Power Line points to the transcript of a press conference where the issue of up-armoring the vehicles in the unit of the National Guardsman who asked the question of Donald Rumsfeld about the lack of armor on various military vehicles was addressed. As the transcript makes clear, the Army was already deploying armor kits to the vehicles in Iraq, as part of a program over the past 18 months.
Now, we’re going to focus today on up-armoring tactical wheeled vehicles, but what I want to do is remind you also that what we’re doing today when we talk about tactical wheeled vehicles is only a part of a very broad strategy that’s been in effect for many months now, as all of us work under the Secretary of Defense’s direction to ensure that we properly protect Soldiers. So up-armoring is only a part of a comprehensive strategy. And although we won’t address these topics today, what we also need to bear in mind is that we have very important efforts that are going on and have been long-standing programs over the course of the last 18 months to ensure that we counter IEDs with an IED task force; that we properly ensure that we give Soldiers more fire power, more armaments so that they can shoot more effectively and with more effect, and then also to protect them, both not only their vehicles but also the personal equipment that they wear on their body.
Level two force protection says that you have an existing fleet of many thousands of vehicles out there, and what you have to do is put additional protection on vehicles that are already in use out across the Army’s inventory. And so that has been the other principal focus that we have. We can’t automatically or magically swap out all of the equipment that we have out in the theater, but what we can do is develop programs where we take kits and put them onto existing pieces of equipment.
Now this is not a trivial process. We’ll talk to you about the testing that goes into these level two kits, so that we put the right things on pieces of equipment. We’ll talk about making sure that the actual system can continue to operate with many thousand more pounds on it, in some cases.
For example, for a humvee, the typical add-on armor kit is just over a thousand pounds. And so you could imagine, if I took and put a thousand pounds more weight on your – the vehicle you drive back and forth to work, it would have secondary impacts in terms of your suspension and your powertrain. We have to test those things out to make sure that we’re giving a soldier something that can endure in combat; it won’t just break the minute he starts to operate it. So the level-two kit is a sophisticated requirement and one that we’ve been very successful in adapting, not just for humvees but, as we’ll show you, for a variety of systems. And then level three is locally fabricated armor.
But over time now we’ve grown to a very, very high standard, and when you go, for example, and visit the fabrication facilities that we have in Kuwait today, what you’ll see is, first of all, the Defense Logistics Agency-approved steel being used. You’ll see actual templates that have been designed in part by the drivers who operate the equipment. And you’ll see very, very experienced machinists and welders who are putting this stuff on. And we’ll show you some pictures of what high-quality work this is. This is an interim solution, but it’s a darn good solution that’s been very, very effective as we take a look at what we’ve done to protect the force.
This process isn’t limited solely to Iraq either.
So for example, right now, if you go to Fort Carson, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment is executing up-armoring this week, and they will have that effort complete here in the course of the next several weeks. The goal then being that when they deploy, the majority of the pieces of equipment that they’re going to deploy will already have up-armoring added to them. They will then complete that operation with fewer pieces of equipment when they actually get into combat zones. So we will have taken care of the bulk of their requirement at home station.
We have a similar effort under way in U.S. Army Europe. As you’re aware, we have forces there that are going to deploy to Afghanistan, and when they deploy to Afghanistan, what we want to try to do once again is get up-armoring solutions to them now instead of waiting till they get to the combat zone.
And here is the current status of the up-armored vehicles in Iraq:
Now, where are we today? We’ve had a discussion here about the level one, level two and level three. This is the status of forces today with respect to what has been armored in theater, okay? As General Speakes mentioned, we’re doing everything we can with respect to getting level one and level two there. At this point in time, because of the production requirements, we have actually begun to install level three. And between the two of them combined, today we have about 61 percent of the vehicles taken care of.
I would point out here, though, that with respect to the light tactical vehicles, and that’s the vehicles that have been suffering the majority of casualties and the majority of incidents, we’re now at 80 percent, and the plan is by March to actually have not only these vehicles taken care of but also the heavy truck fleet, so we’ll have those installed in theater.
And in regards to the unit of the National Guardsman who asked the up-armor question of Donald Rumsfeld:
Q Thank you. I was wondering if we should be thinking about the difference between soldiers who are going to be headed into Iraq and Soldiers who are already there. A lot of the concerns about who did and didn’t have were from soldiers who were going in, and I didn’t – I personally didn’t get a sense of what the people who are already there are using and what their needs and gaps are.
GEN. SPEAKES: Very, very good question. The first point is that you’ll recollect that one of the questions was the status of the 278 ACR; in other words, the date that we had the visit by the secretary of Defense, we had a question about their up-armoring status. When the question was asked, 20 vehicles remained to be up-armored at that point. We completed those 20 vehicles in the next day. And so over 800 vehicles from the 278 ACR were up-armored, and they are a part now of their total force that is operating up in Iraq.
Q When you say they’re 100 percent up-armored, does that mean 100 percent of their requirement or 100 percent of their vehicles?
GEN. SPEAKES: Yes, what we did is there was a total of 804 vehicles that were identified as part of our up-armoring strategy. That’s the wheeled vehicles that they brought north with them or drew when they got up in country. And so at this point the vehicles that they’re operating, that they’re driving, are all up-armored. There were a few vehicles that were put on heavy equipment transporters and moved up. The example would be, for example, the shop van, which is a large, essentially static vehicle. And it was taken up by a truck and dropped in position, but it was not operated on the way up there. So at this point, if you’re in Kuwait and you’re headed north up into Iraq, General Schoomaker’s guidance is real clear: you’re not going north of the berm, which means north of the border, in a non-up-armored vehicle, and that’s our requirement. And so what you now have is an accountability process during the reception, staging and onward movement where every vehicle’s accounted for and it gets up-armored or it doesn’t go north.
So no soldiers will leave Kuwait without the up-armoring of their vehicles being completed. And the specific unit of the Guardsman who questioned Donald Rumsfeld was up-armored within twenty four hours of the question being asked.
There is no up-armoring issue, nor in my opinion was there one to begin with. The issue was created by a planted question by a newspaper “reporter” who wanted to make Donald Rumsfeld and the U.S. military look bad.
The remarkable point of all this “controversy” has been the fact that the Secretary of Defense would take unscreened questions from the men under his command. When was the last time you heard bin Laden fielding questions from the Al-Qaida grunts in Iraq? Have any of them asked him why the United States hasn’t cut and run from Iraq or Afghanistan? The answer is the difference between America and her enemies. In America the military is answerable to the people; bin Laden answers to no one but himself.