Congressional officials have asked the Army to investigate why all soldiers are not carrying modern tourniquets into battle, a request that comes two months after military leaders ordered distribution of the medical devices.

During hearings this week before the defense subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, members asked for a review of the issue and a timetable for when soldiers might start carrying the items.

Also this week, The (Baltimore) Sun reported that two Democrats — Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin and Michigan Sen. Carl Levin — wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asking him to conduct a “high-level” review of the issue.

“We are deeply concerned by reports that the Pentagon has failed to identify and fulfill urgent requests for equipment essential to saving lives of our troops in the field,” the letter said. “This type of delay is disturbing during times of peace, but in the midst of the armed conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is nothing short of appalling.”

On Jan. 6, the U.S. Central Command issued a directive requiring soldiers serving in Iraq to carry the tourniquets.

The Sun published an investigation on March 5 detailing how distribution of the tourniquets have been delayed because training manuals are still being written and carrying cases for the devices are still being designed.

At the Senate hearing, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said no soldiers are entering combat without all the supplies needed. Troops are trained to improvise tourniquets out of items on hand, he said, but added, “I see no reason why there would be any shortage.”

The Sun report included interviews with more than a dozen military doctors and medical specialists who said some soldiers in Iraq could have been saved if a tourniquet was available at the time of injury. For example, when Lt. David R. Bernstein was hit, a buddy struggled to fashion a makeshift tourniquet, but it broke. Bernstein died that night.

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