Durbin, Illinois and Iowa Lawmakers Ask Pentagon to Use Rock Island Arsenal to Produce New Humvee Armor Kits
U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Barack Obama (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) along with Congressmen Phil Hare (D-IL) and Bruce Braley (D-IA) today sent the following letter to Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, urging him to utilize the Rock Island Arsenal to ensure that the troops serving in Iraq have the armor and equipment needed to perform their mission and protect their lives.
Recent press reports indicate that U.S. Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan lack more than 4,000 of the latest Humvee armor kits, known as FRAG Kit 5. These Humvee armor kits are designed to reduce U.S. troop deaths from roadside bombs -- including a rising threat from new and particularly lethal roadside bombs -- that are now inflicting 70 percent of the American casualties in the country, according to U.S. military and civilian officials.
Durbin and the other lawmakers noted that Rock Island Arsenal has a demonstrated capacity and adequate manpower to rapidly and efficiently produce armor kits to meet the growing demand to protect our troops. They wrote, "The Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center (JMTC) at Rock Island Arsenal recently produced 6,500 interim Frag Kit 5 units for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maintains the capability to immediately produce additional kits."
Durbin said that in 2004, Rock Island Arsenal was awarded a contract to produce 2,000 Humvee armor kits. The Arsenal completed all 2,000 kits two full months earlier than contracted, and produced an additional 160 kits with steel that was left over. The arsenal shifted from manufacturing 75 kits a week to 225 kits a week with a 24 hour a day / 7 days a week operation.
The letter also addressed concerns expressed by some military experts that even the new FRAG Kit 5 armor kits offered insufficient protection from the new generation of roadside explosives now being used in Iraq and asked the Secretary to suggest other methods to protect American troops.
The text of the letter appears below:
The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
Washington, DC 20301-4000
Dear Mr. Secretary:
We are writing to you regarding the need for up-armor kits for Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan. We believe that Rock Island Arsenal in Rock Island, Illinois has the demonstrated capacity and manpower to rapidly and efficiently produce up-armor kits to meet the growing demand to protect our troops against roadside bombs.
Recent press reports have highlighted the shortage of up-armored Humvees and the insurgents' use of increasingly lethal explosives. Roadside bombs are now inflicting an estimated 70 percent of American casualties in Iraq. At the current rate of production, according to media accounts, the shortfall of 4,000 up-armor kits (FRAG Kit 5) will not be satisfied until July. With an additional five brigades headed to Baghdad, it is estimated that 2,000 Humvees urgently need up-armoring.
The Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center (JMTC) at Rock Island Arsenal recently produced 6,500 interim Frag Kit 5 units for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maintains the capability to immediately produce additional kits. We understand that with the growing lethality of insurgent attacks, even this enhanced armor may not be sufficient to safeguard our troops. If that is the case, then we need to find alternative solutions that will protect our brave men and women in uniform from roadside bombs.
We respectfully request the answers to the following questions:
1. Are there currently or will there be shortages of up-armored Humvees in Iraq or Afghanistan?
2. Is the current production schedule adequate to ensure our deployed troops have necessary up-armored Humvees when they arrive in Iraq or Afghanistan?
3. Does the current armor provide adequate ballistic and blast protection against the devices they now face, including Explosively Formed Penetrators or Projectiles?
4. What other measures are being taken to protect our troops from the increasing lethality of explosive devices?
5. Can Rock Island Arsenal help meet the warfighters' needs in this critical effort?
Thank you for your prompt attention to this very important issue. We look forward to your reply.