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Mideast edition, Friday, September 21, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense officials have authorized 15,274 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles for all branches of the service, nearly double their previous target, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Thursday.

Earlier this year officials had authorized 7,774 MRAPs for all of the services, including 3,700 for the Marine Corps and 2,500 for the Army. But the new authorization would allocate 10,000 MRAPs to the Army alone, Morrell said.

Morrell noted that the new requirement for MRAPs is subject to change.

“The idea here is that we think it’s best to ask for as many as we may need, and if events on the ground change such that we need fewer of them, we could always off-ramp this and end up buying fewer. But we want to make sure we have enough to meet the needs of the force to best protect them,” Morrell said.

The vehicles have V-shaped hulls that deflect blasts from underneath and have proved to withstand certain roadside bombs better than up-armored Humvees. The Defense Department plans to have 1,500 MRAPs in Iraq by the end of the year, Morrell said.

Earlier this year, the commander of Multi–National Corps–Iraq requested 17,700 MRAPs for the Army alone. On Thursday, Morrell said that figure was based on the idea of swapping all up-armored Humvees with MRAPs.

“We’ve done a closer evaluation, the joint chiefs have, and the evaluation has now suggested we need about 15,000 (for all the services),” Morrell said.

Morrell added that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has not yet signed off on the request, but said the Defense Department plans to ask Congress for funding for “many more MRAPs.”

He declined to get more specific because the Defense Department’s funding request has not yet been given to Congress.

Under the new authorized figure, the Marine Corps would still be allocated 3,700 MRAPs, the Air Force 697, the Navy 544, and U.S. Special Operations Command 333, Morrell said.

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