Monday, July 12, 2004

Coming up Short

The Army is running short of vital supplies from bullets to body armor. So what’s its latest priority?

They’re ordering 30 million flags--P.D.Q!

For years, soldiers got to wear a U.S. flag patch on their right sleeve if they went into battle overseas.

Now the army wants all it’s soldiers to wear the patch no matter where they‘re stationed. They want five flags for every soldier but they don’t have enough.

It’s a big business opportunity for a modern day Betsy Ross--with her own textile mill.

This is just the latest, and perhaps the least, in a series of army shortages.

Other shortages have been a bit more critical:

*American troops had to cannibalize captured Iraqi equipment to keep U.S. equipment going during the war in Iraq, according to new Army reports.

*The army couldn’t come up with enough modern body armor for troops in Iraq in late 2003.

*And the military’s sole small arms ammunition factory in Independence, Missouri, hasn’t kept up with demand since 9/11

They still can’t turn out enough bullets.

The Army’s turned to private companies to produce 70 million rounds a month to take up the slack. Even with the help, they won’t be fully restocked until sometime in 2005.

These shortages are especially tough on the National Guard, which faces more that the regular Army.

The Newark Star-Ledger reports that if all the National Guard went to war, one-in-five guardsmen would have to go unarmed.

And Arkansas’ 39th Infantry Brigade--along with a North Carolina unit--are the first Guard units since the Korean War given full responsibility for part of a combat zone.

They had to borrow Humvees--those big, all all-purpose, SUVs--from Guard units in Kentucky and Ohio.

The Arkansans’ Humvees weren’t armored for combat.

The Army’s fixing the problem. They’re spending $225 million to upgrade armor on the vehicles in Arkansas and other states.

They should be ready and waiting--sometime after the 39th get home from the war.

But they’ve been given top priority for getting their flag patches.

(Terry Turner reports from Washington where he is always well supplied with tales of Uncle Sam’s shortages and questionable priorities.)

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