Monday, January 17, 2005

The case of Accu-Counter

In November of 2003 Carl Weiser wrote this article on local pork.

A Northern Kentucky company is getting $1.5 million, courtesy of Sen. Mitch McConnell.

A closer reading of the article implies, but doesn't acutally state, that the grant went to Accu-Counter of Crestview Hills, KY, since it's the only Northern Kentucky company referenced in the article.


An earmark for a "weapons shot counter" could be the break
Accu-Counter Technologies in Crestview Hills has been waiting for.

The company makes a "black box" for guns that stores the data on every shot fired - the date, the rate, the time of every shot down to a thousandth of a second.

Accu-Counter isn't guaranteed a Pentagon contract, but owners are
optimistic. The four-person company manufactures the device at a factory in Evendale.

So the company already manufactures a device. The article has a picture with the president of Accu-Counter displaying the device they manufacturer with the following caption:

Joe Utasi, president of Accu-Counter, displays the "black box"
device his Crestview Hills company makes to record data when a gun is fired. Federal funds could help land a Pentagon contract.

I did a Google search on "Accu-Counter" and grant and found the following October 2003 article Kentucky Business Online. It states (Under U.S. Senate Approves Nearly $80M for Kentucky Defense Projects) that:

Accu-Counter in Kenton County has been awarded $1.5 million, which
will be used to enhance the ability of Special Operations Forces to gauge the reliability of their weapons.

From the same search I learned that Senator Jim Bunning is stating that the same grant was $2 Million. From his press release:

U.S. Senator Jim Bunning today announced that he helped to secure
more than $147 million in funding for Kentucky in the Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Appropriations Bill that passed the Senate today by a vote of 95-0. Overall, the bill provides $369 billion in funding for the Department of Defense for FY 2004.

...Attached is a list of projects Senator Bunning helped secure
funding for in the bill.

... $2 million for ACCU-Counter Technologies in
Crestview Hills for modifications and procurement of a Weapons Shot Counter System that will enhance the ability of Special Operations Forces to gauge the wear and reliability of their weapons.

Which is $1.5 Million or $2 Million?

How did they catch the Senators' attention to sponsor this spending? This follow-on article (How to get your own earmark) in the Enquirer gives some details:

...Know someone

Accu-Counter Technologies, the Crestview Hills company that
got a $1.5 million earmark, used Greg Shumate as its lawyer. He happens to be the chairman of the Kenton County Republican Party.

"He had the connections we needed to get the senator's ear," company president Joe Utasi said. Shumate introduced company officials to Sen. Mitch McConnell's Northern Kentucky field representative, Kelly White.

Eventually, company officials gave a presentation to the Kentucky Republican himself during a lunch at the Cincinnati Marriott at River

My rant on all this :

Accu-Counter's appears to develop legitimate devices for industry, law enforcement and the military. I champion their ingenuity and entrepreneurship. What I have a big problem with is how the military goes about procuring these devices. It looks likes the politicians are dictating the needs. I would have a lot less to argue with if the military determined there was a need and then went out and solicited bids.

Isn’t that what military trade shows are for? I would prefer it if Accu-Counter demonstrated and advertised their offerings to Military procurement officers at a trade show. This ‘knowing someone that knows someone…have your people call my people’ thing is just asking for abuse. It doesn’t guarantee that the very best technology gets to our soldiers. It guarantees that the company with the best connections gets their technology reviewed.

Even if the procurement officers go through rigorous testing and selection, Accu-Counter is still getting an unfair advantage by getting grants to do feasiblity testing. The testing should be funded with private dollars with their shareholders taking the risk. An alternative is to open up the grant process to public bidding; not earmarking by Senators into appropriations bills. In any event it should be need driven.

And by need, I mean the need of the military to fulfill its mission; not the the need of an elected official to prove he's doing something for the folks back in the district.


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