« WSJ.com - High Oil Prices Put Pressure On U.S. Trade Balance in June | Main | Kitten Blood »

August 17, 2005

Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Incompetents? (Support Our Troops Edition)

Fire Donald Rumsfeld. Impeach George W. Bush. Impeach Richard Cheney. Do it now.

U.S. Struggling to Get Soldiers Improved Armor - New York Times: MICHAEL MOSS: [T]he Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks by insurgents. The ceramic plates in vests worn by most personnel cannot withstand certain munitions the insurgents use. But more than a year after military officials initiated an effort to replace the armor with thicker, more resistant plates, tens of thousands of soldiers are still without the stronger protection because of a string of delays in the Pentagon's procurement system....

"We are working as fast as we can to complete it as soon as we can," Maj. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, the Army's deputy for acquisition and systems management, said Wednesday in an interview at the Pentagon.... [B]ody armor remains critical to the military's goals in Iraq. Gunfire has killed at least 325 troops, about half the number killed by bombs, according to the Pentagon.... [T]he Pentagon is relying on a cottage industry of small armor makers with limited production capacity. In addition, each company must independently come up with its own design for the plates, which then undergo military testing. Just four vendors have begun making the enhanced armor, according to military and industry officials.... "Nobody is happy we haven't been able to do it faster," Maj. Gen. William D. Catto, head of the Marine Corps Systems Command, said Wednesday in the interview. "If I had the capability, I'd like to see everybody that needs enhanced SAPI to have it and at the rate we have now, we're going to have months before we get the kind of aggregate numbers we want to have," General Catto said, referring to the thicker plates, known as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert. "That's just a fact of life because of the raw materials paucity and the industrial base."...

Body armor arose as an issue in Iraq shortly after the invasion in March 2003, when insurgents began attacking American troops who had been given only vests and not bullet-resistant plates. The Army had planned to give the plates only to frontline soldiers. Officials now concede that they underestimated the insurgency's strength and commitment to fighting a war in which there are no back lines. The ensuing scramble to produce more plates was marred by a series of missteps in which the Pentagon gave one contract to a former Army researcher who had never mass-produced anything. He was allowed to struggle with production for a year before he gave up. An outdated delivery plan slowed the arrival of plates that were made. In all, the war was 10 months old before every soldier in Iraq had plates in late January 2004.

Four months later, the Pentagon quietly issued a solicitation for the enhanced plates that would resist stronger attacks. At the same time, it worked to make improvements to the vests, including adding shoulder and side protection...

Posted by DeLong at August 17, 2005 09:26 PM