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December 15, 2004

Why We Need Milbloggers

In my travels this morning, I ran across a few different perspectives on the armored humvees brouhaha. Brendan Miniter is frustrated:

A few weeks ago Rep. Duncan Hunter handed me a reason that has largely escaped media attention on why our troops in Iraq don't have all the armor protection they need. It was a piece of ballistic glass, roughly the size of a small dinner plate. But as it was four sheets of glass glued together, it was also very thick and extremely heavy. But I peered through it, and it was as transparent as a normal windshield. In Iraq, this glass is saving lives because it can stop bullets and shrapnel from roadside bombs.
The problem, the House Armed Services Committee chairman explained, is that a ballistic windshield is too heavy for some of the military's vehicles. The window frames simply cannot support it without being reinforced. In many instances that means the soldiers are driving vehicles with regular windshields as the bureaucracy works out the logistics of sending over vehicles that can handle ballistic windshields or finds a way to retrofit the vehicles now in theater.

The problem, Miniter notes, is that glass that's just half as thick stops 80% of bullets and shrapnel and can be installed now . But the military, he says, prefers to await the 100% solution. While he has a point (lives would be saved), I had to laugh. Had DOD gone ahead and used the half-thickness, we'd hear the plaintive call of the pundit in its native habitat: "Don't our troops deserve the very best?".

And you can bet the tiny Tabasco bottle in your MRE's that a few months from now, all those trucks will be out of commission again while the 50% windshields are torn out, thrown away, and the 100% windshields dutifully installed. Some very valid points made, but I'm not sure both sides of the issue were represented. Thankfully, Mr. Miniter does note some positive signs:

There has also been a few notable successes in forcing the military procurement system to function properly. Before redeploying for Iraq last March, the Marines pulled out all the stops--including a few visits to steel mills--to put at least some armor on all the vehicles they shipped over there. Through the Rapid Fielding Initiative, the Pentagon distributed a new type of body armor that first saw combat in Afghanistan to nearly every soldier in Iraq. For outstanding needs, Rapid Acquisition Authority was signed into law in October. This empowers the secretary of defense to spend up to $100 million a year to go outside of the normal procurement system to meet urgent battlefield needs. So far no battlefield commander has requested this power to be invoked.
These things usually take some time to percolate down through the chain.

Greyhawk of The Mudville Gazette once again shows why we need Milbloggers (which reminds me: I need to get my Friends of Milbloggers link back up. I still have much to do with the site setup, but I've been swamped at work). With all the fact-free reporting and agenda laden blather out there, we need Milbloggers to rescue us from the tarpit. Facts make a great lifeline. From Joe Galloway of We Were Soldiers Once fame comes a little background on the demand for armored humvees:

The requests for humvees built with armor at the factory, and for add-on armor kits, grew from a few for Special Operations forces at the end of summer 2003 to 400 in November 2003 and more in months following. The total request, scheduled to be met in March, is for about 22,000 armored humvees.
Retired Col. Gary Motsek, a senior civilian official for the Army Materiel Command, said that given early shortages of a critical high-tensile steel and continuing shortages of bulletproof glass for windshields and door windows, it's little short of a miracle that the escalating demand has been met within about a year.
"The frustration I have is people asking: 'Why wasn't this on the shelf?' This involves a change of tactics, a change of the fight," Motsek said. "When the mission changed and the war changed, the armoring of the humvee became priority number one."
Motsek said that the design for an armor add-on kit was sketched out over a weekend, and the metal was cut and attached to a humvee within 10 days. That humvee was tested immediately for protection not only against small-arms fire but also heavier weapons. It took only four months from the first request in August 2003 to the beginning of production of the armor kits - a process, Motsek contended, that normally takes years.
A year ago, the steel needed for the armor kits wasn't manufactured anywhere in the United States, and the output of the single plant making bulletproof glass was 15 windshields a month.
Today there are several American sources for the special steel, and the plant making ballistic glass has ramped up production to 500 windshields a month. It will be joined in February by a second plant also capable of making 500 windshields a month.
The Armor Holdings plant that turns out new humvees with full armor protection has, in that same year, boosted production from 50 a month to 450 a month. Army Materiel Command officials said there were discussions about Armor Holdings' offer Thursday to increase production of the armored humvee from 450 to 550 per month. They expressed surprise that such an increase might be possible.

Greyhawk comments:

The "we can increase production" quote has been parroted repeatedly in the mainstream media with little background or additional information provided. It's good to see someone willing to put a more complete story out for the tax-paying public; it's no surprise that Galloway is the man that did so.

And now you know the rest of the story. It's so much easier to blame the administration. Nevermind the pesky little facts that might lend a bit of context to the story. But hey -- uncovering the facts might have required some investigative journalism. Or at least some basic curiosity.

There's plenty more where that came from. Good reading from a great blogger.

Posted by Cassandra at December 15, 2004 04:30 AM

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» "We don't quit just because it gets hard." from Marine Corps Moms
Cassandra has a roundup of blog thoughts on the armor shortage debate. Brendan Minitar discusses problems with the military procurement system and Grayhawk weighs in with a military perspective. MCM reader Jason also sends along this opinion from his c... [Read More]

Tracked on December 15, 2004 09:00 PM


We are coming out with the new armored, bullet proof glass models as fast as we can. Please understand that it takes a little while to make great vehicles for military use.

Posted by: Hummer at December 15, 2004 01:48 PM

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