Probe: Marine Corps officials abandoned urgent 2005 request for MRAPs
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Defense Department Inspector General has found that Marine Corps officials abandoned an urgent 2005 request for MRAP vehicles to protect Marines in Iraq.
Officials had determined that the commandant’s decision in June 2005 to field up-armored Humvees to Iraq meant the vehicles were "the immediately available solution to the IED threat," according to the report, obtained Tuesday by Stars and Stripes.
"As a result, in August 2005, the [Marine Corps Combat Development Command] stopped processing the February 17, 2005, MRAP [Urgent Universal Need Statement], even though the M1114 up-armored HMMWV did not adequately protect Marines from under-body IED attacks, which were increasing in Iraq," the report said.
At the time, most roadside bombs used against Marine tracked and wheeled vehicles exploded to the side of the vehicles, but in summer 2006, insurgents started detonating more roadside bombs beneath vehicles, the report said.
Gen. Michael Hagee, the Corps commandant in 2005, opted to field up-armored Humvees in response to a commander’s request for a "capability to increase survivability and mobility of Marines operating in a hazardous fire area against known threats," said Marine Corps spokesman Col. David Lapan.
"The decision to pursue M1114 was made consciously by the Marine Corps leadership because of its proven capability to protect, its tactical utility, the demand by the Marines in theater, and its availability," Lapan said in a Tuesday e-mail.
The IG report came in response to allegations by Franz Gayl, a Marine Corps civilian who claimed in an internal report published by The Associated Press earlier this year that the 2005 request for MRAP vehicles withered and died in the Corps’ "Byzantine" procurement system.
Gayl, who still works for the Marine Corps, alleged that the officials reviewing the request lacked technical knowledge on the matter and were afraid that fielding MRAPs would take funding away for other programs.
"Senior retired Marines, as permanent personnel, often have disproportionate, budget-centric influence over the UUNS vetting process," Gayl wrote in his report. "When viewed from a bureaucratic perspective, the MRAP UUNS would have had unfavorable reprogramming implications for MCCDC’s programmatic focus."
But the report found that officials stopped working on the request for MRAPs as an unintended consequence of Hagee’s decision to field up-armored Humvees.
"Apparently, the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ decision to acquire up-armored HMMWVs at the same time as the UUNS for MRAP-type vehicles was being processed deterred MCCDC from completing the UUNS process as required, even though the then-Commandant [later told investigators] that he did not intend for this to happen," the report said.
Gayl also claimed that the delay in fielding MRAP vehicles to Marines in Iraq costs hundreds of lives, but the inspector general’s report did not find any officials involved with reviewing the request criminally negligent.
Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said that it is inevitable that procurement matters will be "misprioritized" in an institution as complex as the Defense Department.
If each of those incidents turned into a prosecution for dereliction, "the court-martial system would be flooded," he said.
But the report criticized the Defense Department for not doing more to develop MRAP-type vehicles before the Iraq war, despite knowing the danger mines and roadside bombs posed to Humvees.
"As a result, the Department entered into operations in Iraq without having taken available steps to acquire technology to mitigate the known mine and IED risk to soldiers and Marines," the report said.