View Full Version : Mixed Record for JSLIST Program

04-21-03, 07:03 AM

Mixed Record for JSLIST Program

By Roger Moore

“I wonder what all those trees are doing in the Iraqi desert?”

That was the original question in my DefenseWatch article on March 29, 2003 (“Why Do Marines Wear Green in the Desert?”, March 29, 2003).

The answer was that they’re running around in the new Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) protective suits. Curiously enough, I still had to ask myself, “Why are they all in the four-color woodland pattern?”

Additional research and some good feedback from SFTT readers reveals that not all of the JSLIST suits came in the green camouflage pattern. Some of the troops deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom – mainly in rear area support units and Army combat units (3rd Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division, 82 Airborne Division) – received protective gear in the three-pattern desert camouflage design.

Most units of I Marine Expeditionary Force did have desert uniforms although the styles (“chocolate chip” vs. MARPAT digital pattern) may have been mixed. Sources have informed DefenseWatch that not only were the desert pattern JSLIST protective suits available, but that multiple sets were issued to headquarters and service troops!

As a number of combat incidents in the three-week war confirmed – particularly the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Co. convoy in Nasiriyah – the distinction between “rear area” support units and combat troops has all but disappeared in modern conventional war. Thus, staff and logistics troops deserve the same basic tools as designated combat soldiers. However, when there is a lack of resources the priority must still go to the designated combat units.

The situation today appears mixed. The good news is that there apparently has been real progress in developing modern chemical protective gear design. The bad news is that the program remains plagued with inventory shortages.

In 1993, all of the services signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOA) to come up with a protective garment that, with minor modifications and/or mission requirement substitutions could meet the needs of all services. Combining efforts and costs for the JSLIST research and development has undoubtedly saved tremendous amounts of money and is a prime example of what can happen when military people “work smarter, not harder.”

With a continuing eye on cost effectiveness, project managers programmed phased modifications (Pre-Planned Product Improvement) in with the introduction of newer “mature fabric technologies.” Additionally, the JSLIST suits were designed for an initial five-year shelf life capable of being extended up to fifteen years using the planned “Equipment Assessment Program.”

After surveys dating back to Fiscal Year 1997, the Pentagon decided to solicit other bids to reduce costs, encourage competition and secure multiple sources. According to the Global Security document, the Pentagon released a Request for Proposal in the 4th quarter of Fiscal Year 2000. In late 2001, the successful candidates and materials began testing in desert, in cold weather, and in tropical environments.

Meanwhile, funding shortfalls in 2001 and early 2002 forced a halt to critical chemical agent testing on the new garments. Those tests are not expected to resume until early 2003. According to GAO Report (GAO-03-137T) titled, “Chemical and Biological Defense: Observation’s on DOD’s Risk Assessment of Defense Capabilities” the causes for these shortfalls are numerous:

1) Lack of accounting and inventory standardization system cross compatibility and joint management.

2) Key Personnel turnover and shortage from the unit level all the way to the Pentagon (Military AND Civilian).

3) Re-prioritization on the Joint Priority List currently at 35th out of 72 items (Homeland biodetection capabilities jumped to the forefront).

Inventory shortages likely will be exacerbated by the war against Iraq, and are projected to escalate over the next few years with the current stockpiles reaching their shelf life in 2007. According to Pentagon documents obtained by GlobalSecurity.org, the newer JSLIST garments and components are not entering the armed services inventory as rapidly as originally planned. There are about 4.5 million Battle Dress Overgarment (old MOPP suits) and newer JSLIST suits. Approximately 1.5 million of these are JSLIST garments, costing $183.64 per suit. This does not include mask, hood, gloves, overshoes, or any other mission specific equipment. Figures from the 2003 budget were not readily available, but GAO states that $96 million was to be appropriated in Fiscal Year 2003 SPECIFICALLY for the procurement of JSLIST suits.

Roger Moore served as an enlisted communications specialist in the U.S. Marine Corps during 1982-90, and currently works in the logistics industry in Texas. He can be reached at rmoore_dw@yahoo.com.