Lawsuit Says Indiana Contractor OK’d Shoddy Weapons Parts

May 28, 2010

A former employee of an Indiana defense contractor 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.

In his lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Evansville in February 2009 and unsealed in March, Andrew T. Pool accuses Dugger-based Northside Machine Co. of fraud and wrongful termination. He is seeking reinstatement with back pay and unspecified damages.

In a court filing, the company contends that it never told Pool to falsify test results and that Pool never complained to management before he was fired. It asked a judge to dismiss his lawsuit.

Northside Machine supplies trigger assemblies and other components to defense contractor FN Manufacturing for use in its M240 and M249 machine guns, which are widely used by the military. FN Manufacturing is not accused of wrongdoing.

Attorneys for Pool and the company declined to comment, and a spokesman at FN Manufacturing in Columbia, S.C., did not immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment.

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.

U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings Jr. declined to comment on any possible link between such weapons failures and alleged substandard parts, citing the ongoing litigation. The Virginia-based Center for Naval Analyses also declined to speculate about any such connection and said its report hadn’t diagnosed the underlying causes of complaints about the M249.

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