Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates asked Congress for more funds for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), which are “designed to withstand the underbelly bombs that cripple the lower-riding Humvees,” such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), “the No. 1 killer of U.S. forces” in Iraq.
Gates’ request for the vehicles “comes about 2½ years after Marines in the field made an urgent plea for” MRAPs. Last month, Gates claimed that he had only recently learned about the benefits of MRAPs from reading a newspaper article, even though the technology was developed in the 1970s and the Pentagon had tested them in 2000.
Gates’s announcement follows similarly misleading excuses from high-ranking Pentagon officials, including then-Marine commandant Michael Hagee and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard B. Myers:
Hagee: “Instead of granting the February 2005 request, then-Marine commandant Michael Hagee decided that June to buy more armored Humvees,” according to a USA Today report. Hagee ingnored the commanders’ request because “IEDs…were not a pronounced threat at the time.” But Newsweek has reported that, in 2004, President Bush said that “the military spent $150 million to defeat IEDs,” and Central Command figures show that “in 2004 there were 5,607 IED attacks [and] in 2005, there were 10,953.”
Myers: Myers has said buying MRAPs “was not on the radar screen when I was chairman,” between Oct. 2001 and Oct. 2005. E-mail records, however, show that “As early as December 2003…Pentagon analysts sent detailed information about the superiority of the vehicles to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” In fact, one Pentagon analyst complained to a colleague that it was “frustrating to see the pictures of burning Humvees while knowing that there are other vehicles [MRAPs] out there that would provide more protection.”
As Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Kit Bond (R-MO) pointed out in a letter to Gates last month, if the Pentagon had stopped making excuses and starting producing MRAPs, “621 to 742 Americans” killed in IED attacks might still be alive.