The deadly attacks against U.S. forces on Iraqi highways have prompted the Air Force to airlift cargo to American troops on the most dangerous routes.This is a guerrilla insurgency that will go into military textbooks and be studied by all, whether they want to overthrow a government or prevent guerrillas from overthrowing one.
The U.S. military runs about 250 convoys daily involving up to 3,000 vehicles to supply and equip its troops in Iraq, but guerrillas have repeatedly attacked and ambushed them, often using roadside bombs to target unarmored fuel trucks and other vehicles.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper said on Tuesday the Air Force has now begun flying C-130s to help the Army take its troops off the most dangerous roads.
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"What we can do with the C-130s is give the ground forces the opportunity to reduce the traffic on the most dangerous routes," he told defense reporters at a breakfast meeting. "What we're trying to do is give them all the relief we can."
Jumper said Air Force cargo flights could already carry the goods now transported on about 400 trucks per day, and plans were under way to increase that capacity significantly.
Twenty car bombs have exploded along the key road from the airport to Baghdad's Green Zone since early November. This has forced tight restrictions on the U.S. military who increasingly have to travel by helicopter from the airport.
Earlier this month, the U.S. military imposed minor sanctions on 18 soldiers who refused to go out on a transport convoy they thought was too dangerous.
But it stopped short of court-martialing the soldiers, who raised concerns about the safety and the condition of their vehicles and whether the convoy was adequately protected. (Andrea Shalal-Esa/Reuters, "Iraqi Ground Attacks Prompt U.S. to Airlift Supplies," December 14, 2004)
Much of the damage on the US military has been inflicted by improvised explosive devices:
"Half of all deaths and injuries are from Improvised Explosive Devices, and I'm absolutely furious that I don't see the sort of commitment to solve this problem," [U.S. Rep. Gene] Taylor said.Why the dearth of armored vehicles, body armors, radio jammers, and other gear that can better protect US soldiers? The Pentagon, which spares no expense on big-ticket items produced by big military contractors, has been too cheap to budget for them, because it cares more about corporate profits than soldiers' lives.
Of nearly 29,000 military vehicles in Iraq, only about 16,500 are armored, and many of those have inadequate, homemade armor, said Taylor, a leading member of the House Armed Services Committee. (Patrick Peterson, "Military: Lack of Armor Builds as a Point of Contention: Those in Iraq Are Improvising to Shield Themselves from Attack," The Sun Herald, December 10, 2004)
You'd think it'd be a top priority for the Army, outfitting troops with new body armor, helmets, and communications gear. But the Pentagon can't seem to find the cash in its $420 billion budget to pay for the equipment.And Exhibit 2:
Instead, the Army is relying on a supplemental spending bill -- one that's meant to fund the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq -- to cover the costs.
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This is another case of Rumsfeld refusing to make a choice between the military's current needs and its future, of trying to have it both ways. He needs to get gear to the troops in Iraq. But he doesn't want to sacrifice any of the military's big ticket items in order to do it. So he pulls a little trick on Congress. First, Rumsfeld sends lawmakers his main Pentagon budget, which has lots of line items for projects like the hulking, $117 billion Future Combat Systems. And then, crying poverty, Rumsfeld asks for body armor money -- which there's no chance in hell that Congress will deny.
It's a very, very slick Washington maneuver -- one you'd be tempted to call a form of blackmail. Because G.I.s in the field are now counting on that supplemental to keep them safe, Defense News says.The supplemental will fund much of the work being done by the Army’s two-year-old Rapid Fielding Initiative (RFI), whose goal is to equip all deploying units -- and, by 2007, all active and reserve units -- with 76 items, including the Advanced Combat Helmet, body armor, desert boots and moisture-wicking T-shirts. Yakovac said the program could cost $5 billion.("Rummy's Slick Supplemental Move," Defense Tech, October 26, 2004)
“We’re hoping on supplementals to do that,” he added.
Roughly 150,000 soldiers will receive the RFI kits by the end of this year, with another 250,000 troops equipped in 2005, said Brig. Gen. James Moran, the Army’s soldier program executive officer.
So the Pentagon leadership has finally recognized that they need to armor up their trucks. But they've settled on a damn peculiar way of paying for the work. They're dipping into soldiers' paychecks to do it.
Let me explain. For this fiscal year, 2005, Rummy & Co. asked for $25.7 million to secure its fleet of trucks. And Congress granted the request, when it passed the Pentagon's budget in July.
But by November 19th, the Pentagon brass realized they had screwed up, Defense Department documents show. There was no way $25.7 million could pay for armoring the M915 trucks, Medium Tactical Vehicles, and other vehicles hauling supplies through Iraq; to do the job right, more like $580 million would be needed. The chiefs had under budgeted, more than twenty-fold.
The problem was, the Defense Department's budget for the year was already passed. And it was too early, yet, for a second, "supplemental" funding bill. So, instead, the Pentagon's eyeshades decided to "reprogram" money, from one military project into another.
Now, the accountants could have taken money from hulking, multi-billion dollar items, like the F-22 fighter or the creaky missile defense program. But no. Instead, the cash – along with about a billion dollars in other funds -- was taken from the Army's payroll. From the accounts to pay soldiers in the field.
With that money gone, there's now only enough cash left in the register to keep paying soldiers until May or so. If a "supplemental" budget bill -- rumored to be $75 billion or more -- isn't passed by then, there will be no paychecks for G.I.s.
Congress will never let that happen, of course. No politician in his right mind is going to keep soldiers from getting paid. So, in the end, G.I.s will get the money they've been promised.
But, still, wouldn't it have been better to get this armor money together in the first place? The war has been going on since last March. Planning for it started in 2002. And only on November 19th did the Pentagon realize it needed more money to armor up its trucks? ("G.I.s' Paychecks Fund Truck Armor," Defense Tech, December 10, 2004)