“NMC strives to maintain its quality system through employee involvement and a commitment to quality and service.” So sayeth Northside Machine Company’s website. One of the parts maker’s ex-employees begs to differ. In court. “A former employee of an Indiana defense contractor [Andrew T. Pool] 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,” The Chicago Tribune reports. NMC produced the trigger assemblies in question, purchased by FN Manufacturing for their M240 and M249 machine guns, supplied to the U.S. Army and used in the War on Terror. Uh-oh . . .
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.
About this incident in specific and the trigger assemblies in general, all of the parties–Andrew Pool, NMC, FN and the U.S. Army—are remaining stum. But we’re reminded of the old adage “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” That maxim [sic] applies to the military’s supply chain, and, thus, the weapons it puts into the hands of our soldiers in the field.