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Published: Monday, 4/18/2005

Holes in the armor

The U.S. military has occupied Iraq for two years now, but many of its 150,000 troops still haven't been provided with all the proper equipment they need to do their job. This inexcusable state of affairs contradicts promises made by President Bush and Pentagon officials after news reports that inadequate planning in the run-up to the war had forced soldiers to scrounge for scrap metal to protect humvees and trucks from roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.

The bottom line is that our fighting men and women remain unnecessarily vulnerable to insurgent attacks. That those attacks reportedly have slowed in recent weeks is cold comfort to those in the war zone.

Reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer, who documented this scandalous situation, found that military personnel still are resorting to Dumpster diving for metal plate to armor some vehicles.

In a separate report, the Government Accountability Office, Congress' investigative arm, said that "systematic deficiencies" in the military supply chain resulted in shortages of not only vehicle armor but protective vests for troops, batteries, tires, generators, and even packaged meals.

As of March, the GAO said, the Army had put in place some protection for all 35,000 of its vehicles in Iraq. But 11,700 of them were retrofitted only with sheets of steel, too flimsy to meet military specifications for protection.

A Pentagon spokesman said that steps already have been taken "to eliminate these deficiencies," but there is little reason to believe the brass hats now.

That's what they said six months ago.

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