Monday, November 01, 2004
Are Our Troops Dying For Paxcon?
In my last post, Cocaine, Wrestling & George Bush Part 4, I wrote about Line-X Paxcon, a spray-on polyeurothane that supposedly offers bomb-blast protection. This Fox News report shows a brick sprayed with Paxcon paint that doesn't fall apart when dropped from a great height. Fox News
This past Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a disturbing storyfeaturing correspondent Steve Kroft entitled "GIs Lack Armor, Radios, Bullets" that dealt with some troops from the 343rd Quartermaster Company who refused to go on a "suicide mission" because they lacked armored vehicles. It also included an interview with Karen Preston, the mother of a soldier currently deployed in Iraq named Ryan who is serving with the Oregon National Guard."
"But Karen Preston has been worrying a lot ever since last summer when Ryan returned home on leave and showed her these photos of the unarmored vehicles his unit was using for convoy duty in Iraq. Lacking the proper steel plating to protect soldiers from enemy mines and rocket propelled grenades, they had been jerry-rigged with plywood and sandbags. "They were called cardboard coffins," Preston says. There have been more than 9,000 U.S. casualties in Iraq so far – more than 8,100 wounded and 1,100 killed. Nearly half of those casualties are the result of roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices or IEDs in military jargon. Yet the U.S. military still lacks thousands of fully armored vehicles that could save American lives."
While the "Department of Defense denied a 60 Minutes request for an on-camera interview to explain the situation," the Army did release a statement that cryptically said "As long as the Army has a single vehicle without armor, we expect that our soldiers will continue to find ways to increase their level of protection." Later in the report, Mr. Kroft interviewed a long time Capital Hill staffer named Winslow Wheeler who alleged that "Army accounts that pay for training, maintenance and repairs are being raided by Congress to pay for pork-barrel spending. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Armed Services Committee, seemed to agree with that allegation.
Perhaps the steel plating coffers are being diverted to companies that manufacture and distribute Paxcon.
In my last post, I wrote about Kuwait’s Al Sabaiea National Contracting & General Trading Co, the regional agent distributor & engineering consultant for Linex & Paxcon products, and how they are touted on the rebuild Iraq website. Now, I have learned that they aren't the only company marketing this product for protection in Iraq.
SMS General Trading Company, a leading provider of goods in Kuwait and Iraq, sells a number of products under the heading "Force Protection Equipment & Prevention Measures." The list includes such products as Vehicle Body Armor, Window Sealants, Bullet Proof Windows, Jersey Barriers, Vehicle Inspection Mirrors, Metal Detectors and Flood and Flash Lights. First on the list: Line-X Spray-on (PAXCON Polymer). While I haven't been able to find out whether or not they have been supplying our troops with Paxcon spray, their website does say, "We deliver your needs to your doorstep, literally, because we understand the Coalition Forces’ mission in Iraq and our primary focus is to provide the best support so the Peace-keepers can concentrate on the mission."
This link leads to U.S. Commercial Service Egypt on BuyUSA.gov, which operates as the U.S. Embassy's Commercial Section. On this site there is a link to Linex Misr Company, which is the exclusive distributor and licensor of LINEX technology in Egypt. "Linex is approved for use with: crude oil, kerosine, diesel, sewage, sea water, drinking water, meats, poultry as well as blast mitigation coating. Linex applications cover all areas including: coating of pipes, lining of tanks, tankers, industrial floors roofs and helicopter decks and hundreds more."
Advanced American Technology (AAT) is a company that distributes and licenses the Line-X lining-coating systems to The Middle East, North Africa, East Europe and West Asia. This PDF file claims that "based on our successful proof-of-concept testing, the Air Force Civil Engineer urged AFRL-Tyndall to agressively pursue a polymer retrofit program with a goal of issuing field guidance on retrofitting lightweight structures by summer 2000. These types of structures, characterized by timber stud walls, exterior aluminum siding and interior veneer-plywood paneling, are widely used during extended deployments, such as our forward installations in Southwest Asia."
This is all about finding an "easier, less expensive, and lighter weight solution." An article about Paxcon that ran in Army Times (Weapons & Warfare), written by William Matthews, notes that "while the Army urges Humvee makers to speed up production lines and turn out more up-armored versions, to send to Iraq, the Navy has discovered that it might be possible to protect existing vehicles with a spray-on polymer armor that's lighter, cheaper and - maybe - as tough as steel."
On November 13, 2003, Congressman Christopher Cox (California Republican) wrote letters to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell urging them to do business with the Line-X Corporation which is based out of Orange County, California (Letter PDF). He reminds them that the "Department of Defense already recognizes PAXCON as a proven technology" and has awarded a contract to coat the exterior walls of the Pentagon with it. He adds, "Specifically, I'd like to inquire whether your key staff would be interested in taking a meeting with executives from LINE-X in order to learn more about the technology and whether it might be put to good use to protect military and civilian personnel in Iraq and the Middle East." Strangely enough, the letters are identical except that Rep. Cox substitutes the word "global" for Middle East in the letter to Sec. of State Powell.
But does it really work?