Procurement: November 8, 2002

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The Department of Defense has a special fund for buying equipment that is needed in a real hurry (days or weeks), usually by the Special Operations Command (SOCOM, Special Forces and various commando outfits.) The Defense Emergency Response Fund was established in 1989 to better deal with "natural or manmade disasters." This fund, as it's name implies, takes care of unanticipated expenses. For the war on terror, the fund swelled to $20 billion. SOCOM hit this fund for $674 million to buy things they didn't think they'd need before September 11, 2001. SOCOM quickly bought radios, laser-targeting gear, remote-camera controllers and trucks. Noting that Toyota 4x4 trucks were popular in Afghanistan, SOCOM went to several U.S. dealers and cleaned them out. The trucks were flown over and allowed the Special Forces to move around inconspicuously. The trucks also proved to be useful gifts for tribal chiefs or warlords. While these Afghans appreciate cash, a truck provides more immediate value. SOCOM also bought 6x6 Polaris all terrain vehicles, and dozens of other items that the troops needed and were available from the commercial market. SOCOM is constantly testing commercial products; everything from camping gear, communications and computer items to new weapons (for civilians or developed by foreign developers.) One request that could not be filled immediately was a request for American rifles that could use Russian AK-47 rifle ammunition. There was lots of AK-47 munitions in Afghanistan. Special Forces didn't like the unreliability of Russian weapons (compared to American ones) and had earlier discussed with gunsmiths and rifle manufacturers the issue of modifying, say, an M-16 (which normally uses 5.56mm bullets) to fire 7.62mm AK-47 ammo. Another item that was wanted, but not immediately available, was a hand held thermal sensor (FLIR). These are coming.

 


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