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American Forces Press Service

Top Marine Explains Cut in Purchase of Mine-resistant Vehicles

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2007 – Improved conditions in Iraq and a desire to remain a light, mobile force caused the Marine Corps cut its order for mine-resistant, ambush–protected vehicles, a decision that included careful assessment of its effect on safety of deployed forces, the commandant of the Marine Corps said here today.

The Marine Corps has asked the Joint Requirement Oversight Council to cut the number of MRAP vehicles earmarked for the service from 3,600 to 2,300.

The safety of Marines and sailors in Iraq was paramount in planners’ minds when making the decision, the commandant emphasized. “I am absolutely comfortable that no Marine or sailor will experience additional risk in Iraq as a result of the recommendation,” he said.

The need to keep the Marine Corps light was part of the reasoning, he said. The vehicles weigh 48,000 pounds each, and the sealift and airlift needed for them would be excessive, he added.

Another part of the decision to reduce the Marine Corps’ MRAP order has to do with changes in conditions in Iraq, Conway said.

The September 2006 decision to replace every up-armored Humvee in Iraq with an MRAP was “absolutely the right thing to do” at the time, Conway said. “It's a moral imperative to protect our people as soon as we can, as soon as we can get those vehicles built,” he said. At the time, the insurgency was at its height, and improvised explosive devices were pandemic in Iraq.

“What's happened since September of 2006 has been absolutely amazing by most counts,” he said. The surge and the so-called “Anbar Awakening” have cut the number and lethality of attacks against the coalition.

“We have not lost nearly the numbers of vehicles that we were experiencing, because attacks have gone down dramatically,” he said.

Also, the heavy vehicles cannot handle some of the off-road work that needs to be done and cannot navigate some of the narrower confines in many parts of Iraq. “So what we found is that (commanders are) mixing their convoys and their patrols with some MRAPs, maybe as route clearance, but also with some … 7-ton vehicles and also with some up-armored Humvees,” the commandant said. “So, that mix has also driven down our requirement.”

Conway said cutting the Marines’ MRAP order may speed up purchase of the vehicles for the Army.

The Marines still have a use for the smallest variant of the vehicle as an engineer combat vehicle, even in an expeditionary environment, Conway said. The service has tried for 20 years to develop an engineer combat vehicle, he noted. The MRAP could fill that bill with 360-degree protection and its V-shaped hull, which directs shrapnel away from riders.

“It can wage into a fight and protect those young men and women, in some cases, deliver them to whatever the obstacle is and in some cases even breach it,” Conway said. “So we're going to have to develop that vehicle to its fullest, I think, as an engineer and (explosive ordnance disposal) combat vehicle.”

Conway said the change in the Marine Corps’ MRAP order will not adversely affect industry. The service checked that the companies building the vehicles “hadn't laid in such quantities of steel and tires and transmissions that they were going to be left holding … an expensive bag,” he said. “So we're comfortable that our timing was pretty good and that no one is really being injured in the process.”

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