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Rigors of War Take Toll on U.S. Military Equipment

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22, 2003 – Fighting the global war on terrorism has been tough on U.S. military equipment, senior service leaders told members of a House Armed Services Committee panel here Oct. 21.

After conducting successive, successful campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past two years, the U.S. military is now addressing its need to refit or replace equipment.

"This near-term objective of repairing or replacing equipment returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will not be easy," Rep. Joel Hefley of Colorado, chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on readiness, observed to four senior officers representing each of the military services.

Hefley pointed out that U.S. troops and their equipment were challenged as the result of the high tempo of operations and harsh battlefield conditions experienced in Afghanistan and Iraq. For example, the congressman cited Marine Corps experiences of sand getting into tactical helicopters while deployed. Mechanics working on Marine Super Stallion CH-53-E's, he continued, have found an average of 150 pounds of fine sand distributed "throughout the aircraft."

U.S. success during Operation Iraqi Freedom "was not without costs" to military hardware, acknowledged Gen. William Nyland, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

During the Marines' charge from Kuwait to Tikrit, Iraq, "a good deal of our equipment, while performing admirably, suffered some form of failure or battle damage," the leatherneck four-star general told subcommittee members.

Consequently, the Marine Corps is addressing its need for "additional supplies and maintenance," Nyland noted, "funding for which is included" in the fiscal 2004 budget supplemental request now before Congress.

The Army's deputy chief of staff for operations, Gen. Richard Cody, noted that U.S. military successes against terrorism "have been tremendous."

However, "we must continue to resource our operations with the right equipment to complete the mission in Iraq," Cody pointed out, "and to continue the pursuit of the global war on terrorism.

Soldiers need more sets of ceramic-enhanced body armor, the Army general reported, adding that additional armored humvees also are required.

Cody said repair or replacement needs for Army equipment used in Operation Iraqi Freedom also include aviation systems, communications and electronics systems, tracked and wheeled vehicles, missile systems "and about 250,000 various other systems."

Besides here-and-now requirements, the Army also is looking to the future, Cody said, as it deploys its new Stryker personnel transport vehicles to Iraq.

Army refitting plans "are not cheap," Cody acknowledged. Yet, "the investment will pay off," he emphasized, "for we will have a force of sustainable, modernized equipment that will allow us to meet our global commitments now and in the future."

Adm. Michael Mullen, vice chief of naval operations, noted that the Navy, too, has addressed increased wear and tear on its ships and aircraft deployed in the global war against terrorism.

In March, the Navy had deployed 70 percent of its ships in simultaneous support of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Mullen said. In fact, the admiral continued, the aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Carl Vinson had been on extended deployments of 10 and eight-and a half months, respectively. Consequently, Mullen told the House panel, "funds were applied to depot maintenance for ships, aircraft, and equipment that were deployed longer than planned and, as such, incurred wear and tear beyond normally projected maintenance levels."

Additional funds also were used "to expand the scope of many planned activities to bring ships and aircraft to their proper state of current readiness to prosecute" the global war on terrorism, Mullen said.

The Air Force, too, has contributed to "two highly successful campaigns in this war," declared Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the Air Force's vice chief of staff.

Moseley praised congressional efforts over the past few years that "paved the way for the substantive increases" in funding for spare parts, depot maintenance and munitions stockpiles. Consequently, he continued, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein "met a joint force composed of the best airmen and the best equipment the world had ever seen."

Now, Moseley noted, "we must replenish our stocks, our people, and our ability to project power around the world."

To continue its dominance of the skies, he continued, the Air Force must replace its precision munitions kits, old- tech bombs, and other ordnance.

The Air Force also needs to invest in enhancements for its Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance drones, Moseley pointed out, as well as advanced sensors and communications gear.

Moseley added the Air Force is inspecting aircraft returning from overseas at the unit level to determine whether they can be reconstituted locally or need to be sent to maintenance depots for more extensive repairs. This process, he said, "will be the first step in defining the total cost and time to repair equipment at the unit and depot level."

Moseley said his service has solicited necessary funding "to replace equipment damaged beyond or consumed beyond economical repair, replenish expended stockpiles, and to upgrade some equipment as we replace them."

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