MRAPs & Rumsfeld’s War on the Cheap

burninghumvee.jpg

As if the whole freaking affair hasn’t been so forked up to begin with, some of the consequences of former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s decision to fight the Iraq war “on the cheap” have been nothing short of criminal.

It is an open secret that troops have lacked the necessary protection in body and vehicle armor from the outset of the four-plus year old war because Rumsfeld assumed that it would be over in a heartbeat.

The result of that arrogance is that the already strained Pentagon procurement and supply system has been painfully slow to respond to urgent requests from commanders in the field to speed up the purchase and delivery of armor.

Troops have had to jury rig their Humvees with makeshift armor and families of many a soldier have purchased body armor stateside and sent it to Iraq as they would have sent a box of Mother’s brownies in another war.

This outrage is amplified by the widespread use by insurgents of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which can blow open the soft underbellies of the standard-issue Humvees and fricassee the troops inside. It is no surprise that over two thirds of American combat deaths are from IEDs.

It also is no surprise that many of the urgent requests from commanders for more armor ASAP have been ignored.

The New York Times says in an editorial:

More than two years ago, according to newly disclosed documents, Marine commanders in Al Anbar Province, a center of the Sunni insurgency, submitted an urgent request for more than 1,100 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, or MRAPs, that have V-shaped bottoms able to deflect blasts from below. For reasons yet to be satisfactorily explained, military officials initially sat on the request and then ordered relatively few.

Some, second-guessing the judgment of the battlefield commanders, apparently felt that Humvees with upgraded armor could do the job. Others may have been reluctant to invest billions of dollars in vehicles that might have little use after Iraq. Turf battles were probably also a factor, as a large-scale purchase might threaten future weapons programs. But Iraq is the war that Americans are fighting and dying in today.

The editorial goes on to say that only now is the Pentagon, prodded by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. and others, rushing to increase production of MRAPs.

Rumsfeld is said to be working on a memoir in an effort to rehabilitate his image by “setting the record straight.”

Don’t except to read anything about this signal outrage when it is published.

IT’S ABOUT TIME

Meanwhile, the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act – a response to embarrassing revelations about the shabby care of returning war vets, has been unanimously voted out of the Senate Armed Services Committee and is headed for a floor vote.

The panel voted Thursday to expand brain screenings and counseling for wounded vet and to reduce red tape for service members moving from Pentagon to Veterans Affairs care. The bill also would boost disability pay and provide more counseling for family members of tens of thousands of U.S. service members wounded in combat.

The action capped a flurry of activity in recent weeks to reach broad agreement on a single measure that would improve health care following reports of shoddy outpatient treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In all, some 30 senators are sponsoring the measure, including three presidential candidates and two Senate committees — Veterans Affairs and Armed Services.

More here.

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  • superdestroyer

    shawn,
    the military tried to create two programs for getting things to Iraq faster: The rapid fielding initiatives and the rapid acquisition program. Both programs were to try to get military items to Iraq faster. Both programs were hurt becasue they were one year programs that were repeatedly renews.

    Itis hard to purchase a new family of military vehilces on a one year time horizon. What ends up happening is that the vehicle/weapon system/electronic gadget may be purchase but the spare parts are not, no one knows how to maintain the vehicles, the vehicles have different battery, fuel, and oil requirements, and the systems quickly become useless.

  • http://kikoshouse.blogspot.com/ Shaun Mullen

    The reasons that you cited may be valid, but they are piss poor excuses and would not play well with families of troopers who were killed because of this inept bureaucracy when they gathered on Memorial Day to leave flowers at their gravesites.

    Remember, Iraq is the primary battleground in the GWOT, or that’s the big lie we’ve been fed from Day Two, the justifications made on Day One having been utterly and totally undermined.

    This “can’t do” attitude, aided and abetted by a pernicious and arrogant defense secretary, is absolutely unacceptable and, as I said, is criminal.

  • George Sorwell

    Shaun–

    Since I often bash you on these threads, I would like to say I think you’re 100% correct here.

  • http://itsthe21stcenturystupid.wordpress.com Jim Satterfield

    Oh, Shaun. There is something worse, you know. The current system of body armor is not the best type out there by a long shot. There is a system called DragonSkin that would provide much more thorough protection, lacking many of the openings that the plate-based system currently in use has that has resulted in wounds that DragonSkin would have protected from. The current military bureaucracy is vested in the current system for the usual bad reasons and claim that DragonSkin isn’t the better system even though independent tests conducted at the request of the media that came across this story show the exact opposite. That one is really disgusting and deserves much more dispersion in the media than MSNBC has achieved.

  • http://kikoshouse.blogspot.com/ Shaun Mullen

    Mr. Sorwell:

    Thank you.

    Jim:

    Fascinating but not surprising.

    As it is, a major chokepoint in manufacturing MRAPs is that there is only one contractor with a very limited production capacity.

    I will guarantee you that manufacturer is politically connected and I will also guarantee you that efforts to farm out additional manufacturing have been rebuffed.

  • jweidner

    This “can’t do” attitude, aided and abetted by a pernicious and arrogant defense secretary, is absolutely unacceptable and, as I said, is criminal.

    I think the phrase that most aptly describes the entirety of this administration is, “The Buck Don’t Stop Here!”

    Snark aside, this is criminal. There’s just no other words to describe it. Our soldiers may have signed their lives over to the defense of our country, but that doesn’t mean our government or the military higher-ups should treat that commitment lightly. And this sort of neglect suggests they are doing exactly that.

  • Entropy

    Jim,

    Don’t buy into the Dragonskin hype which was NBC’s attempt to create controversy.

    Neither armor is inherently better, but there are differences. The two main problems with Dragonskin are that it is significantly heavier (58 pounds, vs 28 for the Army-issue interceptor) and it’s very difficult to replace the small disks once they’ve been damaged. With interceptor, you just slide a new plate in.

    The weight, though, is a huge factor. 20 extra pounds is a lot when guys are carrying 80-100 pounds of gear in 120 degree heat. We could probably make troops nigh invulnerable to small-arms fire, but then they couldn’t move and would die of heat stroke. In a combat environment, many other factors besides protection must be considered. Dragonskin simply does not provide enough added benefits to justify the huge increase in weight – it’s as simple as that.

    As for the MRAP debate, a couple of other points. First of all, most of these vehicles are made by small firms who only had production capability to build a handful a year. Ramping up production to produce thousands in a short period of time is no easy task, even when the government acquisition wheels have been greased. It is a similar situation to the armor kits for Hummers. When IED’s became a problem we suddenly needed thousands of armor kits, but the company that made them was only setup to produce a limited number.

    Even when the MRAPs get fielded, insurgents will find ways to take them out. There was a decrease in IED casualties when armored hummers became common, but then EFP’s were introduced and insurgents developed new tactics through trial-and-error to defeat it. The same will happen with MRAPs. Every combat system has weaknesses and eventually insurgents will find that weakness and exploit it. It’s the nature of warfare.

    Despite our deepest desires, there is no way to end the IED threat without ending the insurgency. Technology can mitigate some of the threat, but even the greatest technology has limits.

  • http://kikoshouse.blogspot.com/ Shaun Mullen

    Despite our deepest desires, there is no way to end the IED threat without ending the insurgency. Technology can mitigate some of the threat, but even the greatest technology has limits.

    So well said. So sad. so true.

  • http://itsthe21stcenturystupid.wordpress.com Jim Satterfield

    Entropy,

    Here’s a follow up report from NBC.