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Profile: Philip Coyle

Philip Coyle was a participant or observer in the following events:

The destruction of a British Tornado fighter plane by a US Patriot anti-missile battery (see March 23-April 2, 2003) and other similar incidents (see March 25, 2003 and April 2, 2003) prompt former Congressional investigator Joseph Cironcione to tell reporters that the Army has known of the problems with the Patriot since at least 1991, when Congress tapped him to lead an investigation of the Patriot’s performance (see Mid-1991). But, Cirincione will observe, the media impact of Patriot footage was apparently more important than its actual performance. “I saw the pictures. I thought this is amazing. This system is exceeding expectations,” Cirincione will recall of the Gulf War footage broadcast on CNN and other television networks. “And all during the war, that’s what I thought. This was what all the newscasters said it was—a Scud buster, a miracle weapon. … A lot of money started flowing into the Patriot right after the Gulf War, because everybody thought it was a success.” Cirincione discovered that the Patriot had a dismal record: “The best evidence that we found supports between two and four intercepts out of 44. About a 10 percent success rate.” In 2001, the Army finally admitted that the Patriot was not the ringing success it had claimed. And by that time, the new problem—targeting friendly aircraft as enemies—was becoming evident. A 1996 Pentagon report found that the Patriot had “very high fratricide levels.” Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Philip Coyle, who oversaw Patriot testing from 1994 through 2001, says the Army should have been aware of the problem. “I believe they were,” he will recall in 2004. “But the focus was on hitting a target. Other issues, such as friendly fire, didn’t get the same—either spending, or priority, as the first priority of hitting a target.” Cirincione agrees. “There’s a tendency in all our weapons systems to try to play up the good news and get it through its performance evaluations, and then try to fix the problems later on.… They think that it’s a problem with the system that they can fix down the line.” Those problems were never addressed, but the Army deployed Patriot batteries in Iraq anyway. Cirincione will add, “What’s so disheartening about this is the very things we warned about came to pass in this war. It’s clear that the failure to correct some of the problems that we’ve known about for 10, 12 years led to soldiers dying needlessly. To flyers, dying needlessly.” As of mid-2004, the Army had produced no reports explaining the friendly fire incidents. [Carter, 2004, pp. 52; CBS News, 6/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Philip Coyle, US Department of the Army, Joseph Cirincione

Timeline Tags: US Military, Iraq under US Occupation

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