6 years, 6 months ago
The United States Marine Corps is having gear and equipment problems, but the problems are not just with the gear and equipment.
Washington – The system for delivering badly needed gear to Marines in Iraq has failed to meet many urgent requests 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.
“Process worship cripples operating forces,” according to the document. “Civilian middle management lacks technical and operational currency.”
The 32-page document – labeled “For Official Use Only” – was prepared by the staff of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force after they returned from Iraq in February.
The document was to be presented in March to senior officials in the Pentagon’s defense research and engineering office. The presentation was canceled by Marine Corps leaders because its contents were deemed too contentious, according to a defense official familiar with the document. The official spoke on condition of anonymity …
The document lists 24 examples of equipment urgently needed by Marines in Iraq’s Anbar province. One, the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, has received attention as a promising way to protect troops from roadside blasts, the leading killer of U.S. forces in Iraq.
After receiving a February 2005 urgent request approved by Maj. Gen. Dennis Hejlik – who was a commander in Iraq from June 2004 to February 2005 – for nearly 1,200 of the vehicles, the Marine Corps instead purchased improved versions of the ubiquitous Humvee.
The industrial capacity did not exist to quickly build the new mine-resistant vehicles, and the more heavily armored Humvees were viewed as a suitable solution, Marine Corps officials said.
That proved not to be the case as insurgent elements in Iraq developed more powerful bombs that could penetrate the Humvees. The mine-resistant vehicles are now a top priority for all the military branches, which plan to buy 7,774 of the carriers at a cost of $8.4 billion …
A second example cited is the compact high-power laser dazzler, an inexpensive, nonlethal tool for steering unwelcome vehicles away from U.S. checkpoints in Iraq.
The dazzler emits a powerful stream of green light that stops or redirects oncoming traffic by temporarily impairing the driver’s vision.
In June 2005, Marines stationed in western Iraq filed an urgent request for several hundred of the dazzlers, which are built by LE Systems, a small company in Hartford, Conn. The request was repeated nearly a year later.
“Timely purchase and employment of all systems bureaucratically stymied,” the document states.
But the Corps didn’t stop with failing to provide the necessary equipment. The next step was to prohibit the direct commercial procurement of the equipment by the Marines who needed it.
Separate documents indicate the deployed Marines became so frustrated at the delays they bypassed normal acquisition procedures and used money from their own budget to buy 28 of the dazzlers directly from LE Systems.
But because the lasers had not passed a safety review process, authorities in the United State (sic) barred the Marines from using them.
In January, nearly 18 months after the first request, the Marines received a less powerful laser built by a different company.
Titus Casazza, president of LE Systems, criticized the Marine Corps acquisition process.
“The bureaucrats and lab rats sitting behind a desk stateside are making decisions on what will be given to our soldiers even if contrary to the specific requests of these soldiers and their commanding generals,” he said.
The stipulation to deploy and use only government-issued gear and equipment has been codified in a recent Marine Administrative Order, MARADMIN 262/07.
1. THE COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS DIRECTS THE FOLLOWING POLICY FOR MARINES AND SAILORS ASSIGNED TO USMC AND JOINT COMMANDS, ON THE WEAR AND PURCHASE OF BODY ARMOR AND PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE). PPE REFERS TO PROTECTIVE BODY ARMOR, HELMETS, GOGGLES, CLOTHING, AND OTHER GEAR DESIGNED TO PROTECT THE WEARER’S BODY FROM BATTLEFIELD INJURIES. PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT INCLUDES, BUT IS NOT LIMITED TO, THE FOLLOWING ITEMS: OUTER TACTICAL VEST, MODULAR TACTICAL VEST, LIGHTWEIGHT HELMET, FULL-SPECTRUM BATTLE EQUIPMENT, MILITARY EYE PROTECTION SYSTEMS (ESS ICE SPECTACLES / ESS PROFILE NVG GOGGLES), ENHANCED SMALL ARMS PROTECTIVE INSERT PLATES, SIDE SMALL ARMS PROTECTIVE INSERT PLATES, BALLISTIC PLATE CARRIER, QUAD GUARD, FLAME RESISTANT ORGANIZATIONAL GEAR AND COMBAT ARMS EARPLUGS …
2. MARINES/SAILORS DEPLOYED TO COMBAT ZONES WILL BE ISSUED MARINE CORPS APPROVED PPE, INCLUDING MODULAR BODY ARMOR SETS.
5. INDIVIDUAL MARINES/SAILORS MAY NOT USE COMMERCIAL PPE IN LIEU OF GOVERNMENT TESTED, APPROVED AND ISSUED PPE. COMMANDERS MAY AUTHORIZE MEMBERS OF THEIR COMMANDS TO USE COMMERCIALLY PURCHASED PPE ITEMS IN ADDITION TO THOSE ISSUED BY THE GOVERNMENT, AS LONG AS ADDITIONS DO NOT INTERFERE WITH THE FUNCTIONALITY OF APPROVED PPE. INDIVIDUALLY PURCHASED COMMERCIAL PPE WILL NOT BE REIMBURSABLE BY COMMAND/UNIT (GOVERNMENT) FUNDS.
In fact, the much heralded Modular Tactical Vest, which was promised early in 2007, has yet to be deployed (the commercial version of the MTV is the Spartan 2 Assault Vest, which in form, fit and function, is exactly equivalent to the MTV). This order prohibits the so-called Dragon Skin body armor, a prohibition which is probably permanent unless and until the manufacturer’s price comes down, the test protocol for the vest is clarified and a purchase order issued by the DoD. What isn’t clear is whether this MARADMIN prohibits Marines from purchasing and using the Spartan 2. Having put on both the IBA (Interceptor) and the Spartan 2, I can attest to the fact that the Spartan 2 (or MTV) lives up to its billing.
However, what is clear is that if the Marines would get control of the gear and equipment problems within its ranks, administrative orders such as this one would not have to be issued. The mere existence of the order tells the story of the gear problems in the Corps. The Marines have always been on the short end of the stick when it comes to their share of the DoD budget. Reasons for this include the fact that they feel (with good cause) that if their share increases, along with the money will come political pressures and other meddling from which they are currently somewhat more insulated. Of course, at the much more personal level, there are fundamental issues of fairness to be addressed that have nothing to do with the Marine’s share of the pie. Why shouldn’t Marines be allowed to purchase and use commercially-available ballistic glasses if they meet or exceed military specifications?
But in terms of the supply and logistics bureaucracy, there is simply no excuse for failure to provide badly needed gear and equipment to the front. Request for gear is not tantamount to griping and complaining, and critical reports to field grade officers or logistics higher-ups in the states is not the same thing as insubordination. A more professional and open-minded approach is needed by those who should already be behaving that way.