Statement Of Sen. Alexander - Senate Budget Committee Hearing On The President's Fiscal Year 2006 Defense Budget

Posted on March 1, 2005

Senator Alexander: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you to each of you for being here, and thank you for your service. I would like to get an update about armor on combat vehicles - vehicles in combat zones in Iraq. One of our Tennessee guardsmen from the 278th Cavalry Division last December got pretty famous for asking a question of the Secretary of Defense. The question went along the lines of why he and his colleagues were having to scrounge around in junkyards to properly arm their vehicles. That struck a cord with a lot of people in Tennessee. We prize and honor all of our service men and women, but the 278th is our largest National Guard unit - there are 3,000 of them - they had just arrived in Iraq. They are three deputy sheriffs from my home county, the school superintendent from Athens, the mayor of Lexington, so we know them all, they're all in our community and their lives have been interrupted for 18 months - which they're all proud to do. My question is - and you've been good about keeping me updated about the progress you've been making toward making sure they have armor for those vehicles - I've been told that by June 2005, just a few months away, that all of the vehicles in the combat zone will have level one or two armor. I wonder if we're still on that track, if you can describe for me what that means and tell me what I should be saying to the families of those 3,000 guardsmen about the level of armor on vehicles in the combat zone in Iraq? General Peter Pace, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Senator, thank you. I can respond to that, and you are correct. By the summer 2005, we will have all the vehicles with the level one or level two armor. You have, through funding, allowed us to ramp up some building for example - 35 up armored humvee's per month to 450 per month now, going to 550 a month in about a month in a half. You have given us the money we need to give every single soldier, sailor, airman, marine and U.S. government civilian complete protected body armor. We were able to ramp up the focus on level three armor - which as you know is armor produced here and put on over there - so that by February 15, General Casey, the commander of the ground over there, was able to announce that no vehicles would leave and travel throughout Iraq unless they were properly armored. So he had gotten to the point where he could put out that kind of an order. Of the 35,000 wheeled vehicles in Iraq right now, 28,000 are currently protected by armor - the other 7,000 are being worked on - so the whole program and the billions of dollars that Congress has allocated and the focus of effort to include taking sailors who are welders on ships and getting them over to Kuwait to put on this armor has had a tremendous impact. Sen. Alexander: General, if you could conclude by - if I were explaining in plain English to families in Tennessee - what does level one and level two armor mean on a vehicle? What would you suggest I say? How would I explain it so that they'll understand that? General Pace: Sir, you can tell Mom Pace that her son, Peter, will be protected from rifle fire in a vehicle that he is traveling in and that some of the explosive devices - he will be protected from that as well. The difference between level one and level two is only where it is put on. Level one is made here in the United States, and it is made a part of the vehicle as it is being produced. Level two is the exact same armor shipped to the theater, then put on in theater. It would be like putting a stereo in your car either bought in the factory when it's delivered to you or taking the same stereo and putting it in when you get the car. Sen. Alexander: And no level three - which is improvising - which was finding scrap metal and using it to make a vehicle that wasn't properly armored better armored. Is that right? General Pace: Level three and the way it has been described makes it sound like the "Beverly Hillbilly's" - which it is not. It was very good protective armor but in fact it was metal that was available in theater that had been in theater for other reasons and was used to properly armor vehicles to the metal protection of rifles - what was not part of level three was the ballistic glass protection that is part of level one and two.