In that story, DeCamp reported on the vulnerability of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to the Explosively Formed Projectile IEDs.
I took DeCamp to task for presenting a misleading view of insurgent war capabilities versus those of the United States, omitting (or failing to uncover) information about MRAPs that already possess EFP protections (the Golan vehicle produced by Protected Vehicles, Inc.) and for editorializing with his assertion that optimism about the MRAP program has been "tempered."
I forwarded my blog critique of the story to DeCamp, and he responded with the following:
Thanks for your note. I'll try to respond to your points. I believe the facts support the story.1. In his first point in response, DeCamp claims that EFP production is not solely limited to Iranian production. DeCamp addressed my statement that insurgents probably did not have the capability to produce EFPs without Iran, and DeCamp's response is effective on that point. His response does not, however, support his original characterization of insurgent capabilities: "Insurgents get their hands on an explosive, go to a machine shop for changes, and trigger it with a common cell phone." The technology for EFPs was borrowed from a technological proxy (Iran, and/or foreign fighters who personally possess the know-how to produce EFPs).
1. EFP use is not solely limited to Iranian production, according to military commanders and Pentagon officials public testimony and statements. While EFPs are employed less than other forms of explosive, defense analysts and military in my story -- and in public statements -- found them being used and adapted more frequently, and predict their use could increase. In addition, the BBC story you cited questions evidence of "a direct link to Iran."
2. There have been, as of my report, 4,900 MRAPs ordered. You reference 60 ordered in February that are mine resistant and EFP defensive, and others are being tested . The vast majority of troops will not be in those 60, obviously. Most models ordered by midyear far are without a substantiated EFP defense.
3. I'll stand by the story's report that optimism has been tempered by the delays rolling out the vehicles since Hejlik's 2005 request and the adaptations enemies are making. Congress members on both political sides have expressed frustration and criticism. The optimism in Hejlik's request was in 2005, and two years elapsed before large orders for MRAP vehicles were given. Meanwhile, credible sources in the story have substantive questions about the program as it goes forward.
Producing EFPs is not as easy as running to a machine shop for changes.
It's like getting technological and logistical assistance from Iran and then trying to spread the technology through experience. The latter makes the enemy's EFP programs vulnerable to disruption. DeCamp ends up hiding that aspect of the situation.
2. DeCamp shows no concern at all for having overlooked or failing to report on the Golan vehicle, with a composite armor that has (since DeCamp's story was published) shown good results in resisting EFP attacks during testing. The tool of war is "trumped" even if the tool of war has been upgraded to resist the alleged trumping. DeCamp's excuse is that the Golan provides its protections to a minority within the U.S. military. DeCamp could have pushed the same narrative even if all of the MRAPs had EFP protections, since the MRAP program is not presently designed to replace the Hummer. A majority of U.S. soldiers would be in unprotected vehicles in that case, also.
In any case, DeCamp's theme is clearly disrupted by the existence of the Golan. The Golan trumps the EFP, in terms of technology, and the insurgents need to find a way to deal with it in order to justify DeCamp's glowing admiration for their ability to run to machine shop and make the necessary changes.
3. DeCamp's excuse for his "tempered" optimism for the MRAP vehicles is a bait-and-switch. In his original story, the "tempered" optimism is clearly from the expectation that the new vehicles have already met their match in the theater of war because of EFPs ("A tool of war trumped").
The portion of the story that emphasizes the plodding steps in getting MRAPs to the front lines does not contribute to the claim of "tempered" optimism. The optimism remains, but in the company of frustration. But the frustration itself should be tempered, because if the MRAP had been ordered to replace the Humvee before technology made a vehicle like the Golan possible then the argument that the tool of war had been trumped would actually be stronger.
I can't explain DeCamp's resistance to my challenge to his story other than by supposing that his ideology trumps his reason. I asserted in no uncertain terms that nothing at all in his story indicated tempered optimism for anybody except for DeCamp, implicitly challenging him to offer a counterexample. I did not and do not expect that any counterexample is possible (having read the story!), and DeCamp did nothing to dispel that impression.
Here, by the way, is the context of the quotations DeCamp provided from Secretary Gates.
The press conference left the issue of MRAPs for a time, but then it came up again.Q Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about the IED problem in Iraq. I mean, as you know that yesterday an IED attack killed five soldiers and wounded six or seven others in southern Baghdad, I'm wondering what -- have you just accepted this threat as one that cannot be defeated, or are you -- are either of you pressing for some new, better way to address the problem?SEC. GATES: We absolutely are not accepting it as a challenge that can't be defeated. I met with General Meigs just this week for a regular update on our efforts. One of the things that we have found that is very helpful in locating these IEDs is establishing personal relationships in the neighborhoods and in the areas, and where the local inhabitants have looked to the coalition for support and for protection.The result of that is that in Anbar province, I was told that, thanks to help from the locals, they are finding something around 70 percent or so of the IEDs they believe are implanted.This is significantly higher than in areas that are still being contested or where we don't have a presence and the kind of local support.I also had this week another update, a regular update on the MRAP vehicles and how fast we can push those into the field, and particularly those with the capability to withstand the EFPs. But clearly they're effective against the regular IEDs. So we're -- in the technologies and in these areas, we're doing everything we possibly can. We're going after the networks. One of the results of the surge of operations that we're seeing is significant discoveries of caches of armaments, of the materials to make IEDs and so on. So I think all of these different things, including continuing to work with technology, are part of a larger effort to deal with these IEDs.We're beginning to see IEDs in Afghanistan. This is not a problem, I think, that's going to be confined to Iraq, and so we need to keep working on it and find ways to protect our soldiers and Marines.GEN. PACE: No, I was going to say, it's clearly the weapon of choice for the enemy. It is an asymmetric weapon for sure. We are very precise in our application of combat power. They are random, and they don't care who gets killed. But it is a problem for us, and as the secretary said, we're going after the entire network, from where the enemy usually comes from through the leadership in the network, delivery systems to warehouses where they're made, how they're being implanted, all those kinds of things. And there's been an enormous effort over the last couple years, and that will continue to be a focus of effort for us.SEC. GATES: Yeah.Q So how fast can you get the MRAPs out to the field you saw in your briefing?SEC. GATES: The companies that have been awarded the contracts are ramping up their production capabilities. It will take a period of time to be able to do that, several months, probably. I am pressing them very hard to see where they can cut the time scale as well as increase their production.I was initially told that once the vehicles were manufactured, it would take about 30 days to fit them out with all of the communications and other gear that the government puts into them, and then another 30 days to ship them by sea. I basically said that I didn't think that was acceptable.They are looking at ways to cut that 30 days to fit out. They have already cut it by probably a week, and they're working hard to figure out how they can cut it further. They're under a great deal of pressure from me to do that, and also in terms of how we can help them accelerate the production rate, whether we can help them in terms of the acquisition of specialty steels or axles or whatever might be an obstacle to getting these things produced as quickly as possible.And the way I have put it to everyone is that you have to look outside the normal bureaucratic way of doing things. And so does industry, because lives are at stake. For every month we delay, scores of young Americans are going to die.And so I think that's the biggest incentive of all. These manufacturers are patriotic. They're working hard to figure out a way to cut the timelines on this, but I think that a significant flow is probably a few months off. But right now, I want them there fast enough that we're actually flying some of these vehicles to Iraq.Q And what do you mean by significant flow? Can you put a number on that?SEC. GATES: In the many hundreds a month.
With all due respect to DeCamp, the press conference indicates a great deal of optimism for the program. Perhaps optimism is "tempered" by the admission that MRAPs are not a foolproof protection--but who ever thought that in the first place? The optimism for getting MRAPs to our soldiers remains as high as ever on the part of the military.Q I just need to follow up. Two things. Why are you not having conversations on the Hill? And if I could just very briefly follow up on what you said about MRAP, when you said scores of Americans might die every month that MRAP is delayed, have you now seen evidence that convinces you MRAP is an absolutely fail-safe against the largest IEDs, against EFPs? Are you really convinced that the insurgents cannot defeat MRAP?SEC. GATES: There is no fail-safe. These IEDs, these large IEDs can destroy an Abrams tank. So there is no sure-fire guarantee that anything will provide absolute protection against these. But I think the experience of the Marines in Anbar suggests that the MRAP, and particularly with the V-shaped hull, does provide significantly enhanced protection for the soldiers and Marines inside.But as I say, there is no magic solution to this, and I think that, you know, this has been an evolving threat and it's been an evolving response.And we're dealing with, as you've heard us say before, a smart, agile enemy who adjusts his tactics.It's not clear, for example, that the attack in Iraq yesterday was particularly more -- involved a significantly different kind of IED. It was a more sophisticated attack in terms of the way they planned it. And we're seeing some more of that. And General Petraeus obviously will respond to that.But I think that we will get -- because the MRAPs provide significantly enhanced or seem to provide a significantly enhanced protection, that's why I want to get as many of them out into the field as possible.
DeCamp stands behind his story. I stand behind my charge that DeCamp is guilty of journalistic malpractice according to the "objective" standard of the American mass media.