On Tuesday Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, wrote to President Obama, asking why a vital defensive capability has not been deployed to Afghanistan. The Counter Rocket, Artillery, and Mortar Intercept System (C-RAM) would provide an effective defense against attacks on coalition installations in Afghanistan. Reports to the House Armed Services Committee indicate that casualties from these kinds of attacks are on the rise as the drawdown of our forces requires them to consolidate on large bases. Indeed, it was precisely this kind of attack that recently injured several personnel and damaged the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's C-17.
"As you are aware, U.S. Forces have been operating in Afghanistan under a "force cap" established by your Administration. This restriction on the number of troops is currently set at 68,000 troops. I have long been concerned that restricting the forces our military commanders need to defeat the enemy has significantly hindered the achievement of our mission. Likewise, I have feared that this decision to unilaterally restrict forces also has led to unnecessary injuries and deaths of U.S. And coalition forces. In practice, the effect of the force cap is to compel our commanders to assume greater risk as new mission or force protection requirements emerge, if addressing such new requirements would necessitate the deployment of additional troops."
"As a case in point, life-saving counter rocket, artillery, and mortar (C-RAM) intercept systems are not currently deployed in Afghanistan due to the aforementioned force cap. In 2006, the Army designed a capability for intercept of rockets, artillery, and mortars based on existing counter-battery systems. This system was a significant new defense for our deployed forces and immediately, and measurably, reduced U.S. Military casualties from indirect fire at forward operating bases (FOBs) in Iraq. By the time U.S. Combat forces left Iraq, there were approximately two dozen intercept systems deployed in theater, protecting both U.S. And coalition FOBs."
"In July 2009, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) submitted a Joint Urgent Operational Needs Statement (JUONS), validated by General David Petraeus, requesting C-RAM intercept capability for Afghanistan. The Army agreed that the systems were available for deployment and determined that approximately 80-100 additional forces per site would have to be deployed to support the C-RAM intercept capability. In order to accept this capability, the CENTCOM Commander would have been forced to withdraw and equivalent number of troops already committed to other missions. Consequently the CENTCOM Commander decided to accept greater risk for forces in Afghanistan
"Should your commanders recommend deployment of an intercept system, I implore you to rescind the force cap restriction so that our commanders are not forced into the dilemma of choosing between executing their mission and protecting lives. If a C-RAM intercept capability would protect our troops against lethal threats without detraction from our mission in Afghanistan, please immediately order the deployment of these weapon systems."