This is correspondence from Senator Coburn‏ in regards to supporting Senator Coburn in his awkward situation in regards to an indiscretion caused by a fellow partner in some of our discussions over much needed changes in our military's performance rounds and weaponry.

From: [email protected]

Sent: Wed 1/06/10 11:45 AM
To: [email protected]
January 6, 2010
Mr. Gregory Romeu
PO BOX 603
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74101

Dear Mr. Romeu,

Thank you for your message regarding the M4 Carbine and regarding my relationship with Senator John Ensign. I appreciate your message and the article you attached. I apologize for my delayed response.

First, I want to thank you for your service to our country in the United States Marine Corps. I am truly grateful for our military men and women who have courageously been defending our country and preserving freedom.

My examination into the battlefield performance of the M4 came from my own trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, various discussions with and comments from soldiers in the field, and through reports issued by the Pentagon. In each case, I heard doubts as to the M4's performance on the ground. I have also heard numerous examples of the M4 jamming during combat-endangering service members at the moment they need their weapon the most.

In response to the concerns expressed about the M4, the Army performed a thorough "dust test" to rate the performance of the M4 versus several comparable weapons. The results of this test showed clearly that the M4 performed worse than its counterparts in battlefield conditions. Out of 60,000 rounds fired with each weapon, the M4 suffered 882 stoppages (jamsmore than twice the nearest competitor, the HK416, which had 233 stoppages. At the same test, the XM8 had 127 stoppages and the MK16 SCAR Light had 226 stoppages. To put that in perspective, the test revealed that the M4 jams, on average, once every 68 rounds in real-world battlefield conditions, as opposed to once every 472 rounds with the XM-8. We have an obligation to provide our soldiers with better. No one would support equipping our troops with a body armor that was simultaneously the most expensive and the worst performing, and we should not sit back and accept that kind of poor performance from the weapons we give our troops, either.

It is important to note that, in addition to existing performance concerns, the sole-source contract that the M4's manufacturer has with the Pentagon gives them the flexibility to name their own price to the American taxpayer instead of offering fair and competitive prices. The sole-source contract has also hampered progress and improvement of the weapon because the M4 has not faced competition. Simply put, the M4's manufacturer has had no incentive to make the M4 better or more affordable under their sole-source contract. There is no reason for the government to pay retail prices when purchasing approximately half-a-million weapons, a wholesale quantity.

The bloated sole-source contract for the M4 has also had a deleterious impact on America's small arms market. Without the opportunity to compete for Pentagon contracts, many small arms manufacturers have shifted their production to other weapons, or stopped production of small arms altogether. Obviously, those that benefit from the continued sole-source acquisition of the M4 prefer this arrangement, as it improves their profits and weakens rival businesses in the small arms market. However, if we want to see American companies develop and produce more high-class small arms, manufacturers will have to have an opportunity, and it will have to begin with a competition. A competitively bid, equitably judged and meritoriously awarded small arms contract will do much for America's small arms market.

My primary concern in the competition is not which manufacturer or which weapon wins but, rather, that our troops in the field are equipped with the best weapon in the world. If it is the M4, then so be it, though recent dust test results clearly leave such a conclusion in doubt. To be clear, I will insist that American troops fight with an American-made weapon in their hand, but that does not mean I will stand by as the government assumes large, often unnecessary costs during the acquisition process. There are dozens of American manufacturers who produce fine weapons, and they deserve a chance to prove their products can do better than the M4. While the dust test I cited earlier tested some weapons made by foreign manufacturers, I do not believe it is necessary to contract with companies outside the United States-and I would not support any plan that does.

We owe it to our troops, who have given so much in service of our country, to do all we can to take care of them. I will continue to do all that I can to ensure that they are not simply adequately equipped, but well-equipped to defeat the enemy.

You asked me how you can help in this important issue. I appreciate the offer. I would ask that you speak out to your friends both in Oklahoma and in other states and have them contact their members of Congress and request them to examine this issue. There is a common misperception here on Capitol Hill that our soldiers have the very best weapon available when we send them to war. However, that is not the case. I also recommend reading Misfire: The History of How America's Small Arms Have Failed our Military by William Hallahan. In this book the author explains how the failure of the Army to develop adequate small arms weapons for our troops goes back to the very founding of the United States.

Lastly, you have also mentioned your concerns regarding my relationship with Senator John Ensign. I was heartbroken to learn that one of my dearest friends and colleagues, Senator John Ensign, had engaged in an extramarital affair. As a man of faith, I am deeply disturbed when any individual, elected official or lay person breaks a sacred trust between a spouse or significant other by engaging in and lying about an extramarital affair.

I understand the grave concern of my constituents regarding any involvement I had with the circumstances surrounding Senator Ensign's affair. I assure you that my involvement in the unfolding of the affair was solely in the best interest of protecting the families involved. Much of the media's account of the episode has been inaccurate and based on a single source. For instance, at no point did I encourage Senator Ensign to hide or conceal his affair. In fact, my advice was the opposite. I have been reluctant to speak out and correct the record because the conversations that took place between me and Senator Ensign were intensely personal and private. Senator Ensign's actions were wrong but it is important to remember the innocent family members and individuals involved, all of whom need to heal in private.

Thank you again for your message and for sharing your thoughts. May God bless you and your family.

Tom A. Coburn, M.D.
United States Senator