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January 10, 2007

Comments

As far as I'm concerned, if we can afford Bush's tax cuts, we can surely afford to spend what it takes to protect people who have volunteered to risk their lives for our country; and given a choice between the two, I pick the soldiers every time.

Sorry hilzoy, the investment bankers and oil men couldn't possibly live without their 100 ft. yachts and third beach houses that the tax cuts allow them. Plus, they're all likely to quit working because their marginal rate would be too high.

What amazes me is the fact that at least some of the body armor they provide our troops only covers the chest. My to-be brother-in-law came back from Iraq with horrible back problems. The armor pulls down your shoulders hunching your back over. What organs exactly can't be damaged through the back that can be through the chest? I guess the military saw it as a way to spread around more bulletproof vests. He said he never removed any parts to lighten it up either. (Andrew might know something about this design.)

Needless to say, our Christmas present for his current trip overseas this week was an armored vest that also covers his back and partially his sides.

I'm not sure I buy this. Regardless of how much money we spend, there will always be something more that we could spend on to save more lives (of course a more cost-effective way to protect the troops would be to bring them home). I don't think there's an obvious, inarguable line that can be drawn to say what the level of spending should be. These vehicles are probably worth spending money on, but talking about the choices in terms of "buying everything else we want to buy that we value more than our soldiers' lives" is too simplistic.

IH,

I'm not familiar with any body armor that only protects the chest. The IBAS system that is Army standard protects the chest, back, groin, neck, and flanks, although the chest and back are most heavily protected.

KCinDC: What I meant was: of course we have enough money; we just don't have enough money if we want to keep the tax cuts and all our other spending in place and not raise the deficit. I have no problem with the idea that there are some things that might give soldiers some small added chance of surviving that I wouldn't want to pay for, given the cuts it would entail.

(I mean: surely almost everyone would think that for some very small X and some very large Y, the statement "I wouldn't pay $Y in order to give our troops an X% greater chance of surviving, given the other things that $Y could buy" is true. I mean, say Y = a trillion and X = .0000000000000000000001.)

I do think I could have said all this more clearly, though.

Andrew- I'll have to go back and ask him about this again.

IH,

I should also note that I have very limited experience with body armor. Ask me again in about two months and I'll know more. ;)

I did a small amount of legal work for a body armor manufacturer, and I think the big differences are in how much coverage you have on the underarms and sides generally -- flat versus curved plates. But I know very little about it.

Fair enough, but I think if you get into real numbers and the way people actually make decisions, Y is going to be quite a bit lower and X quite a bit higher. Once you get into spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, there are lots of ways one could imagine spending the money that might have a greater chance of saving a life than replacing one Humvee (which may or may not be subjected to an attack, in which the improved armor may or may not make a difference). On the other hand, the government has direct responsibility for putting the troops in danger, so spending to save their lives may have a higher priority.

I think it also comes down to flexibility. We've still got to be able to bend over, twist, stand up, etc. I know that there's a little loop on the back of body armor now, because when you take a knee it helps to have someone give you a little help when the time comes to stand up. That stuff is extremely heavy. I shudder to think what my knees will feel like a year from now.

Weren't Humvee's supposed to be fast, fuel efficient in comparison to the armored vehicles mentioned in the article, and more flexible regarding terrain and with a better range? It's not like the Pentagon didn't know they could be blown up, or that armored vehicles are new technology.

I understand that it's politically popular to talk about putting everyone in armored vehicles, but the Pentagon and/or Congress deliberately chose not to, for whatever reason, many, many years before this war.

Yow. I don't know how long you have before you leave (or how much free time you have in that time), but should you maybe be ramping up a weight workout?

My cousin Timmy came back from a year in Iraq looking bizarrely muscular -- he'd always been very fit, but he was a very fit skinny wiry guy. He came back looking like Adonis. I wonder if it was hauling around the body armor.

Not sure how up to date the info is (I know there has since been a lot of hubbub re: Dragon Skin), but this Newshour with Jim Lehrer segment from last January gives a good overview of the body armour used in Iraq, including technical specs.

Defense Tech has more here and here.

HMMWVs are designed for a linear battlefield where they're unlikely to face direct fire, let alone IEDs. It's part of the whole failure of vision issue regarding the military. We're fighting an insurgency with a HIC Army.

Liz,

I'm working on the whole getting into better shape thing at the moment. Although if I come back from Iraq looking at all muscular, it will be a miracle.

I would second slowly ramping up a weight workout and some sort of back stretching. My sister's Fiancée came back with a fused disc... and he has always been in incredible *injury free* shape. FWIW

Andrew:

Come back, in shape or out. But come back. O.K.?

Seconded. No skipping the armor just because it's heavy. You have blogging responsibilities to return to.

"He came back looking like Adonis."

Didn't Adonis spend a lot of time being fussed over by goddesses instead of juggling obelisks? Maybe you want Herakles.


"they cost more than twice as much as a standard Humvee"

What's the effective replacement cost of a soldier, excluding moral questions? Training, shipping, death benefits vs salary/pension?

But come back. O.K.?

I make no guarantees.

You have blogging responsibilities to return to.

ROFL.

Speaking of blogging duties Andrew, IIRC, you said it was unclear if you would be able to blog from Iraq. Any new info on that front?

There's also these, but I think those aren't for everyday wear.

More background on Cougar here. The not-enough-money explanation can mean something different than what you might think it does. For one thing, it can mean that in order to get Force Protection geared up to, for instance, double, triple or quadruple production rates (I'd estimate that at 1 or 2 per month) the DoD would have to shell out a lot of infrastructure cash to get FP set up with more production lines.

Which doesn't sound all that hard, but it would likely run into eight digits or more, just to build a factory.

Ugh,

Not a bit. I doubt I'll know anything any sooner than late-March, and possibly not until I get to Iraq. I'll be living with the Iraqis, so I'm assuming that their automation infrastructure will be limited.

Which doesn't sound all that hard, but it would likely run into eight digits or more, just to build a factory.

this is, as we've all heard non-stop for four years now, the fight that will determine the very fate of Western civilization.

New battle, same old procurement methodology.

That said, I doubt the Cougar has been "accelerated" in the same way that some other programs have been.

Procurement acceleration, I shouldn't need to say, is decided by Congress. Will we see acceleration of the Cougar make Nancy Pelosi's list of priorities?

Well, it's been recommended, for what that's worth. And apparentlymade it into the 2007 budget.

Well, it's been recommended, for what that's worth. And apparentlymade it into the 2007 budget.

See, Dems aren't so bad after all!

Time travel is a wonderful thing, evidently.

it can mean that in order to get Force Protection geared up to, for instance, double, triple or quadruple production rates (I'd estimate that at 1 or 2 per month) the DoD would have to shell out a lot of infrastructure cash to get FP set up with more production lines.

License production to someone else. GM, for example. They've got a lot of capacity for building light trucks. We did that with aircraft in WW2.

There's a lot of things that were done in WW2 that we haven't resorted to, yet. Maybe that means this isn't actually the war to end all wars.

It's criminal, almost four years after going to war with the "military we have, not the military we want", we are still fighting the war with the military we had to fight the Soviets in Germany.

We need medium armored wheeled vehicles (good old fashioned armored cars) for Iraq, not tracked vehicles or Humvees with thousands of pounds of bolted on extra armor. The army and marines already have limited numbers for specialized uses (e.g., an excellent six-wheeled German armored car used as a mobile lab to detect chemical, biological and nuclear threats and a four wheeled American built one for the MPs), yet has only purchased small numbers of additional vehicles even though the troops in the field are begging for them. If we can't produce enough ourselves there are many countries around the world that produce excellent wheeled armored vehicles. But the Pentagon would rather spend its procurement dollars on worthless missile defense shields, fighter jets designed to fight a Soviet air force that disappeared 15 years ago (and truth be told probably only existed in the fevered imagination of CIA and Air Force analysts).

It is disgusting.

Oddly enough, Freder, I was also thinking that the $10,000,000,000 worth of untested missile defense interceptors sitting in Alaska might be less useful than some armored vehicles.

FWIW, the added armor on the Humvees is killing them, too. The extra weight wears out major suspension and drivetrain parts in 1500 miles, rather than the 20-30k they were designed for.

I'm in a unit with Cougars. We only have few in our company and each platoon has to "hot seat"(share) them. Sometimes they don't even get shut down between missions. If one gets blown up or breaks down we have to take M1114 in it's place. We have a poll in the company on which date we'll have to run an all M1114 patrol.

It's better than not having them at all. Their great vehicles. We should stop building Cadillac Escalades and build these instead.

Sapper: thanks.

Weird. In Afghanistan we have cougars, but they are helicopters.

You seem to talk about something like our 'Bushmaster' (what's in a name... blame the aussied who made it)

aussieS.... We're going there on holiday next summer so I should really try to write it correctly ;)

Weird. In Afghanistan we have cougars, but they are helicopters.

What's in a name? I think it's lots better to use an animal name for a system (that, potentially, others will use or already have used) than, just to pick a random example, attempt to make a pronouncable word out of an acronym like HMMWV, and wind up pasting a name that's slang for a blowjob on a military vehicle.

I agree about the acronyms (the humming story seems weird... are the girls supposed to hum a particular song? Inquiring minds want to know...).

But using the same name for very different vehicles seems silly and prone to lead to mistakes if you are working together. We regularly fight together with the Americans in Afghanistan; suppose one party asks for a cougar and the other party misinterprets?

As has been pointed out, the USA did far, far more with far, far less in much less time. Consdering that (a) the Iraq war a was a 'go' from 9/12/2001, (b) it was intended to be the first war of a series of wars to remake the Middle East, (c) the US economy is several times bigger than in WWII and finally (d) the effort required to do a good job in Iraq would have been far smaller than what the US did in WWII, this administration's screw-ups are even more criminal.

"But using the same name for very different vehicles seems silly and prone to lead to mistakes if you are working together. We regularly fight together with the Americans in Afghanistan; suppose one party asks for a cougar and the other party misinterprets?"

The Puma and Cougar Eurocopters are extremely well-known (to anyone who knows anything about major military vehicles); here is an English write-up; nonetheless, as a rule, people don't confuse helicopters and ground vehicles.

The American ground vehicle has been getting a lot of press lately.

There are also Cougar professional and amateur sports teams; probably they won't get confused with either military vehicle, any more than someone will show up with a big cat when a helicopter, or an armored truck, is asked for.

The truck used to be the Lion, prior to 2002, incidentally (and there's a Buffalo variant).

Specifically as regards "suppose one party asks for a cougar and the other party misinterprets," the Americans aren't going to ask the Dutch for use of a Cougar ground vehicle, unless the Dutch have one or more, in which case they're actually going to know what they're for. Actually, the odds of a member of either military in Afghanistan not having heard of both vehicles strikes me as about as likely as their not recognizing those strange and kooky foreign "uniforms" worn by furriners like the Americans and Dutch. Neither vehicle is some strange and obscure piece of equipment.

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