Via TalkLeft comes a New York Times article I overlooked that explores why our troops in Iraq do not have the armored vehicles necessary to properly protect them from IEDs. Part of the problem is that the chassis design of the Humvee allows it to absorb much of the force from explosions that occur underneath it. As a result, when important people like Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld or Saddam Hussein travel in Iraq, they use customized vehicles like the Rhino Runner, which could best be described as an armored bus.
But equally interesting is the troubles that the Army and the Marine Corps has had with O'Gara-Hess & Eisenhardt, the only company that the military has a contract with to retrofit Humvees with armor. Unfortunately for our soldiers, the military neglected to buy the rights to the armor design that O'Gara uses to make Humvees safer. As a result, even though our military desperately needs more armored vehicles, it is unable to get around the bottleneck that is O'Gara. O'Gara feels that relinquishing the armor design would threaten its "competitive position" - much in the same way that American soldiers traveling in unarmored Humvees are threatened by IEDs.
In January, when [the Army] asked O'Gara to name its price for the design rights for the armor, the company balked and suggested instead that the rights be placed in escrow for the Army to grab should the company ever fail to perform.
"Let's try this again," an Army major replied to the company in an e-mail message. "The question concerned the cost, not a request for an opinion."
The Army has dropped the matter for now, General O'Reilly said, adding that he hoped to have other companies making armor by next April.