Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Armor Holdings Inc., the sole supplier of protective plates for the Humvee military vehicles used in Iraq, said it could increase output by as much as 22 percent per month with no investment and is awaiting an order from the Army.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday the Army was working as fast as it can and supply is dictated by ``a matter of physics, not a matter of money.''
Jacksonville, Florida-based Armor Holdings last month told the Army it could add armor to as many as 550 of the trucks a month, up from 450 vehicles now, Robert Mecredy, president of the company's aerospace and defense group said in a telephone interview today.
``We're prepared to build 50 to 100 vehicles more per month,'' Mecredy said in the interview. ``I've told the customer that and I stand ready to do that.''
Insurgent attacks on the vehicles with homemade bombs and rocket-propelled grenades are accounting for as much as half of the more than 1,000 U.S. deaths and 9,000 U.S. wounded in Iraq, according to Congressional estimates.
President George W. Bush said concerns raised by soldiers in questions to Rumsfeld yesterday in Kuwait are being addressed,'' Bush said in response to a reporter's question. ``We expect our troops to have the best possible equipment. If I were a soldier overseas wanting to defend my country I'd want to ask the Secretary of Defense the same question, and that is are we getting the best'' equipment, he said. ``They deserve the best.''
U.S. troops preparing for deployment to Iraq told Rumsfeld yesterday they are salvaging armor from landfills to install ``hillbilly armor'' on their Humvees. Rumsfeld replied that ``you have to go to war with the Army you have.''
Armor Holdings has already boosted output from 60 vehicles a month a year ago, said Mecredy, 58. As a result of the increased output, Armor Holdings has cut the price for the armor its supplies for the trucks to $58,000 per vehicle, from $72,000 per vehicle a year ago, Mecredy said.
Shares of Armor Holdings rose 66 cents, or 1.6 percent in New York Stock Exchange composite trading at 11:34 a.m.
When he was asked about current production yesterday, Rumsfeld wasn't sure of the exact figure saying ``it's something like 400 a month are being done.''
``It's a matter of production and capability of doing it,'' Rumsfeld, 72, said.
Tesia William, a spokeswoman for the Army Materiel Command, which handles the armored Humvee program, had no immediate comment on the status of orders.
Production of the armor needs to be coordinated with output of the actual trucks by AM General LLC of South Bend, Indiana, Mecredy said. AM General spokesman Lee Woodward also said that truck output could also be increased.
``If they ordered more trucks, we'd build more trucks,'' Woodward said. ``We're not close to capacity. It might take some time to ramp up but we can do it.''
Woodward declined to provide exact details on production capacity.
The main reason there isn't enough armor is because the military has underestimated its own needs, said Meghan Keck, spokeswoman for Senator Evan Bayh, an Indiana Democrat. Bayh wrote a letter to Rumsfeld in October calling for a more accurate estimate of Humvee needs.
``If the Army would be up front about the number of Humvees needed, the companies would be able to set their production accordingly to meet the need,'' Keck said in a phone interview.
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