Saturday, February 16, 2008

Beancounters Blocked MRAPs, costing lives 
That's the conclusion in this report, obtained by CNN.

• Budget and procurement managers failed to recognize the damage being done by IEDs in late 2004 and early 2005 and were convinced the best solution was adding more armor to the less-sturdy Humvees the Marines were using. Humvees, even those with extra layers of steel, proved incapable of blunting the increasingly powerful explosives planted by insurgents.

• An urgent February 2005 request for MRAPs got lost in bureaucracy. It was signed by then-Brig. Gen. Dennis Hejlik, who asked for 1,169 of the vehicles. The Marines could not continue to take "serious and grave casualties" caused by IEDs when a solution was commercially available, wrote Hejlik, who was a commander in western Iraq from June 2004 to February 2005.

Gayl cites documents showing Hejlik's request was shuttled to a civilian logistics official at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command in suburban Washington who had little experience with military vehicles. As a result, there was more concern over how the MRAP would upset the Marine Corps' supply and maintenance chains than there was in getting the troops a truck that would keep them alive, the study contends.

• The Marine Corps' acquisition staff didn't give top leaders correct information. Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, was not told of the gravity of Hejlik's MRAP request and the real reasons it was shelved, Gayl writes. That resulted in Conway giving "inaccurate and incomplete" information to Congress about why buying MRAPs was not hotly pursued.

• The Combat Development Command, which decides what gear to buy, treated the MRAP as an expensive obstacle to long-range plans for equipment that was more mobile and fit into the Marines Corps' vision as a rapid reaction force. Those projects included a Humvee replacement called the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and a new vehicle for reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

The MRAPs didn't meet this fast-moving standard and so the Combat Development Command didn't want to buy them, according to Gayl. The study calls this approach a "Cold War orientation" that suffocates the ability to react to emergency situations.

• The Combat Development Command has managers -- some of whom are retired Marines -- who lack adequate technical credentials. They have outdated views of what works on the battlefield and how the defense industry operates, Gayl says. Yet they are in position to ignore or overrule calls from deployed commanders.

That ought to get a big "no shit, Sherlock" from longtime Countercolumn readers:

After all, here we are over ten months into the most widely anticipated war since Yeats wrote The Second Coming, units are still scrambling to acquire the rare “up-armored” M1114 Humvees, and we still haven’t come up with a practical, authorized vehicle-hardening solution that commanders who’s units are rotating into Iraq this spring can actually implement before they hit the war zone?

Rummy doesn't look great in this instance. But then again, neither does Cohen or any of his predecessors.

I don't buy the notion that the Commandant of the Marine Corps was never told of the seriousness of the situation. If the Commandant wasn't monitoring the War in Iraq, where his Marines were decisively engaged, then what the f*ck was he doing all day?

Playing Parcheesi with the Chief of Staff of the Air Force? Somehow I doubt it.

On the other hand, you've got to do your purchasing for the NEXT war. Not the last one. Good for the procurement officers for figuring that one out. But what they didn't figure out was that when your predecessors didn't remember that, you have to do your procurement for the next war AND the one you're in.

Splash, out



Jason, my question would be, "why didn't commanders pound on their bosses' desks up the chain until the beancounters were overruled?"

This is clearly a case where action passed was never action completed.

It's also a case that damns the whole archaice procurement process whereby our major end items are technologically 5 years out of date by the time they are fielded - a system that predates Rummy and Cohen, but which neither did anything to fix.

I wonder how much the calculus of cost/benefit actually went into this decision - we pay $750,000 for an MRAP, and the enemy need only use $200/worth more explosives to crack the harder nut?
"If the Commandant wasn't monitoring the War in Iraq, where his Marines were decisively engaged, then what the f*ck was he doing all day?"

What they were doing all day way securing their "career" and political futures and opportunities.

Admitting shortfalls on equipment and the deployment readiness of their troops would not exactly put them on the right side of the administrative wing nuts.

But what the hell, yeah, let's blame the Clinton administration. That's the ticket!
More went into these decisions than is gnerally known:

a. General Dynamics Future Combat Systems Study [which I helped write back in '85] arrived at the conclusion that there can be NO soft vehicles on the future battlefield because there will be NO "rear areas". Any soft vehicle is an "easy kill" and a "7 o'clock news victory" for the foe.

b. This part of the study was vehemently opposed by the Army, who felt that the increased funding requirements would cut into potential force structure.

c. In the early 90's, ALL wheeled armored vehicle programs were opposed by the Armor Branch as threatening the M-1 tank and M2 Bradley's roles & missions.

d. Even Mr Clinton's Excellent Balkan Adventure did not seriously affect these attitudes, EXCEPT at the MP Branch, who saw the need for a basic armored car [M-1117 is now in service in greater numbers than envisioned]

e. IEDs were recognized as the main threat in 2004 [I was in OPS at First Army and we started changing mobilization training to adjust], so MRAPs only started getting some interest about 4 years ago [BTW, we had uparmored every soft vehicle in Theater by then]

f. The acquisition of these vehicle was actually quite fast [2 years], by the lethargic standards of the current procurement system.

g. The effect of doing this at a rapid pace would have been to field them about 8-12 months sooner, although at low initial rates [production took awhile to rasmp up, same as for HMMWV armor kits]

h. Every truck in ARMY the cannot be an MRV, because their payload is miniscule, they are VERY poor performers off-road and have limited combat capability outside of convoy protection. These are MP systems, NOT Mobile Infantry systems [STRYKER does that role].

i. The best thing to come out of this campaign [other then the maturation of UAVs] is the relaization that the next genration wheeled vehicle baseline is going to be designed as an armored vehicle [it will have removable armor to get better milage and handling in admin roles].
BlackFive sheds some light on where this "report" originated. It wasn't an officially commissioned report - just one employee's opinion. And, there might have been some motivation for that opinion. The reporting on this report isn't completely upfront about these facts.
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