Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Magazine article National Defense

Washington Pulse

Article excerpt

ARMY GRUNTS WILL BE 'MILLION-DOLLAR' MEN

The cost of equipping soldiers has escalated dramatically since the beginning of the war in Iraq, says the Army's top deputy for acquisition. Some troops in specialized jobs today carry more than $100,000 in gear.

Equipping a soldier with basic gear for Vietnam cost $2,000. The same equipment now costs $25,000. "When we start adding other things-such as communications gear-you get close to $100,000," says Lt. Gen. Joseph Yakovac.

The trend is alarming, Yakovac says. "I believe eventually we are heading to the 'million-dollar' man."

This could create huge financial problems for the Army, he warns. "If this nation wants this Army to be capable ... our dollar requirements will continue to grow."

'THOUGHT POLICE' DISPLEASED BY GENERAL'S MEMO

Senior Pentagon officials were not amused when a memo written by the U.S. general in charge of Army Reserve forces was leaked to the news media last December. The memo by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly criticized the current reserve mobilization process-in place since 1952-as out of step with the times. The Army, he wrote in the summer of 2002, is "burdened by industrial-age mobilization policies."

After the memo turned up on major newspapers' front pages, Helmly's executive officer got a call from the Pentagon "thought police," he recalls during a speech to an industry conference. The unnamed official accused Helmly of a "direct attack" on the Defense Department by calling the mobilization process "industrial-age."

"The thought police didn't want the 'industrial-age' term used," says Helmly. However, he adds, "I was vindicated 18 months later when I saw the secretary of defense on CSPAN attacking the industrial-age mobilization process."

ARTILLERY VS. AIR POWER DISPUTE CONTINUES

The turf feud between the Air Force and the Army on how best to destroy targets on the ground continues unabated.

A rivalry between supporters of ground-based artillery and those who favor air-delivered firepower surfaced in open debates after Operation Anaconda, in March 2002, when U.S. forces fought Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives in the Shah-i-Kot mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

The Air Force was criticized for failing to provide timely close air-support to Army troops. Air Force officers now privately complain that the Army is more interested in protecting its artillery assets and programs than in figuring out how to fight together more effectively.

"The Army thinks of the Air Force as a cannon," says an Air Force wing commander. …

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