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thedrifter
02-18-08, 08:46 AM
Senators call for probe on MRAP report's claims

By Peter Eisler and Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Two senators Sunday urged the Pentagon to investigate a Marine Corps report that says procurement officers spurned requests from commanders in Iraq for blast-resistant vehicles because they didn't want to derail other projects.

Sens. Joseph Biden, D-Del., and Kit Bond, R-Mo., called for an official probe. The report says that hundreds of Marines died from roadside bombs because the Corps was slow to fill commanders' requests for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs.

"This is a stark warning that the military brass back home is not acting on needs of our war fighters," Biden said in a written statement. "We need an official investigation to figure out why this happened and to make sure it never happens again."

The report by Marine science adviser Franz Gayl asserts that procurement officers needlessly delayed responding to a February 2005 request for 1,169 MRAPs to protect troops from improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that were destroying their Humvees. Those officials were wed to a long-term plan to replace the Marines' Humvees with a new truck — the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle — that isn't slated for deployment until at least 2012, the report says.

The Marine decision-makers saw the JLTV "as a higher priority than the daily killed and wounded," the report says. The February 2005 urgent request was finally approved in May 2006.

USA TODAY on Friday obtained a copy of Gayl's report, which the Associated Press had received earlier, and reported on it online over the weekend.

"This gross mismanagement … is inexcusable," Bond said in a statement. "The military needs to take a hard look at (Gayl's) report detailing the bureaucratic delays of life-saving equipment to our troops."

Col. David Lapan, a Marine spokesman, said Sunday that Gayl's paper represents his opinion and will be reviewed to determine if his conclusions are substantiated. Of particular concern to the Marines, Lapan said, is the implication that senior Marines made decisions with anything but "the health, welfare and safety of Marines at heart."

Last year, USA TODAY reported in a series of stories that Pentagon officials failed repeatedly to act on MRAP requests from field commanders. Since May, Defense officials have committed at least $22 billion to buy about 15,000 of the vehicles.

Gayl's report says that even after Defense Secretary Robert Gates made MRAPs the Pentagon's No. 1 priority, Marine officials balked at adding more protection to safeguard the vehicles against new, more potent roadside bombs known as explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, that can go through armor.

The Marines "did not seriously begin to invest in an … EFP solution until after USA TODAY's publication (of stories) of MRAP's vulnerability," the report says.

The report also says that Marine Gen. James Conway, the Corps commandant, provided Congress with "incomplete and inaccurate" information last year when he said field commanders had not expressed a strong desire for MRAPs. He was relying on erroneous input from the procurement officers who had delayed acting on the requests, the report says.

Gayl, a persistent critic of the Pentagon's MRAP efforts, filed last year for whistle-blower protection.

Ellie