On Friday night, Rep. Duncan Hunter, former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and now its ranking Republican member, appeared on the Hannity and Colmes show on Fox, and I was astonished to hear him castigated for failing to see that our troops in Iraq needed equipment.
He was specifically challenged on matter of the alleged lack of body armor for our troops in Iraq, and the administration’s alleged failure to ensure that our troops had the protection the armor affords them.
Ignored were certain inconvenient facts such as the amount of body armor that was available under Bill Clinton, which was zero. Today under President Bush and thanks to Duncan Hunter’s work in the Armed Services Committee, which authorized the funds to purchase the body armor, the armed services have one million sets of body armor. That’s one million!
It’s puzzling to see the media ignore the disastrous cutbacks in our armed services that took place under Bill Clinton, and the extraordinary efforts of the Bush administration and Hunter’s committee to beef up our military.
Under Clinton, for example, the number of armored Humvees available to the military was a pitiful 1,300. Under President Bush it’s over 26,000.
And it was not just Clinton who sapped our strength — Congress under the Democrats has just turned thumbs down on the Pentagon’s request for $4.75 billion for the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles that can safeguard our troops from the IED explosions which are responsible for a large part of the deaths and wounding of our soldiers and Marines.
Instead of funding that vital request in the $124 billion supplemental bill passed this week, the Democrats were able to find billions for such things as subsidies for spinach farmers and the shrimp industry, but not a dime for a vehicle that could save the lives of thousands of our troops in Iraq.
It’s instructive to look at what happened to the 1st Cavalry Division under Bill Clinton and what its strength is today under George Bush.
In 2000, the division had three brigades, – M1A2 (base-design Abrams tanks, Bradley A2 (base-design tanks), the situational awareness of the battlefield was provided solely by soldiers on the ground calling in spot reports, communications were by line-of-sight radio, there was no armor protection for Humvees, there was no connectivity between services, and the brigades had a mere 1,600 radios.
In 2006, however, the division had four brigades with more maneuver-capable companies. They had the M1A2 System Enhancement Package including improved armor, independent thermal sights, and embedded digital command systems. Their Bradley A3 tanks had improved armor, and embedded digital command systems. Battlefield situational awareness was enhanced by unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles (UAVs) integrated by Army Battle Command Systems (Network Centric Warfare). Communications were by a digital command-and-control network, including satellites. All Tactical Wheeled Vehicles off the forward operating bases were to be armored and radios in a Brigade numbered 2,500.
The facts is that this president, along with Duncan Hunter and others, sought to give the military all the equipment they need because when they came in there was no equipment thanks to the skeltonizing of our armed forces under Bill Clinton.
Under Bill Clinton we heard such horror stories as our soldiers and sailors going without essential training because equipment was broken and there were no parts to fix it. There were reports of maintenance crews "cannibalizing" other pieces of equipment to make Band-Aid repairs on equipment that has worn out.
One observer warned that because no new tanks were purchased in 1995, there was a clear danger that by 2005 the tanks available would be older than the soldiers driving them. Thanks to President Bush and Duncan Hunter that was not allowed to happen.
Under President Clinton our military was drastically downsized. Under the new Democratic leadership in Congress our troops are now being denied the funding they need to prevail in Iraq.
Once again I have to ask why they want us to lose another war. Wasn’t losing in Vietnam enough?