A December 10 Wall Street Journal editorial (registration required) provided false cover for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's response to an American soldier who asked the secretary about the military's insufficient supply of vehicle armor. Rumsfeld told the soldier at a December 8 "town hall" meeting in Kuwait that the shortage was due to "a matter of physics," and explained: "It isn't a matter of money. It isn't a matter on the part of the Army of desire. It's a matter of production and capability of doing it." The Journal editorial stated: "When commanders first identified the need for more armored vehicles, in August 2003, production was at 30 per month; it's now up to 450 a month and the plants making armor are running at full capacity." But according to numerous news reports, the companies that produce military vehicles and fit them with armor are not operating at full capacity; they are readily capable of increasing production, but have not been asked to do so.
The New York Post similarly attempted to defend Rumsfeld in a December 10 editorial, which erroneously stated: "Meanwhile, [Humvee] armor and related equipment is being produced, distributed and installed as quickly as possible."
However, a December 10 Cox News Service article reported that the companies that produce Humvees for the Army and that specially fit them with armor are not running at full capacity:
The manufacturer of Humvees for the U.S. military and the company that adds armor to the utility vehicles are not running near production capacity and are making all that the Pentagon has requested, spokesmen for both companies said.
"If they call and say, 'You know, we really want more,' we'll get it done," said Lee Woodward, a spokesman for AM General, the Indiana company that makes Humvees and the civilian Hummer versions.
At O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, the Ohio firm that turns specially designed Humvees into fully armored vehicles at a cost of about $70,000 each, spokesman Michael Fox said they, too, can provide more if the government wants them.
The article also noted House Armed Services Committee statistics released on December 9 that reveal dramatic shortages of armor for other military vehicles in Iraq: "Only 10 percent of the 4,814 medium-weight transport trucks have armor, and only 15 percent of the 4,314 heavy transport vehicles do."
A December 10 New York Times article also reported on the underutilized production capacity of O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt:
Only some of the work [of armoring Humvees] has been contracted out, mainly to a plant in Ohio run by O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, a unit of Armor Holdings. The rest of the kits [to add extra protection to vehicles already in Iraq] are being produced by civilian employees of the Army working at depots in New York and six other states, where they are using laser-cutting machines to cut steel purchased directly from two mills.
Armor Holdings also produces armor for new Humvees, and the company said it told the Army last month that it had the capacity to increase its production to 550 vehicles a month, compared with the 450 vehicles is handling now.
Two other articles -- a December 9 Bloomberg News article and a December 10 Boston Globe article -- noted that Armor Holdings has been waiting for months for Pentagon approval to increase production, which they could do by as much as 22 percent.
From the Globe article:
"We're prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month," Robert Mecredy, head of Armor Holdings' aerospace and defense unit, said in a statement. The company is producing about 450 armored Humvees per month, up from 50 in late 2003, when a sudden surge of attacks in Iraq exposed a lack of protective armor.
The company says that by February it could be producing as many as 550 fully armored Humvees per month -- with armor plates on the sides, front, rear, top, and bottom -- if given the go-ahead. The company estimated it would cost the military about $150 million a year to pay for the additional 100 vehicles per month.
A December 10 Arizona Republic article quoted former U.S. Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ), now a consultant for ArmorWorks in Tempe, Arizona, a company that produces in-the-field armor kits for Humvees, as saying that "[w]e've been telling the Pentagon for months that we have the capacity to double our production:"
Salmon said that [Secretary Rumsfeld's comment on Humvee armor] simply isn't true, at least in the case of ArmorWorks, which has a $30 million contract to provide composite armor kits that are fitted onto Humvee vehicles in three hours by soldiers in the field. "The Pentagon right now, in its postdebacle spin, is trying to convince everyone that contractors are operating at peak capacity," Salmon told The Arizona Republic. "In our case it's flat-out not accurate."
He [Salmon] said the firm is producing about 300 armor kits a month but easily can ship twice that many.
The $30 million contract the Pentagon awarded ArmorWorks in September called for the Tempe factory to produce 1,500 armor kits by January. Salmon said 1,200 already have been shipped, but ArmorWorks hasn't been told whether it will be offered a new contract. "We haven't been told anything about what's going on," he said.