Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pentagon Fails to Protect U.S. Troops

It has been obvious to anyone tuned in to the war in Iraq, that our troops have been sitting ducks in the Humvees used in the war. Attempts to re-armour the Humvee have taken too long, and have been ineffective against IED's exploding underneath the vehicle. Now it seems that a solution was available all along, but decisions made along the way have needlessly contributed to the maiming, crippling and deaths of our fighting troops. They didn't think the war would last this long. When they did get around to asking for MRAP's, they inexplicably requested them, not for U.S. troops, but for Iraqi troops.

The above photograph shows a bone-yard of hundreds, maybe thousands, of Humvees disabled by IED's over the past four years. Not shown are the countless troop injuries and deaths - injuries and deaths which were, for the most part preventable.

I would say I am outraged, but what I am feeling is more like a slow, cold burn, if that makes any sense. We went into this civilian-led war, planned by idiots, incompetent fools who didn't have a clue, not a clue, what they were getting us into. Bush, itching for war, thought he would come out looking like a war hero. What presumptuous fools. The following headline seems to underline the lack of coordination of the desk-jockeys in the Pentagon, with what the men on the ground have been saying.

I suppose that has always been the case in war. But historical perspective doesn't help, because it's happening now, and it's happening to our troops.

Pentagon balked at pleas from officers in field for safer vehicles

By Peter Eisler, Blake Morrison and Tom Vanden Brook,
USA TODAY - July 16, 2007

Pfc. Aaron Kincaid, 25, had been joking with buddies just before their Humvee rolled over the bomb. His wife, Rachel, later learned that the blast blew Kincaid, a father of two from outside Atlanta, through the Humvee's metal roof.

Army investigators who reviewed the Sept. 23 attack near Riyadh, Iraq, wrote in their report that only providence could have saved Kincaid from dying that day: "There was no way short of not going on that route at that time (that) this tragedy could have been diverted."

A USA TODAY investigation of the Pentagon's efforts to protect troops in Iraq suggests otherwise.

Years before the war began, Pentagon officials knew of the effectiveness of another type of vehicle that better shielded troops from bombs like those that have killed Kincaid and 1,500 other soldiers and Marines. But military officials repeatedly balked at appeals — from commanders on the battlefield and from the Pentagon's own staff — to provide the life-saving Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, for patrols and combat missions, USA TODAY found.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates late last month, two U.S. senators said the delays cost the lives of an estimated "621 to 742 Americans" who would have survived explosions had they been in MRAPs, rather than Humvees.

The letter, from Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Kit Bond, R-Mo., assumed the initial calls for MRAPs came in February 2005, when Marines in Iraq asked the Pentagon for almost 1,200 of the vehicles.

USA TODAY found that the first appeals for the MRAP came much earlier.

As early as December 2003, when the Marines requested their first 27 MRAPs for explosive disposal teams, Pentagon analysts sent detailed information about the superiority of the vehicles to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, e-mails obtained by USA TODAY show. Later pleas came from Iraq, where commanders saw that the approach the Joint Chiefs embraced— adding armor to the sides of Humvees, the standard vehicles in the war zone — did little to protect against blasts beneath the vehicles.

Despite the efforts, the general who chaired the Joint Chiefs until Oct. 1, 2005, says buying MRAPs "was not on the radar screen when I was chairman." Air Force general Richard Myers, now retired, says top military officials dealt with a number of vehicle issues, including armoring Humvees. The MRAP, however, was "not one of them." Something related to MRAPs "might have crossed my desk," Myers says, "but I don't recall it."

Why the issue never received more of a hearing from top officials early in the war remains a mystery, given the chorus of concern. One Pentagon analyst complained in an April 29, 2004, e-mail to colleagues, for instance, that it was "frustrating to see the pictures of burning Humvees while knowing that there are other vehicles out there that would provide more protection.".....
.....Marine Maj. Franz Gayl, now retired, was science adviser to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq. He saw how Marines were still being killed or maimed in Anbar in the fall of 2006. If the Marine Corps had decided MRAPs were a top priority, he says, it could and should have pursued them with the same urgency the Pentagon is now showing.

"The ramp-up of industry capacity was delayed by over 1½ years," Gayl says, "until it became the dire emergency that it is today." Bureaucrats didn't want the MRAP sooner "because it would compete against" armored Humvees and "many other favored programs" for funding, Gayl says. Gayl, who works as a civilian for the Marines at the Pentagon, has filed for federal whistle-blower protection because he fears retaliation for speaking out about the failure to get MRAPs sooner.

Defense Secretary Gates 'Lives are at stake'

After McGriff addressed the generals in March 2005, another 15 months passed. Then the Marines in Iraq reiterated the request for MRAPs. This time, they sent the request directly to the Joint Chiefs. This time they were successful. In December 2006, after insurgent bombs had killed almost 1,200 U.S. troops in Iraq, the Joint Chiefs validated requests from Iraq for 4,060 MRAPs, and the formal MRAP program was launched.

By March 2007, Marine Corps Commandant James Conway called the vehicle his "No. 1 unfilled warfighting requirement."

In part, that's because he saw it save lives in Anbar province. Brig. Gen. John Allen, deputy commander of coalition forces there, says the Marines tracked attacks on MRAPs since January 2006. The finding: Marines in armored Humvees are twice as likely to be badly wounded in an IED attack as those in MRAPs.

Perhaps more convincing: No Marines have been killed in more than 300 attacks on MRAPs there.

The news, revealed in USA TODAY on April 19, drew the attention of Defense Secretary Gates, four months into his job at the Pentagon. He was traveling in Iraq and read about the MRAP's success in the Pentagon's daily news roundup. Weeks later, at a news conference, Gates said the Pentagon would rush MRAPs to Iraq "as best we can."

Late last month, top Pentagon officials approved an Army strategy for buying as many as 17,700 MRAPs, allowing a one-for-one swap for its armored Humvees. About 5,200 MRAPs had been approved for the other services. Now, Pentagon officials decline to say exactly how many MRAPs they need.

One official says they'll build MRAPs as fast as possible, then recalibrate the military's needs as they assess operations in Iraq, a tacit acknowledgment that they may need fewer MRAPs as U.S. troops are withdrawn.

During another news conference late last month, Gates worried that the companies building the MRAP — not only Force Protection but BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Oshkosh Truck, Armor Holdings, International Military and Government and Protected Vehicles — won't be able to get the vehicles to Iraq fast enough. Read the whole article.

No, not nearly fast enough. Certainly not for our men whose lives were snuffed-out by an "insurgent's" handiwork.

Trackbacked to: Flopping Aces, Scrappleface,Outside the Beltway, The Virtuous Republic, Stuck On Stupid, Leaning Straight Up, Allie Is Wired, guerrilla radio, Right Truth, Conservative Cat, and The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, thanks to Linkfest Haven Deluxe.