For more than two decades, POGO has attempted to give our troops and the taxpayers a voice that is all too often drowned out by the self-interests of defense contractors and Pentagon generals. In past years, we have advocated improvements in such weapons systems as the Bradley fighting vehicle and M1-A1 Abrams tank.
POGO has not called for the cancellation of the Stryker. We don't doubt that the Stryker rides smoother than a Bradley, that its technologies provide a better view of the battlefield, or that it might have saved some soldiers' lives. We'd certainly rather have all the troops in Strykers than in Humvees. That said, it doesn't mean the Stryker is performing as promised, or that it can't be better—and most importantly, safer. We have simply drawn attention to what we believe is a very independent and important study of the Stryker's performance in Iraq by the Army's own Kansas-based Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL). The December 2004 CALL report was in some part based on anonymous comments by soldiers in an Iraq-based Stryker brigade. Quite frankly, we give more credibility to the CALL report than Army-produced promotional videos. For example, here are some of the CALL report criticisms of the Stryker that concerned us:
- Its gunner's hatch is protected by sandbags rather than a steel shield.
- Its gun does not hit targets when the vehicle is moving.
- Its “slat” armor is not protecting against strikes by anti-personnel and anti-tank RPGs in Iraq.
- Its computers are slowing and overheating in the extreme Iraq heat due to a lack of air conditioning.
In addition to the comments on the POGO blog, we have also been contacted by roughly a dozen people inside the Stryker brigades or somehow involved with the program, and many have given factually-specific critical evaluations of the Stryker. The favorable comments we have received have called the Stryker “great,” but haven't really told us why. We're hoping for future comments on whether the problems identified in the CALL report have been fixed. Rather than spending money on a public relations campaign, the Army should spend the money fixing the problems.