Magazine article National Defense

Readers Forum

Magazine article National Defense

Readers Forum

Article excerpt

Ammunition Shortfalls

I read with deep concern the President's Perspective, "U.S. Facing Alarming Ammunition Shortfalls," in your April issue. I was employed as a deputy assistant secretary of defense (supply, maintenance, transportation) for 21 years, until I retired in 1981. Just before President Johnson made the decision to increase substantially our combat activities in Vietnam, my office along with the Joint Staff reviewed our logistics posture at that time.

The results of our findings were not encouraging to say the least. We found that the Air Force and the Navy were in short supply of 500, 1,000 and 3,000 pound bombs. For the bombs we had on hand, we had shortages of fins and fuses. In too many cases, we had fins and fuses that did not mate with the bombs. We went immediately into crash procurement. As I recall, it took us six months to get the 500-pound bomb, a longer time to get our first 1,000 pound bomb and about one year to get the first 3,000 pounder.

Little or no funds had been provided to keep even warm production bases going. This seems to happen after every war we have been engaged in. Thus, the manufacturers of our bombs and other munitions items had shifted their production capacity to other products. The Defense Department's own ammunition production plants had been allowed to go cold. To reestablish these commercial and in-house facilities was, as one would expect, very expensive.

There was only one airfield in Vietnam. We needed about seven to support logistics and combat operations in that country. Only the Marine Corps had a small amount of steel airfield-landing mats. The number of Construction Battalions in the Army and Air Force has been allowed to diminish considerably and were unable to perform airfield construction. So, we had to let a contract to a commercial construction company to build the airfields we needed. And, at what a cost! There were other items in short supply that were needed to support our activities in Vietnam.

The article by Lawrence P. Farrell Jr. seems to indicate that history is repeating itself.

I would like to suggest that NDIA propose a joint effort with the appropriate staff at the Pentagon to develop production policies, procedures, staffing, facilities and costs, etc., required to establish and perpetuate industrial capacity to provide for our national security in the years ahead.

Paul H. Riley


Non-Lethal Weapons

Many articles have appeared lately on non-lethal microwave, weapons, designed to disperse crowds with a painful (yet temporary) heat sensation. One such reference is in National Defense (April 2002, p. 42), entitled "Technologies for Special Ops Aimed at Transformation."

As I recall, a motivation for the DumDum bullet was the need to stop fanatics, who with the assistance of various drugs, were able to press an attack even after having been hit with one or more conventional rounds.

I can imagine modern fanatics taking painkillers, in anticipation of the use of microwave weapons. Oblivious to the pain, could they continue their advance? I expect our forces would keep their small arms ready for this potential countermeasure.

Mike Walter


Logistics Truck

Your article in the April 2002 issue, "Heavy-Duty Hauler Pushes Limits of Truck Technology," provided some very informative details on the planned procurement of new heavy duty trucks by the Marine Corps. …

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