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Protecting Our Troops in Iraq

Wednesday, December 29, 2004; Page A18

Mark Shields' Dec. 18 op-ed column ["Our 'Best Equipped' Army? Baloney!"] distorted or ignored statistics and history to make baseless assertions about how our troops in Iraq are equipped and protected.

Because he cited figures only for armor installed on Humvees in factories, Mr. Shields would lead readers to believe that less than a third of the Humvees in Iraq are protected. In fact, when counting vehicles that have had armor added in the theater, that figure rises to about 75 percent. Military commanders have noted that not every vehicle requires armor at all times, such as those confined to operating within military bases.


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Mr. Shields' praise of the manufacturing prowess of the "greatest generation" -- which built America's military might and industry essentially from scratch -- is well founded. His attempt to belittle the performance of today's effort by comparison, however, is invalid.

Consider what the Defense Department, working with industry, has done since the Iraq insurgency -- and with it, roadside ambushes and bombings -- started last year. The production of armored Humvees has increased from about 35 per month to about 450 per month. In addition, since March 2003, the department has spurred production of body armor from 1,200 sets a month to more than 25,000.

Officials in this department at all levels, military and civilian, are doing their best to ensure that our troops in combat have the best protection available. The president has budgeted more than $1 billion in additional funds to ensure that we have sufficient armor, and defense spending overall is up nearly 40 percent since 2001. As our adversary adapts his tactics, military commanders are revising their own procedures and rethinking their equipment requirements. Mr. Shields' op-ed did a disservice to those responsible for providing for the national security.

LAWRENCE Di RITA

Pentagon Spokesman

Washington


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