More complicated than "withholding funds"
LOU DOBBS: The U.S. Army is sending hundreds of armored Humvees to Iraq to protect troops from attacks by insurgents. But tonight, there are new fears that the armor on those reinforced Humvees is still inadequate to provide protection for our soldiers.
Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre has the report.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With U.S. troops still dying in deadly roadside attacks, the Pentagon is spending $400 million racing to replace the Army's basic thin- skinned Humvees with reinforced up-armored versions. But the better armor is still not providing adequate protection, writes a four-star general in a memo obtained by CNN.
"Commanders in the field are reporting to me that the up-armored Humvee is not providing the solution the Army hoped to achieve," writes General Larry Ellis, commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command, in a March 30 memo to the Army chief of staff.
Critics say, even with better armor, the Humvee's shoulder-level doors make it too easy to lob a grenade inside. Its four rubber tires burn too readily. At two tons, it is light enough to be overturned by a mob.
General Ellis wants to shift Army funds to build twice as many of the Army's newest combat vehicle, the Stryker, which has eight wheels, weighs 19 tons and when equipped with a special cage can withstand an RPG attack. "It is imperative that the Army accelerate the production of Stryker vehicles to support current operations," Ellis says.
But critics say the Army is overlooking an even cheaper, faster solution than the $3.3 million Stryker, the thousands of Vietnam era M-113 Gavin personnel carriers the Army has in storage which can be upgraded with new armor for less than $100,000 apiece. Neither the Stryker nor the Gavin offer 100 percent protection. Some U.S. troops have been killed in the top-of-the-line M1-A1 Abrams tank. But the more armor, the better chance of survival.
MCINTYRE: In his memo, General Ellis pleads for quick action, lamenting that, while the U.S. is at war, some in the Army seem to be in a peacetime posture. He writes: "If our actions impede the ability to train, equip or organize our soldiers for combat, then we fail the soldier and the nation" -- Lou.
DOBBS: And General Ellis' remarks and note come a year after that war began in Iraq. What is -- what is taking so long for the command structure of the U.S. Army, the U.S. military, to provide the equipment that our men and women need in Iraq?
MCINTYRE: Well, I think the short answer is that they misestimated the threat that they would be facing at this point. They have been trying to adapt as time went on. They have been rushing the armored Humvees into theater, but now they are realizing they don't provide enough protection either. What General Ellis wants to do is quick action to get the authority to shift some funds around and ramp up production of the Strykers, so you can get more of those into the combat theater.
But, as I said, some of the critics say they should look to some of the vehicles they already have in storage. They think they can get them there even faster. I think General Ellis is reflecting some of the frustration that the Army feels it can't act fast enough to get enough protection to its troops.
DOBBS: General Ellis, a four-star general. Who put him in charge of looking into this? What is, if you will, his portfolio?
MCINTYRE: Well, he is commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command. So his main job is training and equipping. And, of course, he's writing this memo to the Army chief of staff, who is the main person in charge of training and equipping the Army, General Schoomaker. So the right people are focused on the problem. The question is how soon will they have the solution?
DOBBS: Well, for the sake of our men and women in uniform in Iraq, let's hope very quickly.
Jamie, thank you very much -- Jamie McIntyre, our senior Pentagon correspondent.
The military believes about 2,000 insurgents and foreign fighters are now holed up in Fallujah. The Marines are hoping those insurgents will surrender their heavy weapons. But the troops are preparing to assault the city if the insurgents do not disarm.
I'm joined now by our CNN military analyst, General David Grange.
General, good to have you with us.
RETIRED BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: I have to ask you, first, what is your reaction to Jamie McIntyre's report and the statement by General Ellis that, point blank, our command structure seems in some respects to be in a peacetime posture, while our men and women in uniform are in war in Iraq? GRANGE: Well, Lou, I know the leadership of the Army and I don't think they are in a peacetime mind-set.
However, I do agree totally that armored vehicles need to be sent to Iraq immediately to solve some of these problems with the Humvees. First of all, the -- any armored vehicle can take a certain kind of hit and be destroyed or incapacitated. However, Humvees are not the answer. It's too light-skinned, even the up-armored, for some of these actions, whether it be reply or combat missions that the troops have.
The interim solution is to take the inventory that was just shown on the broadcast of the old 113s, armor those, and use those immediately in Iraq to protect the troops.
DOBBS: General Grange, you are talking about what was popularly known as the APC, the armored personnel carrier, thousands of them, Jamie McIntyre reported, in storage and ready to be rearmored if necessary.
Under current armor, could the APC still be serviceable, that is protect our troops in Iraq?
GRANGE: There's no 100 percent protection, but it would provide much more protection than a Humvee and they are readily available and can be up-armored quickly. The Stryker is going to take too long to produce that many. So I'd get something out there now during this very intense period in Iraq.
DOBBS: General, the question has to be asked, this is the 21st century. The U.S. military is supposed to be the most advanced and focused and technologically advantaged force in the world. Yet what appears to be at least at first blush when we have men and women without sufficient armored vests, when they don't have armored vehicles, even the old APC, it does raise a question, what in the world has gone on with our command structure? Because we've got men and women dying there.
GRANGE: Well, that's true. And it's -- when you are a commander on the ground, it's very frustrating when you don't get the things that you think, at least you think that you need. We relearn lessons from every war.
DOBBS: General, excuse me. Let me be clear in my question, if I was not. I'm not worried about the commander at the company level or the battalion level. I'm talking about the command structure of the United States military, the Pentagon.
GRANGE: Yes, the upgraded vehicles need to be sent to Iraq immediately. They should have already been there. The Humvee is not the answer. I think there was the -- the assessment that the transition after the maneuver warfare to the stability and support operations were not be as violent as it's become was off-base a little bit. But it can be fixed now. Let's do something now and at least provide the needed protection and maneuverability that can be afforded now with the assets that we have. It's still not too late to do something.