for the National Defense University in October 2009.

Redding, the Marine spokesman, said: "The Marine Corps adapted our practices and strategies to meet the everchanging threat of the enemy on the ground. Some of those changes came quickly and others in time."

Continued advocacy

Gayl's pursuit of battlefield needs endeared him to then-Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer, his commander in Fallujah, who wrote in a performance appraisal that Gayl's "dedication and passion for design, development and delivery of technology solutions to our warfighting needs is matched by no one I know."

But after returning from Iraq in Feb. 2007 to his civilian job, Gayl's continued advocacy raised hackles. A briefing that he had prepared that month for the Pentagon's top research official was canceled after his superiors read a draft depicting "middle management" at Quantico as risk averse and too wedded to already-funded programs, causing "U.S. friendly and innocent Iraqi deaths and injuries."

It specifically mentioned the 2005 MRAP request. His superiors ordered him to destroy all copies and barred him from unapproved "outside" communication.

Gayl was unrelenting, however. He spoke out about the 2005 request, the MRAPs' virtues and the fact that no Marine had ever been held accountable for what he considered "criminal negligence" behind the delay. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has said that some of the resulting articles provoked him not only to make MRAPs the Pentagon's top acquisition priority but to initiate procurement reforms.

Explaining his alienation, Gayl said that "under normal circumstances, I would never disobey. I'm a Marine, absolutely. But the issues were much bigger. . . . If the rule doesn't help a Marine, I was going to come up with my own rule."

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