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thedrifter
07-12-06, 05:00 PM
Catto joins European Command as chief of staff
By Christian Lowe
Marine Corps Times Staff writer

The former head of Marine Corps Systems Command - the Corps' primary gear-buying office - assumed his new job as chief of staff of U.S. European Command on July 5.

Maj. Gen. William Catto is the first Marine to hold that post in Stuttgart, Germany, and joins Marine Gen. James Jones, NATO commander, and Marine Lt. Gen. Edward Hanlon, U.S. military representative to NATO, in the Europe-based command.

Catto's replacement, Col. Mike Brogan - who has been selected for brigadier general - is expected to assume command of SysCom in late September, officials said. Brogan is currently leading the Corps' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program, the planned replacement for the AAV7 Assault Amphibian Vehicle.

Brogan takes over a Quantico-based command bruised by a series of high-profile and controversial programs that have sent ripples through the Corps and the Pentagon.

Recently, Catto testified before Congress on his justification for fielding a helmet to Marines that some lawmakers believe is less safe in a bomb blast than the one fielded by the Army. The controversy forced SysCom to re-evaluate its helmet buy to see if the Army's option - which uses a padded suspension inside the helmet instead of the Corps' sling suspension system - is more protective during a roadside bomb attack.

Catto, a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter pilot and former commander of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, took flak from some observers early this year for inking a nearly $44 million contract to purchase the "Growler," a vehicle used to tow the Corps' new 120mm Expeditionary Fire Support System mortar.

Some argued the Jeep-like vehicle was fundamentally unsafe and that the contract was an inside deal between Catto and a former colleague who owns Growler manufacturer American Growler Inc. of Ocala, Fla.

An internal Marine Corps investigation cleared Catto of wrongdoing, and SysCom officials strenuously defended the vehicle's safety and capabilities.

In May 2005, the Corps recalled thousands of body armor vests that Catto had agreed to send to troops in combat despite a government expert's warning that they were not up to specifications. The Corps later recalled more than 10,000 additional vests after a subsequent Army investigation found more failed ballistic tests.

Despite the recent turmoil, Commandant Gen. Mike Hagee commended Catto, arguing that the vests in question were proven safe and that Catto's work on fielding Humvee up-armor kits to Marine forces in Iraq who faced near-daily roadside bomb attacks was "amazing."

"I have complete confidence in Bill Catto and what he's doing," Hagee said in November. "He was really quite masterful in finding money and quickly producing what Marines need [in Iraq]."

Systems Command will be administered by its executive director, Barry Dillon, until Brogan takes over in late September, SysCom officials said. Brogan will be replaced as EFV program director by Col. John Bryant, currently the program manager for Marine Light Armored Vehicles.