When Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld visited Iraq last year to tour the Abu Ghraib prison camp, military officials did not rely on a government-issued Humvee to transport him safely on the ground. Instead, they turned to Halliburton, the oil services contractor, which lent the Pentagon a rolling fortress of steel called the Rhino Runner.
State Department officials traveling in Iraq use armored vehicles that are built with V-shaped hulls to better deflect bullets and bombs. Members of Congress favor another model, called the M1117, which can endure 12-pound explosives and .50-caliber armor-piercing rounds.
Unlike the Humvee, the Pentagon's vehicle of choice for American troops, the others were designed from scratch to withstand attacks in battlefields like Iraq with no safe zones. Last fall, for instance, a Rhino traveling the treacherous airport road in Baghdad endured a bomb that left a six-foot-wide crater. The passengers walked away unscathed. "I have no doubt should I have been in any other vehicle," wrote an Army captain, the lone military passenger, "the results would have been catastrophically different."
The article reports that in May and so far in June at least 73 US soldiers have died on Iraqi roads. Well, 80 US troops died total in May and so approximately half the troops dying in Iraq are dying on the roads. Most and perhaps all of those deaths could have been prevented with better vehicles. About half of US Army soldiers and even more Marines riding around in Humvees are driving in less than fully armored Humvees.
Just before the Iraq invasion one of the vehicles superior to the Humvee was unfunded and one of the superior V-shaped vehicles had a production stop while waiting for a contract.
Among other setbacks, the M1117 lost its Pentagon money just before the invasion, and the manufacturer is now scrambling to fill rush orders from the military. The company making one of the V-shaped vehicles, the Cougar, said it had to lay off highly skilled welders last year as it waited for the contract to be completed. Even then it was paid only enough to fill half the order.
And the Rhino could not get through the Army's testing regime because its manufacturer declined to have one of its $250,000 vehicles blown up. The company said it provided the Army with testing data that demonstrate the Rhino's viability, and is using the defense secretary's visit as a seal of approval in its contract pitches to the Defense Department.
Read the whole article. The Pentagon is too slow. Decades of layering of procurement rules onto it (to be fair much of it at the instigation of Congress) has left the military unable to shift to wartime procurement practices when a real shooting war is in progress. Plus, I suspect the DOD doesn't have enough money to buy what would save the most American lives.
Even some of the most armored Humvees are getting totally destroyed by bombs while many Humvees have yet to get up-armored. But the Humvees are obsolete for a war like Iraq where there are no clearly defined front lines. If Congress and the President were serious about protecting American soldiers they'd pass a law authorizing completely different and highly rapid procurement practices for equipment bound for Iraq.
Aside: This report indirectly might explain why the prices quoted for the ride to the Baghdad airport in news reports were very different last fall and early this year: One of the groups offering rides to the airport is using armored vehicles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. I thought that was what one news report I read had implied. But that seems clear now. Halliburton uses them. The US State Department uses them. Of course some private group will offer to sell rides in them. Those vehicles are much more expensive taxis.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2005 June 27 12:32 AM MidEast Iraq Military Needs|