Opinion

An ‘Easy Fix’ Congress Routinely Ignores. Time is Up

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Posted: Jul 15, 2019 3:00 PM
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 An ‘Easy Fix’ Congress Routinely Ignores. Time is Up

Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File

The congressional appropriations process is both complex and complicated. Of the 12 annual appropriations bills debated and negotiated in Congress, defense appropriations account for several hundred billion dollars of taxpayer spending each year. Few Americans argue the basic premise of funding our military and they expect Members of Congress to negotiate budgets and manage the details.

But when it comes to providing funds for a technology that can prevent rollovers for High Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), better known as “Humvees,” Congress has failed to provide the necessary resources to prevent further rollovers from killing and injuring our servicemen and women.

A father who lost his son in a rollover accident recently wrote we have lost six servicemembers in 62 days. Dozens more servicemembers, from active duty operations abroad to National Guard exercises at home, have lost their lives due to these types of rollovers. The Army reports  that over 90 rollovers have injured over 120 personnel since 2015.

The Humvee is one of our military’s most reliable and versatile tactical vehicles. It can be configured 15 different ways, from ambulances to troop and weapons carriers, and capable of performing in a variety of extreme environments, from snowy mountains to hot deserts. The versality of the Humvee is matched by its commonality, allowing a variety of different units to use the same parts and same maintenance training for very different missions. 

But many of these Humvees lack the attention they deserve, resulting in the delay of crucial repairs. Some possess armor upgrades which help protect soldiers from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) attacks. The additional weight of that armor can throw off Humvees’ center of gravity increasing their chances of rolling over.

A former Marine Corps. officer recently noted, “the Humvee rollover mitigation process, which involves the installation of antilock braking systems and electronic stability control kits [is] proven to significantly reduce vehicle rollovers.”

Even with high ground clearance and features like adjustable tire inflation systems, this indispensable tool for our servicemembers and once the backbone of the military’s tactical vehicle fleet has come under increasingly intense scrutiny.

The scrutinous eye should fall on Congress.

Members of Congress, Armed Services Committees’ chairs from both parties, in both the House and Senate have been aware of this issue for years – as have military leaders previously sounded warnings. Numerous investigations, hearings, and reports have well-documented the need for the installation of these rollover mitigation kits on all Humvees – but little has been done.

And the solution to preventing further injuries and loss of life is right at Congress’ fingertips.

With so many national security and foreign obligations around the world, serious concerns about aging equipment, and the subsequent compatibility and implementation of new military technologies, it’s more imperative than ever that Congress do the right things and ensure our servicemembers can get the parts they need to make their vehicles safe and effective. There may not be much beyond the naming of post offices which Congress can come together on these days, so let this issue serve as a rallying point for Congress to do what the American people and our servicemembers expect them to do: identify issues, assess solutions, debate,  and then to vote on the authorization and appropriation of funds.

At risk of trivializing the point, and in understanding the word “easy” (or “commonsense” for that matter) has a wildly different meaning for Members of Congress than the rest of us, this issue really does have an easy fix.

Two points signal the closeness of a solution. First, a skosh of additional research shows these rollover mitigation kits are available, in stock, now. Second, the kits have a National Stock Number (NSN) which means these parts have been approved for purchase allowing military depot mechanics and others to easily lookup the kits, order them, and install them on Humvees and other vehicles.

So, let’s review: the rollover mitigation kits are readily available, they have the necessary number allowing direct purchase and retrofit by the military, but Congress hasn’t provided the funds.

If this sounds and smells like typical Washington D.C. dysfunction, you’d be right. Democrats and Republicans love to remind us that “Congress controls the purse strings” – we say, “prove it.”

Votes on defense appropriations are expected soon.