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Hearing of the Tactical Air Land Forces Subcom. of the House Armed Services Com. on Future Combat System And Force Protection Initiatives - Transcript

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service April 1, 2004 Thursday

Copyright 2004 The Federal News Service, Inc.
Federal News Service

April 1, 2004 Thursday








TIME: 1:00 P.M.


REP. CURT WELDON (R-PA): The subcommittee will come to order. This afternoon the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee meets to receive testimony on the land component related programs in the Fiscal Year 2005 budget request. We have two panels of witnesses. For the first panel the General Accounting Office and the Department of the Army will provide the subcommittee with their views on the Future Combat Systems Program. During the second panel, representatives of the Departments of the Army and the United States Marine Corps will provide us with testimony on force protection, unfunded requirements associated with equipping our forces and sustainment of the current force into the future.


REP. JIM COOPER (D-TN): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I was very impressed with the presentation. I'm still worried though about getting all this fine equipment out in the field where it's needed the most. I was in Iraq in December, and it wasn't out there yet. And all we've heard is a rolling delay in when the SAPI plates would be available to all our troops, and how many years it's going to take to make sure we have armored Humvees. I'm worried that we still have too much of a bureaucratic attitude and we're not using all the national means to get this equipment manufactured and deployed.

GEN. HANLON: Well, Mr. Congressman, I can speak for the Marine Corps --

REP. WELDON: General, before you answer, would the gentleman yield on that? Because I was going to bring this up and didn't, it's a good segue. Would you answer for the record the media's claim that we don't have enough of the plating for the soldiers, which was reported just last week, you know, that we're actually forcing families to buy plating for their soldiers. Would you include that in the answer to Mr. Cooper?

GEN. HANLON: I will let Ben talk about the Army, the soldiers, because I did not see that media report, but I will tell you, and Bill Catto is right behind me, he'll correct me if I'm wrong. But every one of our Marines that are over there, Congressman, have the SAPI plates and the protective vests and the equipment that they need. All of our vehicles right now, all 100 percent of them have at least the minimum protection that they needed on the vehicles that we sent over with the Marine Corps now, sir.

REP. COOPER: I would ask you to have a purple suit attitude here. Because whether they're active duty, Marine, Army, Guard or Reserve, everybody in harm's way needs the best equipment. And at least the best we can tell --

GEN. HANLON: Sir, you're absolutely right. But my responsibility is to equip the Marines, I will ask Ben to talk about the Army.

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, we have today in theater enough of the outer tactical vest and the SAPI plates to equip all of our soldiers and DOD civilians.

REP. COOPER: You have enough to equip. Are they being equipped? Does everybody living soldier there have those SAPI plates?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, we have in theater being distributed-in fact, this month, as of today, we are now fielding outside of theater both the OTV and the SAPI. I have gotten from the senior commander there, Army commander, that he has adequate OTV vest and SAPI for all of our soldiers.

REP. COOPER: So that mission is complete as of today?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Yes, sir, it is.

REP. COOPER: And no CODEL will find a soldier over there who is without this gear?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, they should not find a soldier. Now, we intentionally continued to ship both OTVs and SAPI into theater until we got a thumbs up from the commanders that they had adequate, that they had enough for all of their personnel, and when they did, then the decision was made then we would equip other units in CONUS and on CONUS with OTV and SAPI. Up to just recently, when a unit redeployed back to CONUS, they were in fact turning in, in the country, both OTV and SAPI.

We have ceased that now so that the units that now redeployed back from service there were in fact redeployed back with their OTVs and SAPI.

REP. COOPER: That's OTV and SAPI. How about up-armored Humvees? How long is that going to take?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, up-armored Humvees, we are ramping to 330 per month. I'm sorry, 300 per month production.

Today we're at about 185 per month. By the July August timeframe, we will finish-we will have enough in production and in theater, probably with normal shift time, the fastest we can get there is up to about 60 days, so it should be about October, and we will meet the current requirement, sir, for 4388 by the end of September, 1st of October.

Now, sir. The requirement could very well change based upon the operational mission. For example, I know for a fact that there's a requirement back in the billing for 12 additional up-armored Humvees. So add that to the 4388. But to meet that current requirement, what I just gave you is the timeframe. Now, if the requirement changes, sir, then we will continue to shift up-armored Humvees. We have across the country have shipped available up-armored Humvees into theater, we have gone through a ramp process, if you would, to get us to the 300.

We are awaiting the $331 million to finish the-with respect to production. On body armor there's another $292 million which we expect. They're either coming from reprogramming or IFF funds.

REP. COOPER: I hear a lot of words --

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, there's one other aspect, that there's the kits that we're putting on. We will ramp up to a production of about 800 kits per month and we should-requirement for Humvee kits is 8,400, and the requirements for FMTV is 1,150, Hemmets 1,080, PLS 800, HETS 500, 915s, the tractors, are 250. Now, that requirement, sir, again, as it changes then we will send more kits. We've also established six sites in Iraq to apply the up-armored kits, protective kits to the vehicle.

But as you know, the kit does not provide the same level of protection that the up-armored vehicle does.

REP. COOPER: I've heard a lot of nice sounding words, but I'm still worried that, number one, we underestimated the demand for these vehicles, number two, while we are ramping our capability it doesn't exactly sound as robust as it could be for the greatest nation in the history of the world and a nation that is spending more on our defense than every other nation on earth combined. And we just heard testimony on the Future Combat System, and there are a lot of good folks focusing on those nice items, but meanwhile our soldiers are dying every day in Iraq partly due to the fact that we don't even have basic, primitive armor for our vehicles.

So it's nice to hear that you're up to 330 a month or whatever, but this is a nation that fielded incredible armaments during World War II and every other conflict we've been in, and considering our automotive capacity and our ability to do almost anything when we set our mind to it, it's still sounding to me like a little bit of a late and feeble response. And you're a professional military man, I'm not. Are we doing a good enough job for our soldiers today?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, there's a combination of things that we're doing.

REP. COOPER: How about a yes or a no? Are we doing a good enough job in supplying up-armored Humvees to our soldiers today?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, I think the answer is we're doing the best we can right now. Are we ever doing enough? If you ask me what keeps me up at night, it's body armor and up-armored Humvees. It's trying to get as many there as we can as quickly as we can. If you go and visit the soldiers there, you'll see first hand that there are innovative things that they're doing to put extra protection on vehicles.

REP. COOPER: The greatest nation on earth shouldn't have to force its soldiers to put sandbags on the bottom of these vehicles in order to have a slightly better chance of surviving. And if you're unable, as a professional military man, to answer a question like that, yes, then I would suggest we're not doing all that we can to really help our troops survive under very difficult circumstances.

I wish we had more testimony in this and other committees from real troops in the field. And I respect our generals. You're great, I'm sure you've served well in the past. But there are men and women living and dying today in a foreign land who do not have adequate protection, and we hear a long list of numbers presented to this committee. I first became aware of this problem last August, as many members did, and we were told with SAPI plates, oh, by December, it'll all be fine.

Then it was January. Then it was February. Then it was March. And now it's April and you say that requirement has been met. Well, we may be out of Iraq by the time we get enough up-armored Humvees. And we should be able to do it faster, shouldn't we?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, again, there are a number of things you do to protect a vehicle. We lost a 113 yesterday in Iraq. We lose up- armored Humvees to explosives, whether it's a mine or a number of charges. There are other things that we do for convoys to protect our vehicles as they move along in convoy.

Anything short of providing the best protection we can, whether it's on the body or vehicle of our soldiers or any other military or civilian personnel serving is-have we done everything we can if we put them out there in a vehicle that is not totally protected? No, because something else could have been done. Are we maximizing the production to get as the production capability ramps to the 300 per month to meet that production level based upon the requirements? Today, yes, sir. Are we putting the dollars against it? Yes, sir. One of the questions I asked yesterday if they had more money to put against it could you give it to me any quicker based upon where we are, the steel, the glass the workforce, the production capability.

Now, soldiers in the field are doing some innovative things with steel. Putting it on sandbags in the floor boards of vehicles other things to protect. We learn every day. Your saw body armor that the Marine captain had on. The shoulder protection is something new. It's a lesson learned. The kits are a short term interim fix, if you would, because we can produce more kits and get the kits over on the vehicles.

REP. COOPER: I thank the chairman's indulgence. I'm still worried that our nation, the greatest nation in the history of the world is not doing all it could and should be doing to protect these troops.

GEN. HANLON: Congressmen, if I may take a crack at this for a second. I want for the record I want to say least we forget the Marines we have in Haiti also have the SAPI plates and are protected. I wanted you to know that, sir. They do not have armored Humvees because there is not a threat in Haiti for that.

Which brings me to a point, and that is last night as I was preparing for this testimony, I asked my guys to tell me how many Humvees do we have in the Marine Corps? How many trucks do we have in the Marine Corps? We have about 19,000 Humvees in the Marine Corps total, sir.

If we had the vision five years ago, 10 years ago when we let the contract on those vehicles thinking that we would be in the environment you are talking about sir, in Iraq every single one of those vehicles would be hardened. I guarantee it. And I guess my-and this has brought up an interesting discussion in our own service and that is - because we're hardening vehicles as quick as we can. To answer your question, sir, we are.

And I will only say one thing. It has brought up an interesting discussion in our own Marine Corps now, and that is when we look into the future every vehicle that build from this day forward should we automatically assume that every one that we build should be built at a hardened standard? Sir, I understand exactly what you're saying and we're trying to get there as quickly as we can, sir.

GEN. GRIFFIN: Can I go back and follow up on-General Schoomaker made a decision earlier on after coming on board as the chief that every soldier active, Guard and Reserve would be equipped with body armor and SAPI. That's 840,000 soldiers. We are on path to do that. Every Humvee that we produce today whether it is up armored or not up armored will have the same engine, chassis, springs and shocks so we can very rapidly put additional armor protection on those vehicles.

REP. COOPER: If the chairman would just indulge me one more question.

We chose the day to start this war. And this was a country very familiar with us as a result of the prior Iraqi war. Many professional military people seemed to be assumed like we were going to be greeted with roses like we were liberating the French in World War II or something. This looks to be very hostile territory. And somebody or some group of people seems to have seriously under estimated the threat that our men and women in uniform are facing.

And, you know, hindsight's 20/20. But this wasn't a sudden engagement that was enforced upon us. And it looks like to me we were terribly unprepared. Now you're saying we need this in the future going forward. Where were we a year ago or two years ago? Iraq has been a threat for a long time. And is this a sudden surprise that we, you know-their nature is so hostile. Who is responsible for that miscalculation. Why is this a surprise? Why is the greatest nation in the history of the world so surprised this late in the day? You guys are the professionals. This is a country we know pretty well.

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, I would answer that both the Marine Corps and the Army and I'm sure the Navy and the Air Force are aggressively capturing lessons learned and applying those as fast as we can. I believe everything that can be done today to get protected vehicles and body armor to our soldiers is being done. We're testing at Aberdeen 24/7.

REP. COOPER: When did the ramp up in vehicles occur?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, the real first request basically as an addition to the existing up armored Humvees came as we started at the tail end as we went into Baghdad. And that initial request I believe was for 235 up armored Humvees.

REP. COOPER: Why didn't start earlier and why wasn't it a larger request?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, I think the key is that we are doing everything we can today to meet the requirement of today. And we do everything we can in the future to prepare ourselves for this type of situation.

REP. COOPER: This is the fifth Muslim nation we've essentially tried to rebuild in the last 10 years. I hope we do learn the lessons.

I thank the chair for being so indulgent.


REP. COOPER: The chairman yields for just one quick question?

I think you said, General Hanlon, in response to the question that the Marines are pretty well outfitted now with SAPI plates and up armored Humvee. Do you have an extra's you could share with the Army, since they're short and you've already met your requirements?

GEN. HANLON: Congressman, the question is, if we're asked for it and we have it, we're going to supply it.

REP. COOPER: If you're asked for it?

GEN. HANLON: If we are asked for an item and we have it, we are going to supply it. This is a joint fight.

REP. COOPER: Has the Army asked for any surplus that may be available?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Sir, we would take surplus from anyone. Actually, we've just gotten, I think 150 from the Air Force.

REP. COOPER: Would you ask General Hanlon right now if he has any surplus?

GEN. GRIFFIN: Got any extras, I'll take them right in, for sure.

REP. COOPER: We need to make sure there's sharing here, people shouldn't wait to be asked, they should volunteer this.

GEN. HANLON: Yes, sir, and, sir, I assure you that there's a lot of that goes on day to day. I mean, when we got into --

REP. COOPER: Some show, some show.


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