I'm Shocked, Shocked to Discover...
I've seen a number of blogs talking about this article, which discusses the congressional earmarks for Rohm and Haas in its production of M291 kits. I won't link to them, only because they really don't provide much more than outrage that a few million dollars here and there got sent to a company that was clearly angling for a little pork. Hey, it's just another day in the Beltway...
Scientists have discovered a lotion that can save the lives of U.S. soldiers exposed to chemical weapons — a product vastly superior to the standard-issue decontamination powder.
Naturally, the Defense Department wants to scrap the powder and switch to the more-effective lotion.
But there's a problem: After being lobbied by the companies making the powder, several members of Congress pushed through two earmarks worth $7.6 million that forced the military for the past two years to keep buying the inferior product.
The product, known as M291, is made from a resin sold exclusively by a Pennsylvania chemical company, which is then processed into powder by a New York company, then assembled into individual kits at a facility in Arkansas.
The decision of whether to give soldiers the powder or the lotion is ultimately up to commanders in the field, so the M291 earmarks don't necessarily mean troops will end up with inferior protection.
But by forcing the military to buy the older product, lawmakers are taking that chance, says Winslow Wheeler, a director at the nonpartisan Center for Defense Information. The M291 earmarks show that Congress still hasn't reformed, he said. "The pork process pays little attention to merit, reason and analysis."
Wow. I am just shocked, shocked to discover that congressional representatives would even consider the idea of lacing the defense budget with unnecessary earmarks. I suppose the Seattle Times might just lose their minds if they find out that Congress had added up to $40-50 million in designated earmarks for CB defense science and technology projects. Lots of universities and small businesses benefit every year as a result of this process, not that they necessarily add any value or lead to any new capability. It's what goes on, and we in the Beltway all accept it as the norm. Let's not even get into the serious pork, such as Congress's attempts to get DOD to spend an unnecessary $140 million on F22 parts. Please. This M291 issue is nothing.
Let me set one thing straight. No one is "imperiling" the lives of troops here, so let's stop the drama. The M291 kits work just fine, if not a little messy. There is a history here that isn't being told by the Seattle Times or the players involved. Rohm and Haas stopped its production of M291 kits several years ago (low demand, not a profitable line), but refused to give the Army rights to its proprietary resin formula. As a result, the Army developed its own sorbent decon, but it wasn't FDA-approved for skin application. So R&H continued to produce its special resin, but the actual production of kits was effected by government workers at Pine Bluff Arsenal, Arkansas.
After 9/11, a Canadian firm started marketing the Reactive Skin Decon Lotion (RSDL) - lots of interest in countering the anticipated WMD terrorism threat. While the US military wasn't interested (not invented here, not fully tested and evaluated), the state/local emergency responders were very interested. But because the US military didn't give RSDL its "good housekeeping seal," that was a contentious issue. So the CB defense guys tested the lotion, found out that it could combust upon contact with high chlorine concentrations (like bleach). So after some amount of negotiation, the product was eventually tested and certified safe for use. But that didn't stop either R&H - or E-Z-EM, the US company making the RSDL - from asking for congressional earmarks. Hell, even Pine Bluff and Truetech profitted by earmarks.
The fact that the US military was willing to accept the lotion and discontinue the M291 kit production didn't mean that R&H should stop getting federal funds, does it? (being cynical now). But honestly - let's stop the fake outrage. We've all seen this happen, it's the way of the military-industrial-Congress complex. This isn't the worst thing that's ever happened, nor is it the last.
UPDATE: I'm being told that the M291 skin decon kit is being produced by True Tech up in New York, while Pine Bluff is producing the M295 equipment decon kit in Arkansas. Details... same resin in both.