WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter praised the servicemembers and civilians involved in procuring and building the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle Monday, as the program office officially moved from the Marine Corps to the Army.
The MRAP, designed with a V-shaped hull to deflect the impact of roadside bombs, is “singularly responsible for saving the lives and limbs of thousands of servicemembers in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Carter told the crowd in the Pentagon auditorium. “There was no more important program in the Defense Department in the last decade.”
Biden said that, as the father of a National Guard soldier, “I felt a hell of a lot better ... knowing that when my son was in theater in Iraq, that MRAPs were available.”
Biden and Carter recounted the fight to acquire the massive vehicles. Commanders had been asking for help countering the IED threat, Carter said, but the call was going unheeded.
Though other countries, such as South Africa, had vehicles that were better suited for bomb-laden terrain, Biden, then a senator, said he had difficulty convincing his members of Congress to vote to support the MRAP.
On March 28, 2007, he was on the floor of the Senate and realized he didn’t have the votes, he said. So Biden said he placed a phone call to then-Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway.
“He said, “It’s the highest moral imperative I have as the commandant of the Marine Corps. My kids are getting killed,” Biden said. “I quoted him, and that turned the tide.”
At the time, Biden said, much of the pushback was from members of Congress who wanted to wait for the next update to the Humvee, which was not scheduled to be ready until this year. Eventually, Congress approved more than $23 billion to get the MRAP program moving, Biden said.
Gen. Ray Odierno asked for 18,000 of the vehicles.
“I still marvel at how you got it done,” Biden said. “You saved thousands of American lives.”
The MRAP program also helped change the way the Defense Department responded to urgent battlefield needs, Carter said.
In all, more than 24,000 MRAPS were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.