Pound-foolish procurement robs super soldiers of superpower

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Pound-foolish procurement robs super soldiers of superpower

Key components of Korea’s "warrior platform" have been found to be defective, dealing a heavy blow the country’s efforts to turn soldiers into high-tech warriors and raising questions about the military’s procurement process.
All the gear in question is sight gear—sights on small arms, laser target indicators and long range sights—which would have allowed soldiers to locate, target and attack the enemy at great distances.
According to multiple military sources who spoke anonymously to the JoongAng Ilbo on June 2, the Army inspected 1,551 pieces of the relevant equipment delivered last year to the 1st Corps in January and found that the average defect rate was 26%.
"In general, if the defect rate of a product exceeds five percent in the defense industry, we believe that the product is effectively a failure," said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity. "This is a very serious defect rate."
The situation was found to be especially dire with vision gear on personal firearms, where 40 percent out of 657 products were found to be faulty, while 57 percent required inspection – leaving only 3 percent in operable condition.
Twelve percent of laser target indicators, which should have a range of 25 meters (82 feet), were found to have a range of only five meters.
Sources from inside and outside the military say that the root of the high defect rate in the equipment lies in the military's arm procurement process.
"The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) selects companies to supply arms according to the Army's requests without clear standards," said one military source who spoke anonymously. "In this kind of situation, where there is not even a minimum bidding price, the lowest bid is effectively selected every time, causing quality issues."
In the case of vision gear on personal firearms, where the defect rate was highest among sight equipment, the final bid was 64 percent of the estimated budget listed on the public bidding notice.
According to military expert Kim Young-soo at the National Defense Research Institute, the particularities of the defense industry is partially to blame for the high defect levels of equipment. "Defense gear has no civilian market, so companies are usually not prepared to produce equipment until they have won a tender, after which they begin production," Kim said.
"Considering the short period of time in which production occurs, the process lends itself to defects," he added.
In response to the concerns, an anonymous official at DAPA responded, “We have not received any particular reports about defects from the Army related to the warrior platform.”
He added, “If there are requests for additional or corrective measures from the Army, we will take them in accordance with the tender contracts.”
BY PARK YONG-HAN, MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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