The Pentagon We Have

In the prestigious vein of famous sayings like, “you go to war with the army you have,” Pentagon officials offered the New York Times various excuses for what the paper found to be the Army’s astounding incompetence at arming our troops in Iraq. These include pearls of wisdom like, “While we would all like to be faster and more responsive, it was fairly responsive.” Even that appears to be giving the Pentagon too much credit. Here are a few of the highlights from the Times story:

— The Pentagon gave a contract for thousands of the ceramic plate inserts that make combat vests bulletproof to a former Army researcher who had never mass-produced anything. “He struggled for a year, then gave up entirely.”

— In shipping plates from other companies, the Army’s equipment manager “effectively reduced the armor’s priority to the status of socks….Some 10,000 plates were lost along the way, and the rest arrived late.”

— Going into the war, the Pentagon decided against asking Detroit automakers like General Motors to start making armored Humvees because they would need too much time to set up new assembly lines. But the Pentagon originally under-ordered from its sole contractor, O’Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, and the company is not expected to reach the Army’s current 550 per month demand for the vehicles until this spring.

Kind of sounds less like a “matter of physics” — Rumsfeld’s explanation — than a matter of competence. The results: During a time when the insurgency was growing and casualties were mounting, the Defense Department took 167 days “just to start getting bulletproof vests to soldiers in Iraq” after Gen. Richard Cody, who led the Army Strategic Planning Board, placed the order.