It's time to wish for an army without Rumsfeld
The Pentagon has repeatedly said no vehicle leaves camp without armor. But according to military records and interviews with officials, about half of the Army's 20,000 Humvees have improvised shielding that typically leaves the underside unprotected, while only one in six Humvees used by the Marines is armored at the highest level of protection.
The Defense Department continues to rely on just one small company in Ohio to armor Humvees. And the company, O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, has waged an aggressive campaign to hold onto its exclusive deal even as soaring rush orders from Iraq have been plagued by delays. The Marine Corps, for example, is still awaiting the 498 armored Humvees it sought last fall, officials told The Times.
In January, when military officials tried to speed production by buying the legal rights to the armor design so they could enlist other venders to help, O'Gara demurred, calling the move a threat to its "current and future competitive position," according to e-mail records obtained from the Army.
Maybe Americans should be asking Dumbya's Uncle Bucky why troops can't get armor on their vehicles.
Oh...you didn't know? Well, maybe the mainstream press ought to get on the ball. You see, Uncle Bucky is on the board of directors of the sole source supplier for Humvee armor kits, Engineered Support Systems, Incorporated.
Apparently the DOD is pleased with the snail's pace progress on armor, because ESSI just got a whopping new $57 million contract in January to provide more armor at a snail's pace.
When we talk about Humvee armor, there are actually two things going on (which the NY Times didn't differentiate). There are new Humvee units coming off of the assembly line that require armor before they're shipped overseas, and there are existing Humvee units that require armor kits.
It's a little difficult to sort out, but I suspect that ESSI is just manufacturing the armor kits for deployed vehicles, and appears as well to be doing the installations in Iraq. Another company manufactures the armor kits that go on the new Humvees, O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt (recently acquired by Armor Holdings). Coincidentally (or not), ESSI and OGH&E are both based in Cincinnati.
I thought at first that ESSI might have contracted out the armor plate job to OGH&E, but I now think they are working on two separate tasks. Nevertheless, both companies are sole-source suppliers of armor for their respective tasks, and therein lies the problem. They're little armor monopolies, and that is neither the American way of doing things, nor is it the most efficient. Meanwhile, troops are dying every day.
Hey, remember that time in December when army specialist Thomas Green stood up at one of those photo-ops with the troops, and asked Defense Secretary Rumsfeld why he couldn't get armor for his Humvees? Rummie responded with a roundabout answer, saying the problem was "essentially a matter of physics."
Guess what happened after that incident?
Two days later, he asked Armor Holdings to increase production of armored vehicles to 550 a month, from 450. It turns out that Armor Holdings executives told the Pentagon in September that they were ready to raise production, but no one authorized the increase.
Well, it appears that the physics problem was that ol' Rummie just didn't move his arm to pick up the goddamn phone!
Meanwhile, executives over at the OGH&E plant are patting themselves on the back for assigning their employees to 10-hour shifts to meet the demand for armor. Hey, under the circumstances, would someone please suggest that they might want to add a second and third shift?!!
Maybe it's time to test Rumsfeld's pessimistic assumption that "You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have." Maybe it's time to get rid of the guy running the operation and wish for someone more competent.