WASHINGTON A Marine Corps official says he may be fired for demanding accountability for military leaders who have failed to provide troops with equipment urgently needed in combat, according to testimony he's scheduled to deliver to Congress on Thursday.
Marine procurement problems led to "many lives unnecessarily lost" because of delays in fielding equipment such as armored vehicles, Marine science adviser Franz Gayl says in a copy of his testimony to the House oversight committee.
The civilian official, a retired Marine major, says he anticipates being reprimanded for his appearance before the committee.
Committee Chairman Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., said Gayl's case shows that whistle-blower protections need to be strengthened.
"Mr. Gayl's disclosures exemplify both the importance of whistle-blowers and the extreme risk that employees currently take when they speak out," Towns said.
Gayl and other Marines championed the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle as a replacement for the Humvee. Troops in MRAPs are four times more likely to survive roadside bombings than those in Humvees, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Gayl's contentions about the Marines' failures to procure MRAPs, first cited in an internal document released in February 2008, were validated by a Pentagon inspector general's report released in December.
The inspector general's report found that Pentagon leaders knew in the early 1990s that Humvees, because of their low ground clearance, flat bottoms and light weight, were "death traps" when struck by roadside bombs. The report also found the Pentagon was aware of the threat from improvised explosive devices before the invasion of Iraq.
Also, the report found, Marine combat planners delayed for months an urgent request in 2005 for 1,169 MRAPs. That meant "hundreds of Marines and thousands of Marines were permanently maimed in combat unnecessarily," Gayl says in his testimony.
Advocating MRAPs and other equipment made Pentagon and Marine Corps procurement officials uncomfortable, Gayl says.
Job reprisals began in 2007 after he returned from consulting with commanders in Iraq, Gayl says. He says he was reprimanded, for among other things, an e-mail exchange with Gen. David Petraeus, who was then the top commander in Iraq.
Gayl filed for federal whistle-blower protection in May 2007. Several senators, including Kit Bond and now-Vice President Biden, have urged the Marine Corps not to punish him. Bond, R-Mo., praised Gayl on Wednesday for bringing the problems about MRAPs to the attention of Congress.
"In Congress, we depend on our military leaders to let us know what the troops in the field need," Bond said. "When that process breaks down it's whistle-blowers like Franz Gayl who bring serious problems to light."
The Marine Corps would not comment on the matter other than to say it is aware of Gayl's scheduled appearance before the committee.