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Special Operators Forced To Train Under Ammunition Shortages

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

Navy SEALs often struggle against military bureaucracy to obtain basic gear, and the reasons why reach all the way up and down service supply chains.

In an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation, Aaron Negherbon, founder of a non-profit to fill gear gaps in the military, emphasized lack of gear does not just hit the special operations community, but can affect any unit from the National Guard in Alabama to United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) operators in Virginia Beach. Some operators have even reported a lack of ammunition, meaning elite forces may be forced to train in totally artificial environments. This is a dangerous disconnect from what they actually face on the battlefield.

SEALs sometimes even have to share or switch out weapons even though rifles are often custom-designed for specific special operators. Treating rifles as though they are fungible can completely throw SEALs for a loop while executing a mission.

Part of the reason this ongoing issue is gaining so much traction is that the number of special operators is increasing both in size and public prominence.

The problem can’t be fixed until what’s taking place at the Pentagon is nailed down more concretely, but at least one possibility can be ruled out immediately.

“We’ve identified with absolute certainty that the problem is not funding,” Joe Kasper, press secretary for GOP Rep. [crscore]Duncan Hunter[/crscore], told TheDCNF. “It’s clear there are some types of trade-offs being made. We’re going to have to determine what those tradeoffs are. At the most basic level, one thing that you don’t trade is a SEALs basic element of firepower.” Numerous Navy SEALs have reached out to Hunter for help after their concerns to the military bureaucracy fell on deaf ears.

The budget for SOCOM is slated at $10.4 billion. Due to increased deployment, the Obama administration has asked for an additional $400 million.

Hunter, a former Marine, kept after SOCOM Commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel to produce a serious solution. Votel promised to take action.

“Somebody at some point said we can probably save money in order to spend it elsewhere by reducing the number of rifles that are available as well as other basic equipment that an operator needs,” Kasper said. “The million dollar question is now: where have those trade-offs occurred, and where is the money going? This appears to be an issue with decision-making and allocation, rather than funding levels.”

Negherbon also added that no single universal problem can fully explain the gap in gear.

“It’s poor supply chain management,” Negherbon said. “It is logistical. It is poor purchasing. A lot of items SOCOM are using are just broken or battle-worn.”

“The success of Troops Direct is directly related to the fact that we are able to work independent of that pre-existent government supply chain that is bureaucratically and financially hindered at times and we’re able to do it without those different levels of red tape,” Negherbon continued.

The same problems that afflict the military are absent in TroopsDirect, Negherbon’s non-profit, which has shipped over 1.2 million pounds of supplies since 2010, though of course the group can’t send weapons.

TroopsDirect doesn’t take government funds and receives a lot of support from the wives, mothers and daughters of servicemembers. Millennials don’t contribute much. Rather, a sizeable portion comes from those between the ages of 40-50.

But despite TroopsDirect’s best efforts, a single group can’t substitute for the Pentagon’s gargantuan supply chain. Military officials have promised to dive deep into the acquisition system to determine problems, but Kasper said he was somewhat skeptical of internal investigations producing any findings of note to fix the problem.

“Don’t be surprised if you hear someone trying to spin this to say that the problem is not as severe as has been stated,” Kasper said.

One possible solution is to include a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act clarifying the allocation of funds, though Kasper noted that should be unnecessary, given the funding is already there.

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