Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pimp Their Rides

The Army is finally copping to what we all know to be true: the Humvees ain't working. Just not cutting the mustard. So, to counter it, they're off and running to conjure up a better vehicle, and this time they want to do it right.

"Survivability is our primary concern," says Jeff Bradel, project officer at the Office of Naval Research, which is overseeing prototype development for the Marines. Unlike the Humvee, originally designed for tasks behind the lines, the next vehicle will be a fighter from the start, he says.

The original Humvee design worked well in the Persian Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere, says Thomas Donnelly, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a research organization. The Iraq war has forced the vehicle into doing what "it was never contemplated that it would do," including battling bomb-wielding insurgents in today's urban combat.

Again, this is an important lesson in Military Force Transformation. Lighter isn't better, especially when we're talking nation-building, occupation, guerilla war, or whatever you want to call it to euphemize the reality. Rumsfeld's stated goals of a smaller, lighter, faster force have hit the reality in Iraq like a brick wall. We've consistently needed more boots and heavier armor to deal with urban warfare. At least all of that is being acknowledged in the plans for this new vehicle. Maybe the best route is slower, heavier, and more numerous.