- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Pentagon yesterday blamed miscommunication for the Army’s not capitalizing on a firm’s ability to produce more armored Humvee utility vehicles for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The issue goes back to last Wednesday in Kuwait, when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld heard an Army National Guardsman complain about a lack of armored vehicles.

After the well-publicized complaint, Armor Holdings Inc., the sole-source provider of Humvee armor, announced that it could produce an additional 100 armored Humvees monthly, if only the Army had asked.

The soldier’s question and Armor Holdings’ statement helped fuel a rash of negative press reports about Mr. Rumsfeld and whether the Pentagon was doing all it could to get more armor into Iraq, where troops face hidden explosives that rip apart vehicles.

Larry Di Rita, Pentagon chief spokesman, laid the problem squarely on miscommunication between the Army and Armor Holdings.

“The company was operating at the maximum capacity for what the Army was ordering,” Mr. Di Rita told reporters at the Pentagon. “It had other capability, but it required retooling to be able to do what the Army wanted. The Army was operating under the belief that this company could make no more than … 450 up-armored Humvees a month.”

The ubiquitous Humvee has a number of uses: patrol, missile platform, tactical command post and ambulance.

Before the Iraq war, the Army required relatively few armored Humvees. On a traditional battlefield, Humvees generally stayed away from the line of fire.

That all changed in the summer of 2003, when a burgeoning insurgency of Saddam Hussein loyalists and foreign terrorists unleashed a barrage of roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades at U.S. troops in Iraq.

“Suddenly, a different ballgame,” former acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee told The Washington Times last month.

Commanders immediately put in a call to the Pentagon for more armored Humvees. Recently, they raised the need to 8,000 vehicles.

Mr. Brownlee said he traveled in 2003 to AM General, which makes the Humvee, and Armor Holdings’ O’Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt and won a commitment to dramatically accelerate production from 150 a month to 450.

Armor Holdings says it can produce 100 more up-armored vehicles monthly, but must retool its factory first.

“We recognize it’s not the same kind of excess capacity as was originally reported,” Mr. Di Rita said of press reports last week. He quoted Armor Holdings as previously telling the Army, “We’re maxed out.”

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