This morning, President Bush will watch cargo being loaded onto planes en route to Iraq. But there are a number of items that have not been sent to Iraq, despite being desperately needed by our troops. For instance, our troops lack the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles that could save hundreds of lives. Commanders in the field cannot receive the battlefield surveillance they need because our military does not have an adequate number of Predator drones. The Army has struggled to keep up with demand for armor, equipment requests have not been met and operations have been delayed.
Military officials failed to provide most bomb-resistant vehicles to troops in the field:
Military Officials Failed to Provide Troops the Most Bomb-Resistant Vehicles Available: “Years before the war began, Pentagon officials knew of the effectiveness of another type of vehicle that better shielded troops from bombs like those that have killed [Pfc. Aaron] Kincaid and 1,500 other soldiers and Marines. But military officials repeatedly balked at appeals — from commanders on the battlefield and from the Pentagon’s own staff — to provide the life-saving Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, or MRAP, for patrols and combat missions, USA TODAY found. In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates late last month, two U.S. senators said the delays cost the lives of an estimated ‘621 to 742 Americans’ who would have survived explosions had they been in MRAPs, rather than Humvees.” [USA Today, 7/15/07]
Democrats Are Pushing to Increase Funding for Life Saving MRAP Vehicles. While it is unclear how much the Pentagon will request for so-called Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAP’s) for fiscal year 2008, it will undoubtedly exceed the Bush administration’s current request of $441 million for them. The current FY 2008 Defense authorization bill before the Senate calls for spending $4.6 billion for MRAPs. On July 19, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) filed an amendment to the bill calling for an additional $25 billion on the MRAP program, bringing the total MRAP figure in the legislation to nearly $30 billion. Most of Biden’s proposed $25 billion boost would go to the Army for an additional 15,200 vehicles. [Inside the Navy, 7/23/07]
Meanwhile, the Air Fouce lacks number of predator drones needed to provide important battlefield surveillance:
Air Force Is Short of Unmanned Aircraft Needed to Provide Battlefield Surveillance in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to reports from military officials and experts, the Air Force has lost about 40 percent of its Predator unmanned aircraft and also is short of trained crews necessary to meet the demands for battlefield surveillance. Experts say that Predator surveillance has been critical to the U.S. mission in Iraq, serving to identify insurgents who are planting improvised explosive devices, which are currently the biggest threat to U.S. troops in Iraq. According to the chief of unmanned aerial systems at Langley Air Force Base, commanders in the field ask for Predator surveillance three times more than can be provided by the Air Force. [USA Today, 3/29/07]
And, our troops who faced equipment shortages before the War, have not been properly outfitted:
Army Began War in Iraq With $56 Billion Equipment Shortage – Has Struggled to Keep Up With Demand for New Armor. “The Army began the Iraq war with an estimated $56 billion equipment shortage and has struggled to keep up with demands for new armor to protect against increasingly deadly bombs.” [Washington Post, 2/12/07]
Just 10 Percent of Equipment Requests from Marine Units in Iraq Were Being Fulfilled. “The system for delivering badly needed gear to Marines in Iraq has failed to meet many urgent requests for equipment from troops in the field, according to an internal document obtained by the Associated Press. Of more than 100 requests from deployed Marine units between February 2006 and February 2007, less than 10 percent have been fulfilled, the document says. It blamed the bureaucracy and a ‘risk-averse’ approach by acquisition officials. Among the items held up were a mine resistant vehicle and a hand-held laser system.” [Associated Press, 5/25/07]
The Department of Defense Inspector General Concluded that U.S. Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan Lacked Necessary Equipment. According to a January 2007 unclassified summary of a recent Department of Defense Inspector General Report, U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan lack key equipment, including up-armored vehicles, communications equipment, electronic jammers used to detonate roadside bombs, and heavy machine guns. As a result, troops are at times forced to delay operations while they wait for the right equipment to become available. [DoD/IG, Equipment Status of Deployed Forces, 1/25/07]
The President should work with Congress and the Pentagon to ensure that our troops in the field have what they need.