December 09, 2004

The Grunts Speaketh Out

Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. My question is more logistical. We’ve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and we’ve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why don’t we have those resources readily available to us? [Applause]

SEC. RUMSFELD: I missed the first part of your question. And could you repeat it for me?

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.

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.

And General Whitcomb, is there anything you’d want to add to that?

GEN. WHITCOMB: Nothing. Mr. Secretary, I’d be happy to. That is a focus on what we do here in Kuwait and what is done up in the theater, both in Iraq and also in Afghanistan. As the secretary has said, it’s not a matter of money or desire; it is a matter of the logistics of being able to produce it. The 699th, the team that we’ve got here in Kuwait has done a tremendous effort to take that steel that they have and cut it, prefab it and put it on vehicles. But there is nobody from the president on down that is not aware that this is a challenge for us and this is a desire for us to accomplish.

SEC. RUMSFELD: The other day, after there was a big threat alert in Washington, D.C. in connection with the elections, as I recall, I looked outside the Pentagon and there were six or eight up-armored humvees. They’re not there anymore. They’re en route out here, I can assure you. Next. Way in the back. Yes.

Rumsfeld, speaking today at a Town Hall meeting with U.S. forces in Kuwait.

"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."

Why, even for a mighty "transformationalist"?

Don't miss this exchange either:

Q: Mr. Secretary, Specialist McKobiak (sp), 116th Calvary Brigade. My question is what is the Department of Defense, more specifically, the Army side of the house, doing to address shortages and antiquated equipment that National Guard soldiers, such as the 116th Calvary Brigade and the 278th ACR are going to roll into Iraq with?

SEC. RUMSFELD: The – now settle down. Settle down. Hell, I’m an old man and it’s early in the morning. I didn’t take – just gathering my thoughts here. In any organization you’re going to have equipment and materials and spare parts of different ages. And I am told – and no way I can prove it, but I’m told – that the Army is breaking its neck to see that there is not a differentiation as to who gets what aged materials in the military, in the Army, as between the active force, the Guard and the Reserve. I’m told that they are, instead, trying to see that the equipment goes to those that are in the most need and who are most likely to be using it - the equipment. And that varies among the Guard and Reserve and the active force. So any organization, any element of the Army is going to end up, at some point, with – you characterize it as “antiquated.” I would say the older equipment, whatever it may be, in any category. Somebody is always going to be at that level as things are constantly replaced. And things are being constantly replaced. I mean, I believe them when they tell me that they have made a major effort to see that they’re dealing equitably as between the forces and seeing that the ones who are likely to be going into combat and have the greatest needs are the ones that have the best equipment. Yes, sir.

Posted by Gregory at December 9, 2004 12:31 AM

It's unfortunate that Bush didn't fire Rumsfeld after Abu Ghraib and the events of April 2004, but a major disgrace that he didn't fire him after the election.

Thanks for keeping this alive on BD, Greg.

Posted by: Guy at December 9, 2004 01:59 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Well Greg, your man Bush says Rummy is "the. best. secretary. of Defense. ever."

So what are you bitchin' about? You said we are better off with Bush in the WH. Bush, prior to the election, said Rummy is the best. Hey, it's a package deal. You knew that. You voted for it. Live with it.

You voted on faith that a second Bush term would be different and with a different admin. (I remember your post). Bush didn't say that. You dreamed it up with all on your own.

Maybe your lahmajoon was too spicy and your REM cycle got screwed-up.

Posted by: avedis at December 9, 2004 03:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"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."

From late 1941 to early 1945, about the same length of time we've been in Iraq, the US produced -- roughly -- 100,000 fighter aircraft, 50,000 bombers, and 25 aircraft carriers. And we can only manage to armor 400 vehicles a month? One of the basic problems with this war is that only the military is being asked to sacrifice.

Posted by: John Wendt at December 9, 2004 12:53 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

For a different take on this visit instapundit for some interesting links. But the really important question is who approved the design of the humvees in the first place? They have been around for some time. Why was the need for armor not part of the inital design?

In WWII the entire industrial complex was focused on the war effort. How many suppliers are involved today? or want to be considering the process.

Posted by: Mary at December 9, 2004 03:56 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Mary wrote:
For a different take on this visit instapundit for some interesting links. But the really important question is who approved the design of the humvees in the first place? They have been around for some time. Why was the need for armor not part of the inital design?

The Iraq war has been going on for almost two years, the Bush administration has been in power for four. Regardless of how the vehicles in question were initially designed, isn't the more important question why (if that design is problematic) they haven't been redesigned?

In WWII the entire industrial complex was focused on the war effort. How many suppliers are involved today? or want to be considering the process.

But as John W says above, we're not talking about an entire war effort -- just about armoring vehicles. Surely a few dozen million dollars could have been diverted from the massive tax cuts to achieve this goal?

Posted by: Guy at December 9, 2004 04:11 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"Surely a few dozen million dollars could have been diverted from the massive tax cuts to achieve this goal?"


However, while the argument that we had the wrong strategy in some respects is accurate (though I would like someone to find a war where we couldn't be just as critical, I certainly have been in the past and am now. That is the difference between a critique and mere criticism. Perspective) I have a problem with arguments such as this. Spend all you want production still requires time. More money does not necessarily lead to more production. Comparisons to WWII are silly. It was far bigger conflict with a huge centralized redirection of resources. Our casualties are not the problem, no army has ever been as well equipped even as it falls short of what we might want in some perfect world and our low casualty rate is an indication of just that. Rummy has a lot to answer for, this isn't one.

As for issues with Humvee design, the idea that they do not fit this conflict is of a much shorter origin than four years ago, and unarmored humvees from a utility standpoint and production possibility make sense in many other situations we are likely to face in the future. If that wasn't the case every soldier would travel in heavily armored vehicles in all situations and with heavy firepower. That is a recipe for not only financial disaster, production nightmares and procurement issues, but a poor fighting force in most situations. It seems in our criticism we are accelerating the normal course of fighting the last war when we are still involved in it. This army suffers now from that tendency (an unavoidable one) and we are now here and elsewhere condemning future forces to the same fate only worse as it has become dogma so quickly. Unreasonable criticism has large costs, freezing future decision makers from making decisions because they could be wrong. My answer is of course they will be wrong. Flexibility to adapt (such as upgrading armor on humvees) is the answer, not otherworldly prescience.

I would suggest (not as a defense of Rummy or Bush, but as a criticism of critics) that much of the stubborness of this (and previous) administrations is a product of the ridiculous vituperative nature of much of the criticism policy makers routinely make. It is too easy too dismiss most critics and easier to paper over the issues than admit error.

WW II provides an example of the tradeoffs policymakers have to make. Our tanks were on average less capable than what the Germans put in the field. However, we were able to produce them in far greater numbers due to their design and standardization. We also had advantages in maneuverability due to design and a larger number of mechanized vehicles overall. Soldiers certainly would have preferred more capable vehicles, but the advantages of the US approach arguably outweighed the disadvantages.

Much of what Rummy has overseen has worked quite well as far as reshaping fighting doctrine and equipment. Needless to say we concentrate on what hasn't. That is not a problem as long as we understand the tradeoffs that have to be made and are understanding of the fact that any force and equipment mix is designed for a wide variety of purposes and situations. Any mix we pick will be wrong for any particular combat situation, or stage of that situation. If Rummy had spent money the previous year upgrading armor at the expense of something else we would undoubtedly be talking about that.

Posted by: Lance at December 9, 2004 07:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have already written too much, but I have a few more points.

First, Rumsfeld is very popular with the troops. The media is really being misleading here. Maybe he shouldn't be, but he is. Maybe there are some reasons for that which we should weigh in our assessment of his performance in this instance and overall. Things such as this are rarely simple to understand.

Second, for more information on this issue, especially the actual procurement of armor read this from someone in Kuwait and soon to be back in Iraq:

Money quote: "What SPC Wilson might not be aware of (at his level)- is that all vehicles that drive north into Iraq are required to have "level 3" armor protection. If a vehicle does not meet this standard, it will not be driven up north- it will be carried on a flatbed truck. Once in Iraq, armored vehicles are used for driving off post, and unarmored vehicles are used for driving around on post. This policy is put out to each unit's commanders well before the unit even arrives to Kuwait. The leaders are then charged with disseminating this information down to the soldiers. Obviously, this process of "information dissemination" doesn't always happen like it's supposed to- and so we have uninformed soldiers (who think they're going to drive into Iraq in unarmored vehicles) taking shots at our nation's most powerful leaders. It happens all the time, and it's another reason why America is such a unique country. There are many places in this world where a soldier would not survive asking such a question."

Third, as an adjunct to the problems of over the top criticism, Rumsfeld was holding a town hall for the troops. Not an unusual event except for the press was there. Given the reaction in the media, including those rabid right wingers at FOX, why would we expect Rummy to do it again? We want openness, we want a willingness to engage in self criticism, but whenever we see either (and Rummy has criticized the departments preparation and approach often only to be used to demonstrate things are going wrong.) the man is skewered. There will always be problems whoever is in charge, if we overreact when the issues are thoroughly understandable if unfortunate, then we will see things like this no more. Rummy should be criticized about some things, he should be congratulated for this as few SECDEF's or leaders of any other country would even risk such an event. Can you see the leaders of the French military doing such a thing and allowing such questions? Please hold back the laughter.

Posted by: Lance at December 9, 2004 08:07 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I agree with Lance on this. We do not have full mobalization of resources as we did in WW II. Gas isn't rationed, food isn't rationed, and dealer's lots are full of new cars. To achieve what some here want in fast delivery times would require converting some GMC auto assembly plants in to producing armoured humvees.

It's the nature of the beast (the insurgents hiding among the civilians) which is the real devil. They all look alike. We are too use to quick victories and expect the smaller nations to be defeated in a few days or a few weeks and fall on their knees before our Army. It didn't happen. But it would have had we gone into Iraq to destroy the whole country and take it over like Nazi Germany.

The troops wish, more than we do, that their targets are easy to find and eleminate. They may not be able, in the end, to hold down civilian cassulaties in order to put an end to the insurgencies. Plus, there's the growing problem of Iran and how to handle them when Iran has usable nuclear bombs. If one finds its way to the Homeland in terrorists hands and is used, THEN, we definately will go to full mobalization to destroy Iran and any other ME countries supporting them.

Posted by: Jim Martin at December 12, 2004 06:36 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Jim, let's consider your scenario a little more closely.

Somebody sets off a nuclear device in the USA. We go to full mobilisation to destroy iran and any other middle east countries we have a grudge against.

First, why do we need full mobilisation? We already have a surplus of nukes.

Would we, instead of nuking iran, try to occupy iran? What for? Do you figure we'd think that by occupying iran we could bring the terrorists to justice? Say we reaised a 20 million man WWII-style army and traipsed off to iran, when would we demobilise?

No, the obvous approach is different. Somebody sets off a nuke in the USA, so we set off 500 nukes in iran.

Wouldn't the iranians expect that? Would they give a nuke to terrorists? Hardly. But then, what if somebody else did. Is there anybody in the world who'd dearly love to see iran destroyed? I can think of one. Mossad has the destruction of iran as one of their goals. And all it would take would be for one nuclear device to go off in the USA....

Meanwhile, how far do you think we're already going to hold down civilian casualties when we take out irdaqi insurgents? We are regularly doing airstrikes to take out damaged US vehicles, to keep their equipment from falling into iraqi hands. We are doing some very large airstrikes here and there -- more in Fallujah Sunday. We are pretty much assuming there are no civilians left in Fallujah, and by the time they can come back there might not be any standing buildings for them.

Our approach all along has been that when insurgents attack one of our patrols or supply convoys we shoot at everybody in the area. So one of the ways we can figure an attack is coming up is when all the civilians disappear. It's up to the civilians to figure out when we're about to shoot them and minimise their own casualties. I think this may be a big part of why we're so unpopular there.

Posted by: J Thomas at December 13, 2004 01:31 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Uparmored humvees:

'nuff said

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