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DoD Examines High Operational Tempo's Effect on Equipment

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 19, 2005 – Equipment that servicemembers are using in Iraq and Afghanistan is getting years worth of use in just one year on the ground, and the Defense Department is taking steps to ensure the tanks, Bradleys, Strykers, Humvees, helicopters, and unmanned aerial vehicles stay in a high state of readiness.

No one is going into combat in substandard equipment, a DoD report concluded.

The report -- "Ground Force Equipment Repair, Replacement and Recapitalization Requirements Resulting from Sustained Combat Operations" -- went to Congress last week.

The department was concerned about the effect prolonged combat would have on equipment even before Congress asked for the issue to be examined.

"Equipment is being used at a much higher rate than it is in peacetime -- two to eight times higher, depending on the piece of equipment you are talking about," said Mark Franklin Cancian, director of the Land Forces Division of DoD's Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation. "As a result, it needs a lot more maintenance."

In addition, problems caused by the high operational tempo are further aggravated by the harsh environmental conditions. Equipment operating in Iraq and Afghanistan face problems from dust, dirt and heat, Cancian said. Other equipment, especially trucks and Humvees, are running with added armor, which taxes the engines, springs and brakes.

The Abrams tank is a perfect example of the extent of the problem. In peacetime, Abrams tanks drive about 65 miles a month. In Iraq, soldiers are driving them about 325 miles each month.

Other pieces of equipment have similar statistics. Humvees are being driven more than twice as far each month as in peacetime. Armored security vehicles are being driven about eight times as much, and Bradley fighting vehicles about five times their peacetime average. And helicopters are being flown about twice as much as in peacetime.

"The question we asked was, 'What's the long-term effect of combat operations on our equipment?'" Cancian said.

DoD used the results of the study to help inform officials for the fiscal 2005 supplemental budget request. That request funds all the work that can be accomplished this fiscal year to repair or replace equipment. Portions of the $82 billion request fund depot maintenance and procurement actions

Cancian said a lot of maintenance is done in theater. Most equipment does not have to be shipped back to the states for major overhauls. When equipment does get shipped back, some maintenance is done in the units and some in depots. The depots have "all the funding and capacity to do the work."

There are some equipment "washouts," and there is procurement money in the supplemental to cover pieces of equipment that are not economical to fix. Cancian said these washouts are mostly trucks. Combat losses also need to be replaced.

Most procurements can be handled by current production lines, Cancian said. But some, such as the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior observation helicopter, have been discontinued. The Army will accept some risk in using this helicopter until a replacement comes on line in fiscal 2007 or 2008.

"The risk isn't that we can't fight a war," he said. "It means units may have to rotate more quickly than they otherwise would."

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