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Billions Needed for New Armored Trucks
The Army and Marine Corps are $5 billion short of what they require in fiscal year 2008 to acquire a fleet of armored vehicles designed to provide better protection against roadside bombs -- the scourge of U.S. forces in Iraq -- than the current fleet of humvees.
The two services have spelled out this “unfunded requirement” to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked all of the service chiefs to inform Congress of where more money is required.
The Army and Marine Corps -- which are shouldering the lion’s share of the work in Iraq and Afghanistan and suffering the largest proportion of casualties from roadside bombs -- indicated in separate responses to Hunter that their No. 1 unfunded procurement need is for substantial sums to acquire thousands of Mine Resistant Ambush Protection Vehicles.
Specifically, the Army says it needs $2.25 billion and the Marine Corps says it needs $2.8 billion. Put together, the two sums would pay for a fleet of approximately 5,000 vehicles optimized to protect passengers from the devastating effects of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
“We are on an aggressive program and we would like to make it more aggressive, and that is why we have listed the unfunded requirement,” Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing today.
The Army and Marine Corps for the past few years have laid out plans to field a replacement to the current humvee fleet through a program known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
Last fall, partly in response to an urgent need request from Marines in Iraq, the two services quickly formed an effort to rapidly field a stopgap capability -- MRAP. Some variants of this vehicle may have a V-shaped hull in order to provide greater underbody protection than the existing up-armored humvee, Army and Marine officials have said.
“MRAP vehicles will mitigate or eliminate the three primary kill mechanisms of mines and IEDs: fragmentation, blast overpressure and acceleration,” Lt. Gen. James Amos, commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said in an Oct. 6 memo that helped lay out the rationale for the MRAP effort. “They will also counter the secondary kill mechanisms of vehicle crashes and following mine strikes and vehicle kills.”
“Fielding this capability will save Marine lives and any delay in the acquisition process will result in avoidable and inexcusable injury or death of Marines and other forces,” Amos added.
Last month nine contractors were tapped to design and deliver four MRAP prototype vehicles each. The effort is focused on two vehicle sizes: category I is humvee-sized, category II consists of medium-sized trucks.
While the Army and Marine Corps will review all of the candidate systems this spring, the Marine Corps reserved the right to tap any of the bidders at any point to begin delivering MRAP vehicles.
The Marine Corps has done just that, awarding two production contracts for 200 MRAP vehicles.
Force Dynamics -- a venture involving Force Protection, a ballistic- and mine-protected vehicle maker in Ladson, SC, and General Dynamics Land Systems -- announced today that it won a $67 million contract to produce 125 vehicles for the MRAP program.
These vehicles, 60 of which will be category I and 65 in category II, will be delivered within the next 120 days, according to a statement from the companies.
U.S. and allied forces have employed Force Protection’s Cougar and Buffalo mine-protection vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. These vehicles have withstood 2,000 IED and mine attacks during these missions, according to the statement.
“These vehicles are a highly effective, proven solution to counter IEDs and other explosive threats,” Capt. Jeff Landis, a spokesman for Marine Corps Systems Command, said in the company statement. “No other vehicle has matched those of Force Protection for safety in the field.”
A spokesman for BAE Systems, meanwhile, said the company expects to receive a $55 million contract tomorrow to build 75 of its RG33 and RG33L vehicles for the MRAP program.
Army Secretary Francis Harvey told the House Armed Services Committee today that he views the MRAP program as a natural follow-on to the service’s effort to rapidly respond to requests from forces in Iraq and Afghanistan for urgently needed new capabilities.
“MRAP is an outgrowth of our rapid equipping force [effort],” Harvey said. He added that the Army has roughly 400 MRAP-like vehicles, including the Cougar and Buffalo, used for missions like route clearance.
Like Schoomaker, Harvey said the current MRAP effort is “an aggressive program.”
This aggressive program is being funded largely outside the Pentagon’s base budget; sources say this is because it is seen as a requirement stemming from the global war on terror.
The Navy, on behalf of the Marine Corps, is seeking $172 million to buy 255 MRAP vehicles in the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2008 supplemental funding request. The Army requested $500 million for MRAP in the FY-08 supplemental, according to Inside the Army.
In addition, ITA reported that the service is asking for $520 million for MRAP in a separate supplemental that will cover the remainder of FY-07. Of that amount, the service will take $90 million and pay back accounts from which it reprogrammed money for the MRAP effort. Last December, the Army reprogrammed $20 million for the MRAP program, and this month it submitted a separate $70 million reprogramming plan to Congress. The Marine Corps has also allocated approximately $500 million in the FY-07 main supplemental budget for MRAP, according to defense officials.