Pentagon, seeking new bid on kosher field meals, says it has enough for now

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In response to complaints that the military was running low on kosher field meals, the Pentagon said it had an adequate supply until it chooses a supplier.

“The Defense Department remains committed to supporting the religious meal requirements, including requirements for Kosher MREs, of our military service members,” Mark Wright, the Defense Department spokesman, wrote in an email to JTA, referring to meals ready to eat.

The comment came after Agudath Israel of America had asked the Pentagon to restore kosher field meals.

The Orthodox umbrella group said Monday that the Defense Logistics Agency solicited a bid in April for kosher and halal MREs but had recast the solicitation last month to include only halal, which adhere to Muslim religious precepts.

Wright acknowledged that the solicitation last April for kosher meals was unsuccessful, but said another one had been issued and that the Pentagon expected to choose a supplier by April.

“DLA Troop Support has sufficient stock of Kosher MREs on hand to satisfy the requirements of Jewish service members deployed to the Central Command region,” he said in the email to JTA.

The Central Command covers the Middle East and much of western Asia, and includes Iraq and Afghanistan.

Abba Cohen, Agudah’s Washington director, said in a news release that he had written to Maj. Gen. Donald Rutherford, the top military chaplain, expressing his “deep concern” but also confidence “that the department will find a way to address the dietary needs of Jewish service personnel” given that the Pentagon is showing “greater interest in broadening religious accommodation” in the military.

The Pentagon announced last month that U.S. troops may accommodate religious beliefs in their garb or grooming, including kippahs and beards for Jewish servicemen, as long as it does not frustrate their mission.

Cohen told JTA that Rutherford and his staff already are looking into the matter and contacting the relevant agencies.

The U.S. military introduced kosher MREs in 1999, a result of complaints from Jewish troops during the 1991 Gulf War that such meals were not available.

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