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Your tax dollars at work: Army transport vehicle puts troops at risk


Soldiers emerge from a Stryker during a battle with insurgents in Mosul, Iraq, in February. An Army study criticizes the vehicle’s performance. (Jim Macmillan/AP)

It’s unfortunate that when you sign up to serve your country, the military sends you out with resources like this. Troops are at risk from rocket-propelled grenades because the Army’s new troop transport vehicle, the General Dynamics-built Stryker, is riddled with defects — and the taxpayers’ wallet is $11 billion lighter. The Washington Post (reg req’d, excerpts at Raw Story) has a obtained a copy of the classified Army study that spills the beans.

…the Army’s Dec. 21 report, drawn from confidential interviews with operators of the vehicle in Iraq in the last quarter of 2004, lists a catalogue of complaints about the vehicle, including design flaws, inoperable gear and maintenance problems that are “getting worse not better.” Although many soldiers in the field say they like the vehicle, the Army document, titled “Initial Impressions Report — Operations in Mosul, Iraq,” makes clear that the vehicle’s military performance has fallen short.

The internal criticism of the vehicle appears likely to fuel new controversy over the Pentagon’s decision in 2003 to deploy the Stryker brigade in Iraq just a few months after the end of major combat operations, before the vehicle had been rigorously tested for use across a full spectrum of combat.

It should be noted that Army has no data in this report that confirms the number of soldiers that have been wounded while riding in the Stryker deathtrap. Some of the facts revealed in the report are almost beyond comprehension; how can the Army explain this laundry list of negligent manufacturing and testing issues to taxpayers, let alone military families:

* an armoring shield installed on Stryker vehicles to protect against unanticipated attacks by Iraqi insurgents using low-tech weapons works against half the grenades used to assault it.

* The shield is so heavy that tire pressure must be checked three times daily. Nine tires a day are changed after failing, and the current figure is “11 tire and wheel assemblies daily.”

* The main weapon system, a $157,000 grenade launcher, fails to hit targets when the vehicle is moving, contrary to its design.

* Its laser designator, zoom, sensors, stabilizer and rotating speed all need redesign – it does not work at night. Some crews removed part of the launchers because they can swivel dangerously toward the squad leader’s position.

* The vehicle’s seat belts cannot be readily latched when troops are in their armored gear, a circumstance that contributed to the deaths of three soldiers in rollover accidents.

* On the vehicle’s outside, some crews have put sand-filled tin cans around a gunner’s hatch that the report says is ill-protected.

It sounds like there was about as much attention paid by General Dynamics to the vehicle’s design and engineering as a five-year-old’s to a Lego creation. But the river of denial runs deep in the Army, even as its most precious resource, its soldiers, are placed in all-American harm’s way.

Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Speakes, the Army’s director of force development, said that when he rode in the Stryker for the first time, he “marveled at how much nicer it was” than riding in a Bradley vehicle or an older troop transport, the M113, which he likened to being inside an aluminum trash can being beaten by a hammer. He said the Stryker was “amazingly smooth” and quiet by comparison.

I think troops would trade off a smooth ride for a rough one if it raised the chances of getting back to base alive.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding