Procurement scandals are common in the U.S. military and seldom the sort of thing anyone could make up. In the latest, as reported by the Washington Post, the U.S. Navy paid $1.6 million for firearm silencers valued at $8,000 – more than 200 times the manufacturing cost – and that most likely never should have been ordered in the first place.
The silencers emerged not from any longstanding armament firm but from Mark Landersman, a “hot-rod auto mechanic” in Temecula, California, who declared bankruptcy in 2012. Mark Landersman happens to be the brother of David Landersman, a retired Marine colonel and senior director for plans, policy, oversight and integration intelligence with the Navy.
As the allegations have it, David Landersman sent his brother links to a website with instructions about building silencers. David Landersman also secured a $2 million budget supplement for “studies, assessments and research.” He transferred the money to the CACI corporation, instructing it not to seek any competitive bids but to buy the silencers from a new company Mark Landersman had incorporated, supposedly unsurpassed in expertise.
Mark Landersman tapped his former machinist, Carlos C. Robles, to build 349 of the silencers, which he called “small-engine mufflers.” The manufacturing cost was $8,000 and the Navy paid $1.6 million. The silencers were untraceable and supposedly purchased for SEAL Team 6, but SEAL officials told the Naval Criminal Investigative Service they didn’t know anything about it.
Mark Landersman is the only person to be arrested and charged in the case. David Landersman and Lee Hall, another intelligence official under investigation, have been placed on administrative leave. In that deal they keep all their pay and benefits, do not perform any work, and essentially do whatever they like.
As the Washington Post noted, the Navy is also investigating Vice Admiral Ted “Twig” Branch, director of naval intelligence, and Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless, director of intelligence operations, in bribery scandal. According to allegations, they provided sensitive information to Singapore-based contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia in exchange for money and prostitute services. The investigations “expose how easy it can be for contractors and insiders to defraud the service of millions of dollars” and “call into question the Navy’s ability to prevent fraud.”