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The Pentagon Knew These Gun Parts Were Bad — But Shipped Them to Soldiers Anyway

An investigation by Motherboard uncovers that soldiers have been hurt badly because of neglect at the Pentagon, when their guns blew up or jammed on them because of bad parts.

by VICE News
Nov 19 2015, 5:35pm

Photo by Rolex De La Pena/EPA

An investigation by Motherboard found that the US Department of Defense shipped thousands of defective gun parts to US soldiers — and that many of those parts exploded, wounding service members in the line of duty. 

Motherboard poured over thousands of pages of DoD audits, quality-deficiency reports, and contracts, and interviewed dozens of current and former military officials and weapons experts to map out a disturbing pattern of neglect and abuse in the defense establishment. 

The investigation reveals that the DoD did not conduct the proper tests on several guns used in the field, and did not respond in a timely fashion to reports of defective equipment. In fact, the Pentagon repeatedly awarded new contracts to companies with bad records. It even waived quality testing in some cases.

The scandal centers around two widely-used machine guns: the M249 light machine gun and the M2 heavy machine gun. The latest audit shows 54,000 M2s in the military's inventory. And about 80,000 M249s had been made as of 2008, according to the latest data from its maker, FN Manufacturing. Both guns are known to explode in the hands of soldiers when they jam — an occurrence that is made much more likely when the gun is fitted with defective parts. 

Even as the guns were exploding in the hands of active-duty soldiers, the Pentagon failed to inspect many of the critical gun parts it was buying and shipping to troops. In fact, it even shipped parts it knew were defective to troops in the field on at least one occasion.

Motherboard spoke with service member who were critically injured when their guns blew up in their hands, and tracked down the internal emails and reports that show that Pentagon officials did not take seriously the threats posed by defective arms.