There's an old military saw, that amateurs study tactics, and the pros study logistics. (Where exactly that puts defense technology bloggers, well, I'll leave that up to you.)Today's remarkable New York Times story on the fumbles and fouled-up decisions the Army made while trying to get armor for its troops and vehicles shows the substance behind the clich.
At the same time, in shipping plates from other companies, the Army's equipment manager effectively reduced the armor's priority to the status of socks, a confidential report by the Army's inspector general shows. Some 10,000 plates were lost along the way, and the rest arrived late.In all, with additional paperwork delays, the Defense Department took 167 days just to start getting the bulletproof vests to soldiers in Iraq once General Cody placed the order [for them on May 15, 2003]. But for thousands of soldiers, it took weeks and even months more, records show, at a time when the Iraqi insurgency was intensifying and American casualties were mounting.By contrast, when the United States' allies in Iraq also realized they needed more bulletproof vests, they bypassed the Pentagon and ordered directly from a manufacturer in Michigan. They began getting armor in just 12 days.But new armor wasn't the only life-saving item Pentagon bureacrats failed to secure during in the early days of the Iraq war, the Times notes.
Long before the war, the Pentagon was excited about new ways to subvert these [Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs].A California military contractor developed a countermeasure during the 1991 Persian Gulf war. Known as the Shortstop Electronic Protection System, it evolved into a portable device that was heralded for its ability to jam the radio frequencies used by insurgents to detonate their bombs.Col. Bruce D. Jette... was heading up a new unit called the Rapid Equipping Force, which was given license to ignore the lumbering ways the Army traditionally fills orders from the field.Colonel Jette, who has a Ph.D. in electronic materials from M.I.T., dodged the Army's research-and-development agencies and phoned his scientist friends to find a commercial robot that could search for explosives. He embedded his staff in combat units. He took manufacturers to Iraq so they could quickly modify designs for body and vehicle armor...Some Pentagon officials say they first realized soldiers were being killed by I.E.D.'s as early as June 2003, and late that summer the Army's 101st Airborne Division issued a report that cited "numerous" injuries from I.E.D.'s in its plea for more vehicle armor and training to evade the bombs.The Defense Department had been producing various I.E.D. countermeasures. But the Pentagon did not start ordering large quantities of one of the most promising ones, known as the Warlock, until December 2003, nine months after the war began...Colonel Jette was frustrated, and in October he resigned. In interviews, he said as the rush of war wore off, the Army's traditional supply corps began reasserting lengthy contracting and testing regimens, leaving him increasingly discouraged."That perfection in testing becomes the enemy of what is operationally good enough," he said. "And the soldiers in the field are looking for good enough."THERE'S MORE: Back in January, we took a look at the Maj. Gen. William Webster's year-long fight to get his personnel carriers armored up.