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Navy Accused of Trying to Mislead Congress About HARM Missile Failures

Times Staff Writer

The chairman of a congressional oversight subcommittee has accused the Navy of attempting to mislead Congress about performance failures in the HARM missile, the state-of-the-art anti-radar weapon deployed in the U.S. raid against Libya in 1986.

U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and its investigations subcommittee, in a letter made public Tuesday, said Navy officials have refused to provide data on whether any of the missiles missed their targets because of falsified test certifications on a key component in the missile’s guidance system.

Committee sources said there is evidence that up to 25% of the HARM missiles deployed on the initial Libyan bombing raid missed their targets, and congressional investigators have uncovered several other incidents, which Dingell said raise “serious questions” about the effectiveness of the weapon system.

“On several occasions, Navy Department officials have attempted to mislead the subcommittee about their knowledge of the performance of the HARM, particularly in the case of the bombing raid on Libya in April, 1986,” Dingell said in a letter to a Los Angeles federal judge who is handling a criminal case stemming from the false certifications.

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Genisco Technology Corp., an aerospace company based in Rancho Dominguez near Carson, which supplied a small but critical component on the missile system known as the pressure transducer, pleaded guilty, along with three of its managers, to charges of falsifying test data to make it appear that the transducers met design specifications when they had in fact not been tested.

Failure of the transducers, which are altitude sensing devices, could cause the missiles to miss their targets, federal officials said.

The charges prompted Navy officials to recall the High-Speed Anti-Radar Missile from strategic locations around the world, and Genisco last week agreed to pay $725,000 in fines and restitution. The three Genisco employees are awaiting sentencing.

Texas Instruments, prime contractor on the HARM missile, said transducers in about 100 missiles had to be replaced.

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Committee sources said congressional investigators sought detailed data on the performance of the missile after the Libyan bombing raid but were told that individual pilot debriefings had been destroyed.

Later, subcommittee officials were provided with a classified after-action report, which did indicate “some problems” with the performance of the missile, which Pentagon officials have publicly credited with superior performance in the 1986 raid, the sources said.

“Even against defenses which were well below optimum, serious questions about the HARM’s effectiveness persist,” Dingell said in his letter to U.S. District Judge A. Andrew Hauk.

He added that Navy officials have “refused to cooperate” with the subcommittee to determine to what extent those problems may have been caused by faulty Genisco transducers.

“We have found that the Navy, and indeed all the uniformed services, seem to feel more of an obligation to protect their programs, their budgets and their favored contractors than to protect the interests of the troops or the taxpayers,” Dingell wrote.

A Navy spokeswoman said late Tuesday that she had not seen the letter and could not comment on it.

“This is all new information to me, but we’ll look into it,” Lt. Barbara Kent said.

Assistant U.S. Atty. David Katz, who headed the Genisco investigation, said investigators for the Navy and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, an arm of the Pentagon, were fully cooperative with federal prosecutors.

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“Our experience in this case with the military and the military investigators has been good and positive, so I imagine what the subcommittee’s saying here, obviously, (that) they’re speaking for themselves,” Katz said.

Katz refused to discuss what federal prosecutors have learned about performance failures in the HARM missile that may be attributable to the Genisco transducers. That information, he said, will be disclosed in a sentencing memorandum to be filed with the court within the next few weeks.


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