December 15, 2004
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he is not surprised that soldiers at a town-hall meeting in Kuwait Dec. 8th asked him tough questions. He is surprised, however, that the media has chosen to focus on the concerns of a few and ignore the overall positive tone of the event.
During that town-hall meeting, Spc. Thomas Wilson asked Rumsfeld why soldiers in Kuwait awaiting deployment into Iraq "have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles? And why don't we have those resources readily available to us?" Following Wilson's question, applause erupted among the 2,000 or so troops attending the event.
Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says "nobody is more impatient than the Secretary of Defense about fixing what's wrong with this department." And he says the Army Secretary has ordered a ramp-up in production of armored vehicles.
DoD photo by Master Sgt. James M. Bowman, U.S. Air Force. (Released)
Rumsfeld replied that senior military leaders have told him that all efforts are being made to acquire and increase production of supplemental vehicle armor kits.
Acquiring more up-armored kits for military vehicles destined for service in Iraq isn't a matter of funding, the secretary noted, but a question of production and capability.
"You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want, or wish to have, at a later time," Rumsfeld pointed out.
According to information provided by the Defense Department, the United States is producing roughly 450 "up-armored" Humvees every month and sending them to units in Iraq and more than 19,000 Humvees are in the area overseen by U.S. Central Command. Of those, 14,960 are in Iraq and are up-armored or have been modified at the unit level with "add-on armor" kits, said Eric Ruff, a Defense Department spokesman.
But beyond the specifics of the question, Rumsfeld said it's important for leaders to hear concerns from their troops.
"I think that's good for people to raise questions that they're interested in; it gives the senior military leadership that has the responsibility for these matters the chance to hear them and to listen to these concerns, to talk to people," he said.
Senior military leaders in Kuwait said they had no knowledge of soldiers using scrap from local landfills to armor their Humvees. Rumsfeld said unit leaders would speak to the soldier who asked the question and find out "what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know."