As a ground war against Iraq remains possible, the Pentagon is ordering 44,000 shrapnel-protection vests to begin replacing those that might be lost if the battle is prolonged.

The initial order for replacement fragmentation vests is expected to be followed by separate contracts for 256,000 more by the end of March, military logistics officials said Thursday."We've got an ample number in supply, but we don't know the magnitude of what might happen," said Frank Johnson, a spokesman for the Defense Personnel Support Center in Philadelphia.

Nearly every U.S. soldier in the Persian Gulf war has a vest; 300,000 is an estimate of how many new ones would be needed if there is a prolonged ground war, Johnson said.