Phil Carter at Intel Dump has a brilliant post on what he calls a brilliant story in the Wall Street journal about the cause of the up-armored Humvee shortage. It’s a little lengthy and all good. This is important, and you should go read it.
He relates how the Military Police, previously the major supporters of the up-armored Humvee variants, was out-weighed and out-voted by the combat arms, especially the armored generals. The initial armored Humvees suffered a variety of mechanical problems, and the armor folks jumped all over them. I’ll only quote one graph:
The Armor community may have cited these problems in its decision, but the real issue was that it didn’t want to procure equipment for anything less than high-intensity combat. You see, an admission of the value of equipment for low-intensity conflict and peacekeeping operations would diminish the value of armored forces, which are designed to fight high-intensity battles. The Armor community was even willing to do so at the expense of its scouts, who drive the exact same M1025 un-armored HMMWVs that MPs do. This Cold War high-intensity combat paradigm was so prevalent in the Army that the MP community — the Army’s center of excellence for peacekeeping ops — could not sell this program to the Army in any sufficient numbers. Mr. Jaffe is right that the MP corps lacks a 3- or 4-star general. The path to advancement in the Army has never been through low-intensity conflict or peacekeeping operations; it has always been through the combat arms. Senior Army leaders today may see things differently, because many have Balkans experience (like retired Gen. Eric Shinseki, who predicted it would take “several hundred thousand” troops to secure Iraq). But in the mid-1990s, when this program was in the early stages, the Army still believed in its Cold War/Gulf War I paradigm.
First off, we need to consider our support personnel as combatants. The operations in Iraq, during the invasion and after, have proven that our support units are going to come under fire for two reasons: 1) The low-intensity nature of this war means that there will always be the threat of attack by irregulars, and 2) When the primary thrusts drive hard and fast into enemy territory, the supply lines needed to keep them moving are going to get long. The longer those supply lines are, the more important they become AND the more vulnerable to attack they are.
Every soldier needs to be a rifleman. Every unit needs basic combat training and equipment. Every Humvee and truck needs at least basic protection from small-arms fire and roadside bombs. Every campaign needs to take guerrilla warfare and potentially-hostile locals into account.
I still think that there’s a place in the Army for an all-Humvee combat unit. We don’t need tanks or even Strykers in places like Liberia and Haiti. But un-armored Humvees have proven to be too vulnerable.
At the same time, if the road to Baghdad proved we need more armored Humvees, it also proved the value of heavy armor even in lower-intensity situations. The M1s and the Bradleys spearheaded the assault on Iraq, and if we would have been using Strykers and armored Humvees instead, our losses would have been far, far greater. Different missions require different equipment, and to suggest that procuring armored Humvees threatens the existence of our heavy forces is illogical. There’s only so much money in the budget, of course, but those are the sort of tough decisions that we’re going to have to make to win this war.