Gates Hopes to Get Better Armored Vehicles to Troops Faster
May 11, 2007
By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, May 10, 2007 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is exploring ways to speed up the timetable for getting more Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles to troops in Iraq.
Gates told reporters during yesterday's Pentagon news conference that he's impressed by what he's read about the MRAPs and the improved troop protection they offer over up-armored Humvees.
He cited an article that noted that no Marines had been killed during 300 incidents in which their MRAPs were involved in improvised-explosive-device attacks. "That certainly got my attention," he said.
The MRAP's raised, V-shaped underbelly deflects the force of IEDs and other blasts from below.
Sixty-five MRAPs in use in Iraq are saving Marines' lives, Lt. Gen. Emerson Garner, the Marine Corps' deputy commandant for programs and resources, told a congressional committee earlier this year.
"Our experience is that Marines in these vehicles have been four or five times safer than a Marine in an armored Humvee," Garner told members of the House and Senate Sea Power and Expeditionary Forces subcommittees. "Based on this experience, we recently decided to replace our armored Humvees in theater on a one-for-one basis with MRAPs."
Gates said he supports that effort and hopes to get the Army to speed up its procurement timetable for the vehicles, too. "My understanding ... is that the Army has been recalibrating its interest and has substantially increased the number of these vehicles they think they can use," he said.
The services have ordered about 7,700 of the vehicles, at a cost of about $8 billion. Gates plan to meet with Army and Marine Corps officials tomorrow to discuss their MRAP procurement plans and explore ways to accelerate them.
Up-armored Humvees offered the best protection available when they were fielded, but Gates said MRAPs provide even more. "Now we have something better, and we're going to get that to the field as best we can," he said.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called MRAPs an example of how industry has stepped up to the plate to come up with solutions to military needs. "I think what you have is a natural evolution of technology and very sharp people in business and industry looking at the problem and devising different ways to defeat the problem," he said.
While acknowledging the benefit of the MRAPs, Pace cautioned that they don't represent an end-all to the dangers of IEDs.
"There's no solution out there that's going to protect everybody from everything all the time," he said. "What you try to do is ... provide the best protection you can that still allows a soldier (or) Marine to be able to go out and do the job they need to do."
Giving every deployed troop a private M-1 Abrams tank would probably be the best protection, but even tanks are vulnerable to some weapons, Pace said.
He added that most jobs required in the combat zone can't be accomplished while rumbling around the city inside a tank.
"So you've got to find the right balance between force protection and the mission that needs to be done," he said.