Manufacturers Could Boost Humvee Armor Output 22%
Armor Holdings Inc., the sole supplier of protective plates for the Humvee military vehicles used in Iraq, said it could increase output by as much as 22 percent per month with no investment and is awaiting an order from the Army. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said [Wednesday] the Army was working as fast as it can and supply is dictated by “a matter of physics, not a matter of money.” A Pentagon spokeswoman declined comment.
Jacksonville, Florida-based Armor Holdings last month told the Army it could add armor to as many as 550 of the trucks a month, up from 450 vehicles now, Robert Mecredy, president of the company’s aerospace and defense group, said in an interview today. “We’re prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month,” Mecredy said in the telephone interview. “I’ve told the customer that and I stand ready to do that.”
Insurgent attacks on the vehicles with homemade bombs and rocket-propelled grenades account for as much as half of the more than 1,000 U.S. deaths and 9,000 U.S. wounded in Iraq, and have fueled criticism by members of Congress such as Representative Ellen Tauscher, a California Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, that the Pentagon didn’t adequately equip U.S. troops.
Armor Holdings has already boosted output from 60 vehicles per month a year ago, said Mecredy, 58. As a result of the increased output, Armor Holdings has cut the price for the armor its supplies for the trucks to $58,000 per vehicle, from $72,000 per vehicle a year ago, Mecredy said. Shares of Armor Holdings rose $1.82, or 4.5 percent in New York Stock Exchange composite trading at 12:37 p.m.
When he was asked about current production yesterday, Rumsfeld said he wasn’t sure of the exact figure. “It’s something like 400 a month are being done,” he said. “It’s a matter of production and capability of doing it,” Rumsfeld, 72, said.
Making the armor has to be coordinated with output of the actual trucks by AM General LLC of South Bend, Indiana, Mecredy said. AM General spokesman Lee Woodward also said that truck output could also be increased. “If they ordered more trucks, we’d build more trucks,” Woodward said. “We’re not close to capacity. It might take some time to ramp up but we can do it.” Woodward declined to provide exact details on production capacity.
The main reason there isn’t enough armor is because the military has underestimated its own needs, said Meghan Keck, spokeswoman for Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat. Bayh wrote a letter to Rumsfeld in October calling for a more accurate estimate of Humvee needs.
“If the Army would be up front about the number of Humvees needed, the companies would be able to set their production accordingly to meet the need,” Keck said in a phone interview.
Obviously, we need to get to the bottom of this quickly. If Rumsfeld or other leaders are intentionally underfunding this program at this stage, they should be fired.
I am confused, however, about the need for producing more HMMWVs. My understanding is that the armor kits can simply be installed on the standard platform retroactively.