Powerline Denouement Posted by: Jon Henke
on Monday, January 03, 2005
Last week, in a couple of posts I noted a factually deficient Powerline post, outlined the reasons it was incorrect, asked for a correction, and, finally, noted their non-responsiveness. It was, I thought, instructive to note that our frequent complaints about an oft-incorrect and stubborn mainstream media are just as likely to occur with bloggers.
Well, I've had an exchange with John Hinderaker of Powerline, so I thought I'd update you with the outcome. I don't have permission to use his verbage, so I won't. In order:
Monday [12/27], I wrote to Powerline to note that what they called a "hoax" was, in fact, perfectly accurate. I also wrote that "[i]f you have some additional information, I'd be interested in it.". I received no response.
Thursday [12/30], mid-afternoon, I wrote to Powerline, noting their "disillusionment--if that's the right word--with the policies of the Star-Trib", and noting that I'd previously told them of an incorrect assertion they'd made. Yet, while they have made a name by castigating news organizations for slow/non-existent corrections, they had not even responded to my note.
I received no response until after the second email, when John Hinderaker (HindRocket) sent an abrupt, angry email claiming that a) he'd already responded, b) I'd responded positively to their defense, and, finally, c) asking me not to bother them with the subject again.
Only, I'd never gotten an email from them, nor--obviously--written back in reply. I emailed back to note this, and to ask them to tell me whether I was being "spoofed". Hinderaker was kind enough to look up the email, whereupon he discovered that the original emailer had simply copied my post, and he'd assumed it had come from me. [note: I did not know his correspondent, nor had I encouraged any email be sent to them]
No apology was forthcoming, and Hinderaker merely reiterated the posts he'd already written, adding that I didn't understand what "level 3" armor was. It was all a matter of opinion, you see.
But is it? I didn't think so, and I still don't. In the post in question, Powerline wrote: [slightly reformatted for our purposes]
"8. The report that Donald Rumsfeld was confronted by troops in Iraq about the fact that they did not have enough armor on their vehicles and were having to scrounge for makeshift armor to protect themselves."
The latter "here" link addressed a completely non sequitur claim that Rumsfeld had "cut off" the Guardsman. Perhaps a good point, but completely irrelevant to the assertion they're calling "hoax".
The first "here" link is the only relevant one. In that post, Hinderaker writes that his impression is "that the Army is responding appropriately to the risks posed by improvised explosive devices, and there is basically no story here."
There are two problems here:
1: Everything the soldier said to Rumsfeld was correct. Here's his quote. Note that even the DoD transcript includes "applause", so this quite obviously rang true with at least some of the soldiers there...
Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. My question is more logistical. Weve had troops in Iraq for coming up on three years and weve always staged here out of Kuwait. Now why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromise ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles and why dont we have those resources readily available to us? [Applause]
Q: Yes, Mr. Secretary. Our soldiers have been fighting in Iraq for coming up on three years. A lot of us are getting ready to move north relatively soon. Our vehicles are not armored. Were digging pieces of rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass thats already been shot up, dropped, busted, picking the best out of this scrap to put on our vehicles to take into combat. We do not have proper armament vehicles to carry with us north.
2: The Military didn't "do everything they could" until after the Soldier confronted Rumsfeld, and the Army's handwaving about last-resort "locally produced" armor that soldiers are having to muster up themselves....never addresses that point.
Hinderaker--after reading the DoD briefing on the uparmor issue--calls it a "hoax", because "the Army is responding appropriately".
But were they? Installing Level 3 Armor, while a perfectly acceptable stop-gap measure, is only that...a stop-gap measure, until Level 1 or 2 armor can be implemented. And was the Army "responding appropriately" in an attempt to uparmor the vehicles to Level 1 or 2 as fast as possible?
Quite simply, for whatever combination of reasons, no.
Despite Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's assertion that the military is outfitting Humvees with armor as quickly as possible, the company providing the vehicles said it has been waiting since September for approval from the Pentagon to increase monthly production by as many as 100 of the all-terrain vehicles, intended to protect against roadside bombs in Iraq.
Army officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged yesterday that they have not approved new purchase orders for armored trucks, despite the company's readiness to produce more. They said the Pentagon has been debating how many more armored Humvees are needed.
But executives at Armor Holdings in Jacksonville, Fla., as well as Army officials and members of Congress, said Rumsfeld's assertion that the protective equipment is being provided as quickly as possible is not true and added the company has been waiting for more purchase orders.
"We're prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month," ...
The company says that by February it could be producing as many as 550 fully armored Humvees per month -- with armor plates on the sides, front, rear, top, and bottom -- if given the go-ahead. The company estimated it would cost the military about $150 million a year to pay for the additional 100 vehicles per month.
The company said it also told the Army it could add new production lines and turn out even more vehicles.
Not only could Armor Holdings produce more 22% armor almost immediately, they could build entirely new production lines to boost the armor production even further. And, until the Soldier questioned Rumsfeld, the Dod had done......nothing.
And Powerline calls this "responding appropriately"? Well, it may explain their approach to correspondence and corrections, but it's hardly a good standard for the US Military.
All of that to say that, when push comes to shove, the Blogosphere really isn't all that different from the Mainstream Media they/we criticize.
Only, in my experience, the NYTimes has been far more responsive...and pleasant.
Exactly the point I was making,regarding the armor installations, Dale; Thanks for expaninding on it.
My guess, here,is tha even assuming the request came form the DOD for "pin the meters" manufactiuring levels, at the onset of the war, (Inadvisable for the reasons already discussed on this blog... we'd still be waiting for the production to get ramped up by the time the Iraqi elections were over.
Hardly the scandal it's being made out as, then. And the implications of that on the current discussion about it being a hoax or not, follow.
Whatever the lag-time, the only operative fact (with respect to this specific issue, anyway) is that the DoD didn't have it "pegged".....until immediately after the soldier asked the question. But, when it became an issue, they were able to ramp it up.
Now, whatever the reason for that failure--major or minor--and whatever your belief about the responsibility for that failure--and I doubt it goes to Rumsfeld--it was a failure.
Alright, over to you, then. What component of the soldiers statement--which drew attention to the lack of sufficient armor--was inaccurate? Because, if you're going to call it a "hoax", then you've got to point out an inaccuracy.
As I've pointed out in this post--and previous posts--the soldiers claim checks out. The Army's pushback merely pointed out that those soldiers had gone to the trouble of scrounging up some Level 3 armor. Hardly a contradiction of what the soldier said.
Jon, you've strayed off the path and dug yourself a hole.
Power Line is wrong to call Wilson's question a hoax.
You are wrong to stray off into the "reacted appropriately" domain.
Wilson was scrounging for steel and ballistic glass for vehicles. Humvees has become a red herring in this discussion and you've swallowed it like a drunk frat boy.
Interesting that we were at max production until September 2004, a year after the Army reacted, and that has become an evidentiary point. In reality, the Army was shifting focus from Humvees, having reached a high percentage of that vehicle being armored as its initial top priority. Production priority was shifting (appropriately?) to heavier trucks that were not being used for patrolling but for logistics.
"Appropriately" is not a clear case. "Hoax" is clearly wrong.
It would be nice if you made your own corrections in light of this.
I'm just commenting to note that I have not received a reply from Jon Henke, nor has a correction, update, or further explanation been provided since my previous comment.
Since comments are not date/time stamped, I am posting this at approximately 10 AM EST, 4 Jan 2004.
1. The question posed by Wilson was not a hoax because it addressed his reaction to scrounging materials to armor vehicles (a broad category). Why have to scrounge these materials rather than have the materials available in Kuwait? Wilson was not question Level 1 versus Level 3 armor, nor was he distinguishing Humvees from any other vehicle. These peripheral issues, although interesting and valid for discussion, have nothing to do with the validity of Wilson's question or the credibility of the situation he described.
2. Whether the Army "responded appropriately" to the threat that required armor as a defensive measure on vehicles driven into Iraq (as opposed to those transported unarmored for on base use) is a seperate issue to whether Wilson's question was a hoax. The answer could be that the Army did respond appropriately and this would still not invalidate Wilson's question. It is a mistake to conflate the two and an injustice really to Wilson.
3. The threat presented itself in the summer of 2003, and the Army responded at that time. The army prioritized Humvees. My understanding is this is for two reasons: 1) risk assessment of unarmored Humvees being used on patrol, in combat missions, and interbase transport; 2) ability to design and produce armor kits without significantly degrading performance or safety of Humvee. By the summer of 2004, the risk assessment was shifting priority to uparmor other vehicles. Using the September 2004 increased production capability of Level 1 armored Humvees is misleading for a number of reasons (one Dale points out above).
The Army expects to armor all of its 35,115 vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, service officials said at a Dec. 15 Pentagon briefing. As of mid-December, 61 percent of the vehicles deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan carried some level of armor protection.
The army awarded 5 contracts in December, weeks after "the question". They included:
Stewart & Stevenson Tactical Vehicle Systems, Sealy, Texas, received a $27.4 million contract for 545 low-signature armor cabs for the Armys Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles;.
AM General, Mishawaka, Ind., received $21.6 million for Humvee engine compartment hoods;.
Simula Aerospace and Defense Group, Phoenix, Ariz., received two contracts, including a $19 million deal for an additional 602 add-on armor crew protection kits for the M915A2, M915A3 and M915A4 series of tactical vehicles; and one valued at $15.4 million for an additional 404 add-on kits for the Palletized Load System series of tactical vehicles.
Radian, Alexandria, Va., received a $7.1 million contract for 305 Add-on Armor Crew Protection Kits with Air Conditioning for the M915 and M915A1 Tactical Vehicles.
This really isn't apropos of anything except to remind everyone that although the argument seems to have centered about Humvees, it was never only about Humvees.
Tim: I just now saw your comment for the first time. For whatever reason, your two posts were not emailed to me, as comments usually are.
However, I'd note that I've always refer to vehicles, and not Humvees. So it's kinda hard to see what you're criticizing. My point has always been that there was unused capacity to uparmor that the Military did not pursue until it was brought up publicly.
But the point here, is that that unused capacity is more an issue of the amount of time needed to ramp up production, vs the immidiate need for such vehicles.
In the initial attack, such heavier vehicles were neither needed nor desired, if speed was the issue.
Once the situation changed and that change and need was identified, the issue of how long it would take to respond comes up. Had the orders gone out as soon as they need was identified, the armor would still not be in the feild... (Fully, at least) ...by the time the question was asked of Rumsfeld.
Clearly the implication of the question was "Why are you risking our lives on shitty equippment, and then covering it up?" And THAT implication starts being taken as fact by an anti-war crowd desperate to believe anything that makes the Administration look bad. Given these conditions, that constitutes a hoax on the American people in my mind.
As I've said in this blog poreviously; I don't doubt the soldier's question was made in good faith. What I question (Heavy on the disdain) is how that question was taken up and run with by the left wing mouths in the mainstream press. And the distinction between the two, it seems to me is what gets lost in the shuffle. AS IT WAS DESIGNED to do by the reporter that put the soldier up to it in the first place.
Had the orders gone out as soon as they need was identified, the armor would still not be in the feild... (Fully, at least) ...by the time the question was asked of Rumsfeld.
True. But they'd have been in the field sooner than they will be now.
Which, really, is the important issue, isn't it? The *only* relevant question is: is the military pursuing the most effective, efficient course to achieve their goal, while protecting the troops? Unless the military can give me a *very* good reason why those vehicles were not armored as soon as they could be, it seems to me that it was a failure.
Mistakes happen. I understand that. But when they do, it's worth pointing them out. And this was a mistake.
However, I'd note that I've always refer to vehicles, and not Humvees. So it's kinda hard to see what you're criticizing.
I laid out my three criticisms clearly, I thought, above. My specific criticism on the vehicles versus Humvees is your second point:
The Military didn't "do everything they could" until after the Soldier confronted Rumsfeld, and the Army's handwaving about last-resort "locally produced" armor that soldiers are having to muster up themselves....never addresses that point.
What evidence did you provide that "The Military didn't "do everything they could" until after the Soldier confronted Rumsfeld" was the recent (September 2004) increased capacity for adding Level 1 armor to Humvees (newly produced?) elsewhere.
My criticism on this point is two-fold:
First, the distinction between "do everything they could" and "responding appropriately". Responding appropriately means, to me, identifying which vehicle(s) were at the greatest risk, what actions could be taken to reduce that risk in the shortest amount of time, and applying the necessary resources to reduce the greatest amount of risk in the least amount of time.
My understanding is that in the summer/fall of 2003, the military assessed the Humvee to be at the greatest risk, rushed designs for armor protection for Humvees that did not have the engine/frame/support for armor that variants (M1114) have, and rushed production of Level 1 and Level 2 armored Humvees/kits.
At the same time, armor protection for other vehicles were being designed and tested for Level 1 and Level 2. For engineering and risk assessment reasons, these vehicles could not be armored as easily/quickly as the Humvee and for utility reasons faced a lower threat.
Prior to Wilson's question, the military was shifting its priority to these other vehicles. September 2004, Armor Holdings informs the Pentagon it has the capacity to armor Humvees at a higher rate. But the Pentagon is shifting focus from Humvees and putting resources to other vehicles rather than increasing production for a Humvee fleet that is complete, or nearly complete for Iraq.
Was it convenient that Armor Holdings' press release followed Wilson's question and they get a contract to up production to quell political criticism of the Pentagon?
Did the military "respond appropriately" concerning Humvees? I think they did.
Did the military "respond appropriately" concerning other vehicles? I'm not convinced because Humvees have overshadowed the discussion.
Could the military have responded appropriately in all cases and Wilson would still be scrounging metal and ballistic glass? Sure. The military scrounges and recycles barrier material, metal and ballistic glass. Other units guidons, too. (Heh.)
Responding appropriately doesn't make Wilson's question a hoax.
My second criticism of this point is that in your previous posts, you argued effectively and narrowly that the defense of the military being provided that 810 of 830 vehicles had been armored was because, in part, of the efforts by Wilson and others to scrounge the materials for Level 3 armor - thereby validating Wilson's question not invalidating as a hoax.
It doesn't matter what type of vehicle or what Level of armor.
In fact, if the military had sent the raw steel and ballistic glass in the required thickness so that Wilson's scrounging was superfluous, I would be more sympathic to critics of his question. But seemingly, he did have to scrounge to have the materials to Level 3 armor their vehicles.
One concern I have, based on speculation, is there has been no discussion about the results (both good and bad) of adding armor to all these vehicles.
What evidence did you provide that "The Military didn't "do everything they could"
Over the course of this issue, I believe I--and McQ--have linked to instances of the military ordering more armor, for which there was unused capacity....but only after the question had been asked.
Which necessarily implies that the capability to uparmor was there, and the military did not use it until after the issue became contested.
NOTE: for some strange reason, your comments are not being emailed to me, as happens with pretty much every other comment. I'm not sure why this is happening, but I only saw your comment when I happened to look all the way down the page and see this post. I'm not sure why that is, but my apologies for being slow in responding.
This is my last comment to the Powerline Denouement thread.
We're not making progress toward an understanding. Your previous two posts on this topic did not address whether the military had "respond[ed] appropriately", but addressed directly and with the appropriate scope whether Wilson's question was valid based on his efforts to scrounge material for vehicle armor.
If a contract after Wilson's question is evidence of not responding appropriately, contracts before the question are evidence of having responded appropriately. If your standard is that not every type of vehicle was armored within days of the first roadside bomb attack, then the military did not "respond appropriately", nor could it have and you can be satisfied that you're right. Otherwise, establish what rate for each vehicle based on risk, resources and available capacity you consider "responding appropriately" and make this argument with the context of a timeline and progress chart.
One point, Mr. Henke, I heard of Fox News shortly after the Rumsfeld Q&A session that the capacity was not 'unused' it was not allocated to the US. The armor company was making armor kits for other nations with Humvees - Taiwan or Singapore I believe.
After the armor kits became an issue the comapny said that it could push cpacity *beyond* its normal levels and place foreign contracts on hold to give the US military all of the output.
Both of these actions may lead to higher costs for the US military per unit, since the extra output will require more labor - possibly on overtime pay scales, and because they company may charge more in the event that foreign contracts are lost after being placed on hold.
Otherwise, establish what rate for each vehicle based on risk, resources and available capacity you consider "responding appropriately" and make this argument with the context of a timeline and progress chart.
I think it's very simple: the military is obligated to provide the most protection within its power, without sacrificing strategic objectives.
If it was in their power to uparmor the vehicles at the rate of 550/unit of time--and it was--then uparmoring them at the rate of 450/unit of time represents a dead-weight loss of 100 vehicles/unit of time.
That is a failure. The Military's obligation was not to armor the vehicles as soon as IEDs turned up. It was merely to do the most possible. And, for some period, they fell 100 vehicles short per unit of time.
the capacity was not 'unused' it was not allocated to the US.
While noting that I'd like to see the citation for that, I'd still point out that it was allocated to the US the day after the soldier spoke up. I fail to see what prevented that from being allocated to the US before the soldier spoke up.