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80% of dead Marines would have survived with extra body armor!!!
  This is beyond incompetence - it's criminal!!!  Marines have had
insufficient body and vehicle armor from Day 1 - but during the same period
Bush has repeatedly stressed that the wealthy MUST be PROTECTED with tax
  Bush has managed this war on the cheap for the ones who fight and die in
his wars - while his wealthy Neiman-Marcus contributors are doing just fine
per the latest retail statistics for December.
  January 6, 2006
  Extra Armor Could Have Saved Many Lives, Study Shows 
    A secret Pentagon study has found that at least 80 percent of the
marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to their upper body could
have survived if they had extra body armor. That armor has been available
since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it
to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according
to military officials. 
  The ceramic plates in vests currently worn by the majority of military
personnel in Iraq cover only some of the chest and back. In at least 74 of
the 93 fatal wounds that were analyzed in the Pentagon study of marines from
March 2003 through June 2005, bullets and shrapnel struck the marines'
shoulders, sides or areas of the torso where the plates do not reach. 
  Thirty-one of the deadly wounds struck the chest or back so close to the
plates that simply enlarging the existing shields "would have had the
potential to alter the fatal outcome," according to the study, which was
obtained by The New York Times. 
  For the first time, the study by the military's medical examiner shows the
cost in lost lives from inadequate armor, even as the Pentagon continues to
publicly defend its protection of the troops. Officials have said they are
shipping the best armor to Iraq as quickly as possible. At the same time,
they have maintained that it is impossible to shield forces from the
increasingly powerful improvised explosive devices used by insurgents. Yet
the Pentagon's own study reveals the equally lethal threat of bullets. 
  The vulnerability of the military's body armor has been known since the
start of the war, and is part of a series of problems that have surrounded
the protection of American troops. Still, the Marine Corps did not begin
buying additional plates to cover the sides of their troops until this
September, when it ordered 28,800 sets, Marine Corps officials acknowledge. 
  The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to
purchase, according to Army procurement officials. They said the Army is
deciding between various sizes of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers; the
officials said they hope to issue contracts this month.
  Additional forensic studies by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's unit
that were obtained by The Times indicate that about 340 American troops have
died solely from torso wounds. 
  Military officials said they had originally decided against using the
extra plates because they were concerned they added too much weight to the
vests or constricted the movement of soldiers. Marine Corps officials said
the findings of the Pentagon study caused field commanders to override those
concerns in the interest of greater protection.
  "As the information became more prevalent and aware to everybody that in
fact these were casualty sites that they needed to be worried about, then
people were much more willing to accept that weight on their body," said
Major Wendell Leimbach, a body armor specialist with Marine Corps Systems
Command, the marine procurement unit.
  The Pentagon has been collecting the data on wounds since the beginning of
the war in part to determine the effectiveness of body armor. The military's
medical examiner, Craig T. Mallak, told a military panel in 2003 that the
information "screams to be published." But it would take nearly two years. 
  The Marine Corps said it asked for the data in August 2004; but it needed
to pay the medical examiner $107,000 to have the data analyzed. Marine
officials said funding and other delays resulted in the work not starting
until December 2004. It finally began receiving the information by June
2005. The shortfalls in bulletproof vests are just one of the armor problems
the Pentagon continues to struggle with as the war in Iraq approaches the
three-year mark, The Times has found in an ongoing examination of the
military procurement system.
  The production of a new armored truck called the Cougar, which military
officials said has thus far withstood every insurgent attack, has fallen
three months behind schedule. The small company making the truck has been
beset by a host of production and legal problems.
  Meanwhile, the Pentagon is still relying on another small factory in Ohio
to armor all of the military's principal transport truck, the Humvee, and it
remains backlogged with orders. The facility, owned by Armor Holdings,
increased production in December after reports in The Times about delays
drew criticism from Congress. But the Marine Corps said it is still waiting
for about 2,000 of these vehicles to replace other Humvees in Iraq that are
more lightly armored, and does not expect final delivery until June.
  An initiative begun by the Pentagon nearly two years ago to speed up
production by having additional firms armor new Humvees remains incomplete,
Army officials said.
  Body armor has gone through a succession of problems in Iraq. First, there
were prolonged shortages of the plates that make the vests bulletproof. This
year, the Pentagon began replacing the plates with a stronger model that is
more resistant to certain insurgent attacks.
  Almost from the beginning, some soldiers asked for additional protection
to stop bullets from slicing through their sides. In the fall of 2003, when
troops began hanging their crotch protectors under their arms, the Army's
Rapid Equipping Force shipped several hundred plates to protect their sides
and shoulders. Individual soldiers and units continued to buy their own
  The Army's former acting secretary, Les Brownlee, said in a recent
interview that he was shown numerous designs for expanded body armor back in
2003, and instructed his staff to weigh their benefits against the perceived
threat without losing sight of the main task: eliminating the shortages of
plates for the chest and back. 
  Army procurement officials said that their efforts to purchase side
ceramic plates have been encumbered by their much larger force, and that
they wanted to provide manufacturers with detailed specifications. Also,
they said their plates will be made to resist the stronger insurgent
  The Marines said they opted to take the older version of ceramic to speed
delivery. As of early last month, officials said marines in Iraq had
received 2,200 of the more than 28,000 sets of plates that are being bought
at a cost of about $260 each.
  Marine officials said they have supplied troops with soft shoulder
protection that can repel some shrapnel, but remain concerned that ceramic
shoulder plates would be too restrictive. Similarly, they said they believe
the chest and back plates are as large as they can be without unduly
limiting the movement of troops. 
  The Times obtained the 3-page Pentagon report after a military advocacy
group, Soldiers for the Truth, learned of its existence. The group posted an
article about the report on its website earlier this week. The Times delayed
publication of this article for more than a week until the Pentagon
confirmed the veracity of its report. Pentagon officials declined to discuss
details of the wound data, saying it would aid the enemy.
  "Our preliminary research suggests that as many as 42 percent of the
Marine casualties who died from isolated torso injuries could have been
prevented with improved protection in the areas surrounding the plated areas
of the vest," the study concludes. Another 23 percent might have been saved
with side plates that extend below the arms, while 15 percent more could
have benefited from shoulder plates, the report says. In all, 526 marines
have been killed in combat in Iraq. A total of 1,706 American troops have
died in combat.
  The findings and other research by military pathologists suggests that an
analysis of all combat deaths in Iraq, including those of Army personnel,
would show that 300 or more lives might have been saved with improved body
  Military officials and defense contractors said the Pentagon's procurement
troubles have stemmed in part from miscalculations that underestimated the
strength of the insurgency, and from years of cost-cutting that left some
armoring firms on the brink of collapse as they waited for new orders.
  To help defeat roadside ambushes, the military in May 2005 contracted to
buy 122 Cougars whose special V-shaped hull helps deflect roadside bombs,
military officials said. But the Pentagon gave the job to a small firm in
South Carolina, Force Protection, that had never mass-produced vehicles.
Company officials said a string of blunders has pushed the completion date
to June.
  A dozen prototypes shipped to Iraq have been recalled from the field to
replace a failing transmission. Steel was cut to the wrong size before the
truck's design drawings were perfected. Several managers have left the firm.
  Company officials said they also lost time in an inter-service skirmish.
The Army, which is buying the bulk of the vehicles, asked for its trucks to
be delivered before the Marine vehicles, and company officials said that
move upended their production process until the Army agreed to get back in
line behind the marines. "It is what it is, and we're running as fast as we
can to change it," Gordon McGilton, the company's chief executive, said in
an interview at its plant in Ladson, S.C. 
  On July 5, two former employees brought a federal false claims case that
accuses Force Protection of falsifying records to cover up defective
workmanship. They allege that the actions "compromise the immediate and long
term integrity of the vehicles and result in a deficient product," according
to legal documents filed under seal in the United States District Court in
Charleston and obtained by The Times.
  The legal claim also accuses the company of falsifying records to deceive
the military into believing the firm could meet the production deadlines.
The United States Attorney's office in South Carolina declined to comment on
the case. The Marine Corps says the Justice Department did not notify it
about the case until December.
  Force Protection officials said they had not been made aware of the legal
case. They acknowledged making mistakes in rushing to fill the order, but
said there were multiple systems in place to monitor the quality of the
trucks, and that they were not aware of any deficiencies that would
jeopardize the troops.

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