An Army, experienced in shell and shot, is being hit by an unorthodox new weapon: a cartoon book in which a rejected small contractor accuses it of wasting an estimated $600 million and, in doing so, weakening national defense.
Over the last 10 days, the 44-page book, entitled, "You're Not Supposed to Get Mugged by Your Own Army," has been put into the hands of dozens of federal officials -- from President Carter on down -- by Julie Research Laboratory (JRL) of New York City.
By JRL's account, the Army deceitfully rejects its unsolicited proposal to supply a key item of equipment, choosing instead to buy -- at a far higher long-term price -- a dangerously inferior and obsolete version from rivals.
Moreover, JRL charges, the Army did this even though the company, wanting to give the United States first crack at its new technology, refused an offer by the Soviet Union to buy it.
The book makes its points with facts driven home by caricature, ridicule and scorn.
The first page sounds a warning that reading the book "could be dangerous for heart patients, those with high blood pressure, and taxpayers."
But, the warning adds, "Some nausea is normal and can be expected, depending on your tolerance of waste and your love of country." Drawings of a bottle of aspirin and of capsules of "high-blood-pressure medicine" adorn the page.
At the Pentagon, Col. Gary Werner, chief of the Army's public information division, said, "We really don't have any statement we wish to make."
JRL, which calls itself "one of America's dwindling, inventor-led firms," is a high-technology company with 1979 sales of $1.25 million and fewer than 100 employes. Its founder, president and majority stockholder, is Loebe Julie, an electrical engineer.
The book is the work of Richard L. Hafer, a Seabrook, Md., award-winning editorial cartoonist and advertising director of Rental Tools & Equipment Co. International of Bladensburg. In 1975, he did a smaller book for a sister company to protest alleged bid-rigging by the Air Force, Navy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. As a result, he told a reporter yesterday, the sister firm, Automated Functions Inc., got the Navy portion of a contract.
Hafer said he accepted a commision to do the JRL book after studying "a 5-inch-thick pile of documents" supplied by Julie and interviewing Julie for four hours. Using a tape recording of the iterview, he did the book in about 80 hours. "I'm really outraged," he said.
At issue is Army procurement of equipment called calibrators.These ensure the accuracy of guages and other devices that tell whether machinery or instruments are working properly.
In a simple example, a calibrator of some sort would tell you whether the thermometer that registers your body temperature as a normal 98.6 degrees is on the mark or whether you are being misled into believing you are well.
A more complex example involves the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. There, a study showed that of four calibrated test guages, two were highly inaccurate.
According to the JRL book:
The armed services make millions of calibrations annually. The standard of accuracy they set in 1964 was 95 percent. Nine years later, the Army Metrology and Calibration Center at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala., decided that 85 percent was acceptable, although the Army Missile Commanded cautioned that the effect could be to create "a false sense of security."
In 1974, the Army invited contractors to submit a proposal for fully automated calibration equipment enabling a technician to do 2,750 calibrations a year, compared with the mere 800 he was doing with the existing manual equipment -- gear the Army deemed inadequate.
Over the next six years, the Army had eight separate procurements of calibration equipment, each depicted in the book as irregular or suspect in one way or another.
JRL submitted bids three times. Redstone Arsenal rejected all. In doing so, it gave as a major reason its assumption that JRL's "Locost" system wouldn't work.
To disprove this, JRL bypassed Redstone, going to the Pentagon to show Gen. Robert Malley, chief of research and development, that Locost did a better job of calibrating four instruments in 25 minutes than conventional equipment did in the normal 10 hours.
In the aftermath, Locost was blessed by the Army's own Harry Diamond Laboratory, which, at Malley's request, assessed its performance in commercial use at Grumman Aircraft, and by testers at Aberdeen Proving Grounds and For Monmouth.
Despite being the low bidder and showing that Locost worked, JRL didn't get an order, partly because a summary report reached adverse conclusions on the basis of a text containing "not one" adverse fact.
Later vindication came in a report from the Army's White Sands missile range that termed Locost "a significant improvement" over the costlier rival systems made by Hewlett-Packard and John Fluke companies.
Then, in 1977, the Soviet Union, saying it was concerned only with nonmilitary applications, invited Julie to Moscow. After saying no for three months, he accepted and got an order -- but, after returning home, tore it up. JRL's competitors sell calibration gear to the Soviets.
In the end, the Army bought automated equipment from the Fluke firm, found it didn't work, and then invited bids on 95 manual calibrators -- the very kind it had found inadequate seven years earlier.
Actually, JRL said, it would take 150 pieces of such gear to do the job the Army wanted done. Besides, it said, 69 of its automated systems are equal to or better than 200 manual systems.
Last May, the Army ordered an additional 97 manual systems, from numerous suppliers, for a total of 192 -- 42 more than JRL had estimated. This locks the Army into a "wasteful" and "obsolete and inefficient" system to the year 2000, JRL protested, in vain to Gen. John R. Guthrie, chief of the Army Readiness Command.
Meanwhile, the Army has let the "pass" level for calibraion quality drop from 85 percent to "a scandalous 64 percent," JRL said.
Last week, the Army gave its lates procurement contract to Ridge Industries, a certified "small business" that will buy from other firms manual equipment meeting Army specifications that Julie calls "outmoded." Ridge Industries is based in Huntsville, as is Redstone Arsenal.