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Two senators have sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying the Marines have mismanaged a four-year effort to develop hidden video cameras to track insurgents planting roadside bombs, USA Today reported Wednesday.

Sens. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Joseph Biden, D-Del., told Gates that the Marines failed to support the Tactical Concealed Video System (TCVS), the paper reported. Adequately supported, they write, the system might have prevented bomb attacks on Marines in Iraq.

Bond and Biden say Marines in the field still want the system, according to USA Today.

Officials at the Marine Corps Systems Command, which helps equip Marines for combat, say the system doesn’t work. "Our operating forces have told us explicitly that this system does not meet their performance expectations," the paper reported Col. Phillip Chudoba, the program manager for intelligence systems, as saying.

Gates has said adding surveillance capability is one of his top priorities, akin to his call to speed the production of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

Late in 2004, Marines in Iraq issued their first urgent plea for the concealed-camera system, according to the report. The cameras were slow to be put into use.

In 2006, Marines in Iraq sent a request for system improvements. In April, Marine commanders in Iraq canceled their orders. The camera systems were cumbersome and complex, and their batteries burned out, Chudoba told the paper. Most of the 15 systems, valued at about $1 million apiece, sit on the shelf, USA Today wrote.


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