Mideast edition, Saturday, July 7, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — Forget what you’ve heard about the Army planning to buy up to 17,700 MRAPs, vehicles that have proven to withstand blasts from roadside bombs much better than up-armored Humvees.

Recently, officials told Stars and Stripes and other media outlets that the Joint Requirements Oversight Council had approved up to 17,700 MRAPs for the Army.

As it turns out, initial reporting that the Army’s request for 17,700 MRAPs was based on ongoing discussions on the matter that had not been finalized, a senior defense official said Friday.

The Army initially planned to buy 2,500 MRAPs, but Multi-National Corps – Iraq later submitted a request for many more.

On Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Perry Wiggins, of the Joint Staff, told reporters that JROC approved the Army’s request for more than 17,000 MRAPs at its June 29 meeting.

However, the Joint Staff issued a statement to The Associated Press later on Tuesday correcting Wiggins.

The total number of MRAPs the JROC has approved for all branches of the service remains at 7,774, said Joint Staff spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Tallman on Thursday.

“Contrary to earlier reports, the JROC did not validate a 17,700 MRAP requirement for the Army, or a final production number for the MRAP program … it approved the way ahead to work toward maximizing production through FY 2008,” Tallman said in an e-mailed response to questions from Stars and Stripes.

The JROC is still committed to getting MRAPs to troops in Iraq as quickly as possible, as evidenced by the fact that MRAPs are being airlifted into theater, Tallman said.

“I think a key point to make is that it’s not a matter of producing 5, 10, or 20 thousand vehicles … it’s a more important matter of getting to maximum production and capacity, not final numbers,” he said.

The Army expects that the 17,700 MRAPs that it has requested could be produced by July 2009.

Recently, the Defense Department allocated to the Army about 1,200 of the MRAPs ordered so far for all branches of the service. The vehicles are expected to be manufactured by February 2008.

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