A NYTimes report, republished on CorpWatch, reports how the Marine Corps loves the Cougar,a vehicle designed to take the impact of a mine with inexpensive damage
and no casualties. "Drop your purse, it’s not a Hummer" is the manufacturer’s statement for those wanting to compare the Humvee with this beast. Should we get these vehicle into the field, and if so, how quickly can we? Should Force Protection’s other vehicle, the Buffalo, also be considered and acquired for a battlefield without forward or rear areas?
Government bureaucracy is notoriously slow and Defence Department procurement is even slower, perhaps not as slow as molasses going uphill in winter, but certainly not quick. The NY Times described inane procurement friction at a time when the enemy is fluid, flexible, and quick learning (see The Net and Terrorists).
In January , when military officials tried to speed production by buying
the legal rights to the armor design so they could enlist other venders
to help, the prime contractor demurred, calling the move a threat to
its "current and future competitive position," according to e-mail
records obtained from the Army.
How flexible can the huge US military complex get to supply new equipment? How flexible should it be? It is obvious that outsourcing procurement to Halliburton with its history, both pre-war and present, of taking advantage of cost-plus contracts.
Modern armies, beginning with Napoleon, run, first and foremost, on their logistical prowess. This one of Napoleon’s strategic advantages over his adversaries, leading him to both victory and failure when it failed. Swift and effective procurement without middlemen (i.e. no outsourcing) is essential to successfully meet a fast-learning enemy.
The deployment of the Cougar is coming together with successful reviews all-around.
“We’ve been operating for two years now, and we’ve had one broken wrist
in a Buffalo…We’ve taken out explosives that would take out
an Abrams tank.”
–Force Protection VP
However, this can’t be filed away simply as allowing the appropriate testing to complete. This episode should be filed with delays in acquiring body armor: it can’t be slowed and allowed to drag because it will cost lives.