Monday, April 09, 2007

A shortage of gear

In a July 2005 GAO study "Reserve Forces: An Integrated Plan is Needed to Address Army Reserve Personnel and Equipment Shortages." [GAO] The report offered three primary causes of shortages: (1) Not maintaining AR units with all the equipment and personnel they need to deploy; (2) Current DoD policies that limit deployments; and (3) A shortage of full time support staff to develop and maintain unit readiness.

DOD leadership of the recent past said "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want." Today the equipment for each soldier costs about $17,000. The Army now insists that troops don't go "outside the wire"—leave their heavily defended posts in Iraq—without adequate protection.

It was not long ago that the Pentagon's inspector general reported that troops "experienced shortages of force-protection equipment such as up-armored vehicles, electronic countermeasure devices ... weapons and communications equipment," an unclassified summary of a still secret Jan. 25 report says. "As a result, service members were not always equipped to effectively complete their missions." Interestingly Gen Schoomaker was noted as dismissing the inspector general's report at a February congressional hearing as "anecdotal in nature."

Well – all due respect to Gen Schoonmaker – I know the IG is correct – I observed first hand in August 2004-Jan 2005 Reserve soldiers assigned to MNSTC-I had to scrounge for weapons to do the job – we managed pretty well except vehicles – the picture is out the window of a Chevy Suburban (Unarmored) south of Baghdad near Mahmudiah on one of many trips I took. That’s an AK-47 sticking out in front of me as all that was issued was an M9 which was unsuitable for our missions. Due to the heroic efforts of the loggies, we transitioned to ever better and more capable equipment in country but it left us exposed in the early going…

Senior Military Leaders may be a little off the realities of the past - in my opinion. But that aside, they need to really evaluate where we are today with equipment readiness throughout the force. There are some signs of a crisis in gear, training, unit readiness and equipment. Beyond the lack of weapons for stateside troops, Army stockpiles of equipment around the globe are shrinking as their contents are siphoned to Iraq, reducing the nation's ability to respond to the next crisis.

Reserve and Guard units struggle with the optempo as force structure of full time support staff to develop and maintain unit readiness still remains funded as it was in the past when units were not in the fight. I have noted before that this issue is critical to Guard and Reserve readiness and capability.

Across DOD we need to rethink the dollar allocation to the most pressing effort. Within Congress we must think twice about where the dollars for un-requested purchases must be drawn from as well as expedient funding. Now is the time to consider that execution could be affected a lack of timely funding for the actual need on the ground. As I have said before – the soldier in the field will make due with what he has, but it is up to us to make sure he has enough to make due.

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