Pentagon lowers the estimate of lives saved by MRAPs
WASHINGTON -- Armored trucks designed to protect troops from roadside bombs and adapted to conditions in Afghanistan have saved more than 2,000 American lives there, far fewer than the Pentagon estimated last year, according to data released to USA Today.
The Pentagon began speeding Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 to help counter insurgents' weapon of choice, the improvised explosive device (IED). IEDs remain the top killer of U.S. troops. Makeshift bombs account for more than 50 percent of U.S. troop deaths, according to the Pentagon.
Last year, the military estimated that MRAPs had saved the lives of as many as 40,000 servicemembers. A senior Defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive data, said last week that that figure had been overstated.
The Pentagon has spent $45 billion on MRAPs since 2007, a price tag criticized recently in an article in Foreign Affairs, the magazine published by the Council on Foreign Relations. The trucks do not perform significantly better than Humvees, the cheaper vehicle they replaced, according to the article's authors, who based their findings on Pentagon data.
Former Defense secretary Robert Gates said in a statement to USA Today that it was impossible for anybody, including the authors of the article, to determine how many lives had been saved by MRAPs.
"There is absolutely no question in my mind that thousands of troops are still alive today because they were riding in MRAPs when attacked by IEDs," Gates said. "I have heard that firsthand from countless troops on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Quite simply, MRAPs have saved thousands of lives and limbs."
The Pentagon disputed the article's findings, saying classified data unavailable to the article's authors prove the safety of the vehicles used in Afghanistan. In July 2009, Gates ordered more MRAPs to Afghanistan, including 5,200 of a new MRAP variant specifically designed for Afghanistan called the M-ATV.
"The data ... show the lifesaving benefits of these vehicles was certainly worth the cost and is absolutely worth the lives of the thousands of war fighters who came home to their families, friends and colleagues as a result of the lifesaving features of the MRAPs and M-ATVs," according to a Pentagon statement released by spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin.