08/28/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gates and Trucks

Once again, two stories in one piece:

In re Gates:

Forty-some-odd years ago, one of my college classmates became a "Public Defender" representing those who could not afford lawyers in New York state courts. After a few years of defending black men charged by police and prosecutors with minor offenses, he said to me "If I were a black man, I'd never leave the house without a tie and a jacket." Thirty-five years later, when my friend was a New York state Supreme Court Judge, I asked him if he still felt the same way. "No," he said, "if I were a black man, I wouldn't leave home at all." Today, after listening to the Gates tapes released by the police department, it's apparent that a black man isn't safe, even in his own home.

In re Trucks:

InsideDefense reports today that Oshkosh is ramping up production of M-ATVs (lighter than the original MRAPs), and will deliver "45 of the trucks this month." Oshkosh promises to ramp-up "towards the September, October, November time frame to 1,000 M-ATVs per month." As reported here previously, the M-ATVs "are intended for the difficult terrain of Afghanistan."

Originally, Stars and Stripes reported "that the first M-ATV vehicles will be fielded to Afghanistan beginning in October 2009." But, according to Stars and Stripes, "The challenge will be getting them there." Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, head of Marine Corps Systems Command says that currently "the air bridge into Afghanistan is completely full."

The news from Oshkosh is very good. They're producing forty-five vehicles ahead of schedule. They're going turn out hundreds within a month or two and a thousand per month before the end of the year. Given the casualties Marines and soldiers are suffering from IEDs, that's terrific. For once, American manufacturers are producing the best weapons ahead of schedule, and will save lives of men who would die without them. Now it's up to Bob Gates and the DOD to make sure that the "air bridge" has the equipment (cargo planes, I assume) to deliver them in a timely fashion. I hope InsideDefense will be able to report on that shortly.

More good news is that Oshkosh will be employing "300 to 500 new hires" in Wisconsin, and recall "550 to 650 JLG [a subsidiary of Oshkosh] employees, primarily in Pennsylvania." That's good news for both states, they need the work.

I'm not sure that anything written here about the history of MRAPs and previous delays have anything to do with the greater efficiency of Oshkosh. (I'm sure that USA Today's coverage of the story is a hell of a lot more meaningful.) But anything anybody can do to encourage DOD efficiency is worth doing. So I'm hoping that even as I write this, USA Today and InsideDefense (the story is still neglected by most of the press) are prodding the DOD on the air bridge.

Last time I wrote this, I figured that, based on the previous Oshkosh schedule there would be 75 more causalities while we waited for the delay. If the air bridge is up, we can probably cut that in half.