It's been nearly two years since the build-up to the Iraq war began. And still, the U.S. national guardsmen and reservists serving in Iraq don't have the armor they need to protect their trucks, the Times reports.
When the 1544th Transportation Company of the Illinois National Guard was preparing to leave for Iraq in February, relatives of the soldiers offered to pay to weld steel plates on the unit's trucks to protect against roadside bombs. The Army told them not to, because it would provide better protection in Iraq, relatives said.Seven months later, many of the company's trucks still have no armor, soldiers and relatives said, despite running some of the most dangerous missions in Iraq...There are plans to produce armor kits for at least 2,806 medium-weight trucks, but as of Sept. 17, only 385 of the kits had been produced and sent to Iraq. Armor kits were also planned for at least 1,600 heavyweight trucks, but as of mid-September just 446 of these kits were in Iraq. The Army is also looking into developing ways to armor truck cabs quickly, and has ordered 700 armored Humvees with special weapons platforms to protect convoys.Right here, these are the costs of Don Rumsfeld's shenanigans with the defense budget. By putting off funding for the basics our soldiers need to stay alive into a "supplemental" budget request, Rumsfeld is indirectly contributing to the deaths of American troops. It's wrong. And, what's more, it's the type of fiscal sleight-of-hand that Rumsfeld's deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, promised Congress wouldn't be done.
This years budget seeks to apply the principle of honest assessments of what it will take to do the job, or what we call realistic costing. One of the unfortunate consequences of asking the military to do more than they really have the funds for is not only things like deferring real property maintenance, but underestimating the cost of flying hours in the hope that you will get a supplementalWe have tried in this budget, though, to get honest estimates of costs, and a significant part of that $18 billion increase is simply to get us to honest budgeting and a budget that does not require a supplemental in the year 2002. Indeed, we hope with this 2001 supplemental, which I hope is on the verge of being passed, that we will put behind us the kind of supplemental budgeting that became a process that was not based on true anticipated needs.THERE'S MORE: "It will be a year or more, before new plants producing Kevlar, Twaron, Spectra, Boron Carbide, Silicon Carbide and other body and vehicle armor materials can meet the vital need for protection under fire. Men are dying waiting for supply to catch up with demand," Russell Seitz notes in a Tech Central Station article. So let's get our friends in Europe and Asia to pick up the slack.
Few of our erstwhile allies have sent troops to Iraq, but all of them have inventories of bulletproof vests, helmets, and armor panels. Some of it will be ugly, and some ill fitting, but it is not wanted for its looks. Turning tough raw materials into armor takes a long time. But if the armor that sits unused by their forces were sent to Iraq today, it could be protecting the lives of tens of thousands of Americans -- and Iraqi's serving in harm's way tomorrow.Much of the production of these advanced materials by non-combatant nations is presently going into sporting goods-from biker's helmets to surfboards and skis. NATO and former SEATO nations represent most of this production, and offering to provide it on a priority basis to producers of military protective gear would be more than a welcome gesture, it would be a literal lifesaver. The abundance of less critical modern materials would assure that civilian goods manufacture would continue.