Soldier's Gear Costs $17,500 And Is Rising

Soldier's Gear Costs ,500 And Is Rising
October 3rd, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Soldier's Gear Costs $17,500 And Is Rising

Soldier's Gear Costs ,500 And Is Rising
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
October 3, 2007 By Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- As official Washington argues over the spiraling price of the war in Iraq, consider this: Outfitting a soldier for battle costs a hundred times more now than it did in World War II. It was $170 then, is about $17,500 now and could be an estimated $28,000 to $60,000 by the middle of the next decade.
"The ground soldier was perceived to be a relatively inexpensive instrument of war" in the past, said Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, head of the Army agency for developing and fielding soldier equipment.
Now, the Pentagon spends tens of billions of dollars annually to protect troops and make them more lethal on the battlefield.
In the 1940s, a GI went to war with little more than a uniform, weapon, helmet, bedroll and canteen. He carried some 35 pounds of gear that cost $170 in 2006 inflation-adjusted dollars, according to Army figures.
That rose to about $1,100 by the 1970s as the military added a flak vest, new weapons and other equipment during the Vietnam War.
Today, troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are outfitted with advanced armor and other protection, including high-tech vests, anti-ballistic eyewear, earplugs and fire-retardant gloves. Night-vision eyewear, thermal weapons sights and other gear makes them more deadly to the adversary.
In all, soldiers today are packing more than 80 items -- weighing about 75 pounds -- from socks to disposable handcuffs to a strap cutter for slashing open a seatbelt if they have to flee a burning vehicle.
Several items were added since 2002, when troops in Afghanistan complained that their equipment was outdated and not best suited to the new campaign.
Still, newer gear is just around the corner.
Between 2012 and 2014, officials want troops to have head-to-toe protection, a weapon that can shoot around corners so soldiers don't have to expose themselves to their enemy and a helmet-mounted 1.5-inch computer screen showing maps of the battlefield.
Drawings of the gear -- some parts already in prototype and in the field -- look like futuristic "Master Chief," the human uber-soldier who battles aliens in the popular sci-fi video game "Halo." Researchers prefer to call it "the F-16-on-legs concept," a nod to U.S. fighter jets.
The wide range in price -- an estimated $28,000 to $60,000 a person -- is partly because not all troops will have all the equipment. Some of it, such as a planning tool, is only for unit leaders.
The ensemble makes the soldier a highly protected "walking computer hub" who can send out and take in information such as maps showing where all friendly and enemy forces are arrayed, said Dutch DeGay, equipment specialist at the Army's research and development center in Natick, Mass.
"Your tax dollars at work," he said.
Indeed, spending on ever improving and ever more costly technology to make troops safer and more effective could be seen as just what taxpayers wanted.
It reflects an American society that values human life and has a distaste for too many casualties, said Dakota Wood, a retired Marine now with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
The increases also coincided with the development of the all-volunteer military that Americans greatly prefer over conscription. The end of the draft in the 1970s has meant fewer people in the armed forces, and those fewer people need better equipment to do more.
Over the years more spending has meant a better chance of survival. Today, for every eight soldiers wounded, roughly one dies, compared with one for every 2.4 wounded in World War II and one for every three in Vietnam, the Army says. The better odds also are because of better medical treatment and other advances.
Still, troops remain vulnerable and success is far from guaranteed.
Homemade insurgent bombs are the No. 1 killer of Americans in Iraq and a weapon being used increasingly in Afghanistan as well.
Insurgents have been known to detonate the explosives with cell phones, washing machine timers and remote controls from toy cars.
Rising cost
Part of the spiraling cost of the Iraq war is how much it costs to outfit one soldier for battle today -- 100 times more than it was during World War II, as measured in 2006 dollars. And soon taxpayers will be shelling out even more: perhaps as much as $60,000 per soldier by the middle of the next decade.
WORLD WAR II -- 35.8 pounds of gear, $170
VIETNAM -- 35.1 pounds of gear, $1,112
IRAQ-AFGHANISTAN -- 75.3 pounds of gear, $17,472
Wearing and carrying
World War II -- Steel helmet and liner, Combat belt with equipment, Leather combat boots, Spats, M1 rifle
Vietnam -- Steel helmet and liner, Load carrying gear, Flak vest, Combat boots, M16A1 rifle
Iraq-Afghanistan -- Kevlar helmet, Night and thermal scopes, Close-combat optic, Body armor, Fire-retardant gloves, Knee and elbow pads, Safety glasses, Combat boots, M4 modular carbine
In the future -- Operation picture in helmet, Increased body armor, Load carrying gear would include power supply and a body cooling system, Air burst weapon
October 3rd, 2007  
It's worth it as long as it protects soldiers and saves lives