EDITOR'S NOTE: Last month, ABC Action News reported a former employee’s allegations of quality control problems at a Tampa manufacturer of 40mm grenades for the U.S. military.
The report addressed a whistleblower lawsuit containing accusations from John King, the former manager of quality assurance at DSE Inc.’s Orlando subsidiary, that defective parts were making their way into grenade fuzes.
We also reported that a Department of Justice filing in the case included stated that an audit appeared “to confirm at least some of King’s (the realtor’s) allegations.”
The government, however, declined to join King in his lawsuit against DSE. Government lawyers have reserved the right to rejoin the case, stating “Our decision not to intervene” should not be construed as a statement about the merits of the case.”
If King is successful in winning his “whistle blower” lawsuit both he and the government could be awarded monetary damages from DSE and other companies.
TAMPA - In over 25 years as a quality assurance expert, John King worked on some of the best known weapons systems made in the U.S. from the Patriot to the Hellfire Missile.
He worked for Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and the Army itself.
But there is a huge difference between working on a weapons system and working on a weapons system that a member of your own family will depend upon. And that's exactly what happened when King went to work for a subsidiary of Tampa-based DSE Inc., which makes 40mm grenades used by just about every branch of the U.S. military.
"My nephew was in Iraq at the time. He's an Army Ranger using these exact weapons to protect himself and his troops," King said.
King went to work in 2008 as a Quality Assurance Manager for DSE Fuzing, which makes the fuzes that control when the grenade will arm. But his tenure there would end abruptly after he concluded that DSE was "incapable of making products that weren't defective.”
King claims just days after starting his new job, some employees began slipping him documents showing that defective parts were winding up in fuzes being shipped out.
He feared the defects could cause grenades to explode prematurely or not at all. So he tried shutting down the production line by withholding batches of defective fuzes.
"But the management would override me every single time and they would ship the product against the quality assurance manager's specific direction not to," King said.
But what King didn't know and couldn't prove was whether any U.S. troops had ever been injured because of defective grenades. So ABC Action News filed a Freedom of Information Request with the U.S. Munitions Command and this is what we learned.
If you've served in the U.S. military and experienced instances of a short fuse, grenades armed prematurely, or duds please contact Alan Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org .
If you work or have worked with any of the companies involved in this story and have concerns about quality control on the production line please contact Alan Cohn at email@example.com .
In March 2009 in Quantico, Virginia, five Marines were injured during a training exercise. Some had to be medevaced after a 40mm grenade exploded in the air just 15-20 meters from the muzzle of the grenade launcher. It was the second time that day a grenade exploded prematurely.
The investigation blamed a defective fuze. The Army says it wasn't possible to determine who manufactured the defective grenades but ABC Action News reviewed record after record of the 40mm rounds used. Out of the six lots of grenades used that day, DSE Inc. was the primary contractor of half of them.
King's attorney is former Republican Congressman Craig James. James is representing King in a "Whistle Blower" lawsuit against DSE and others.
"You have troops that are potentially in harm's way if what John says is accurate and I believe it to be accurate," James said.
Tucker Campion is a former Navy Seal who worked in weapons acquisitions at MacDill Air Force Base's Special Operations Command.
"We're trying to do everything we can to support the war fighter and we give them substandard equipment -- things that are unsafe -- then you are putting our soldiers and sailors, airmen, and Marines at risk," Campion said.
King showed us a memo he wrote to his boss , where he reports in one randomly-sampled lot of grenades that were shipped to the military, 36 out of 192 detents, a critical part of the fuze was out of tolerance. That's despite a military standard for this part which allows for zero defects.
We showed King's memorandum and other documents from the lawsuit to Professor Tapas Das, a quality assurance expert at USF.
"The number of defects in this case is very high. In my opinion, the lot should have been rejected," Das said.
We also showed the documents to Danielle Brian of the non-partisan Project on Government Oversight in Washington which investigates