Bloomberg news reports that
More than half of the more than 1,200 U.S. troops killed and more than 9,000 wounded in Iraq have come from insurgent attacks on the vehicles with homemade bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.
On December 8th at a town hall meeting for soldiers in Kuwait, US Army Spc. Thomas Wilson asked Sec. Rumsfeld why. I include the full transcript of the Q &A between Spc. Wilson and Secretary Rumsfeld, but I'd suggest listening to it.
Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. We’re digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass that’s already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.
Ans: SEC. RUMSFELD: I talked to the General coming out here about the pace at which the vehicles are being armored. They have been brought from all over the world, wherever they’re not needed, to a place here where they are needed. I’m told that they are being – the Army is – I think it’s something like 400 a month are being done. And it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it.
As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They’re not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time. Since the Iraq conflict began, the Army has been pressing ahead to produce the armor necessary at a rate that they believe – it’s a greatly expanded rate from what existed previously, but a rate that they believe is the rate that is all that can be accomplished at this moment.
I can assure you that General Schoomaker and the leadership in the Army and certainly General Whitcomb are sensitive to the fact that not every vehicle has the degree of armor that would be desirable for it to have, but that they’re working at it at a good clip. It’s interesting, I’ve talked a great deal about this with a team of people who’ve been working on it hard at the Pentagon. And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up. And you can go down and, the vehicle, the goal we have is to have as many of those vehicles as is humanly possible with the appropriate level of armor available for the troops. And that is what the Army has been working on.
Pop Quiz. Which vehicle would you want to be driving through downtown Fallujah?
Uh, yea. I thought so.
I was shocked when I heard Rumsfelds Q&A on the radio. If you commit your troops to battle, especially in a pre-emptive war, you owe it to them to provide good protection. There will always be tradeoffs, you can't give every soldier the latest, greatest, most expensive, set of gear. But giving them a HumVee armoured with canvas is irresponsible.
There are two ways to produce armoured Humvees,
One method is to add armor kits to unprotected Humvees. The other way is to build them from scratch at the factory. The latter are known in Pentagon-ese as up-armored Humvees; they offer more protection than the retrofitted variety but take longer to produce.
A new up-armored Humvee costs about $150,000. At the start of the war, the army needed about 20,000 armored Humvees, of which it had very few. That would have cost $3,000,000,000 to procure.
As of today, CNN reports
Lt. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, commander of the 3rd Army said 22,000 of 30,000 vehicles in Iraq, Afghanistan and other Central Command bases have additional armor. Of those vehicles, 6,000 are factory retrofitted Humvees -- 2,100 short of the military's goal. About another 10,000 Humvees have been outfitted with add-on kits.
Lets look at some of Sec. Rumsfeld's statements:
1. "And it’s essentially a matter of physics. It isn’t a matter of money. It isn’t a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it."
Is he saying the greatest economic and military power in the world hasn't been able to slap some armour on some trucks since they started planning this war in January 2001? Horseshit.
The US ramped up aircraft production from 2,100 in 1939 to 85,900 in 1943. They could do this, from a much smaller industrial base then today, because the political willpower was there. Don't tell me that we couldn't produce 20,000 properly armoured vehicles for our troops.
2. "And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up."
Technically true, but why the hell say that to a room full of soldiers driving your crappy humvees?
While technically true, who cares! they sure do a lot better then canvas. Up armored vehicles can:
stop armor-piercing 7.62-millimeter rounds, provide protection from the blast of a 155- millimeter shell exploding overhead and could withstand a 12- pound mine detonation under the front axle.
3. "It isn’t a matter of money."
Again, crap. First, the Bush Admin's original budget for 2005 had $0 for armour kits, and funding for 818 up-armoured vehicles. This funding has been sorted out, but shows the level of importance they put on providing armoured vehicles.
Second, don't tell me that if the US government put out an attractive enough bid for armoured Humvees, that someone, somewhere wouldn't make them. It ain't rocket science.
Third, look at the evidence. Since this town hall meeting, Armour Holding Inc has agreed to boost production of armored Humvee's by over 20%.