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Marines to Pentagon: What Happened to our Armor?

Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008

The Marine Corps has requested an investigation into slow delivery of MRAP armored vehicles to Iraq from 2005 to 2007, which may have increased casualties related to IEDs by 50 percent or more.

Though the Marines initially downplayed a report by civilian Marine official Franz J. Gayl, the Corps has now asked the Pentagon's Inspector General to make a thorough evaluation. Gayl is a science and technology adviser to the Marines, and in his case study of the MRAP program, completed Jan. 22, he writes that "hundreds of deaths and injuries could have been prevented" if MRAPs were purchased and sent to Iraq in starting in 2005 instead of 2007.

For a quick picture of Gayl's evaluation, take a look at the two charts below pulled from page 138 of his report. The first chart shows the actual number of IED fatalities by month in Iraq, and the second is Gayle's projection of the reduced fatalities if MRAPs had arrived in 2005.

Actual Fatalities


Projected Fatalities with MRAPs Delivered in 2005



As you can see, there is a huge difference between the two, based on Gayl's prediction that there would be a 50 percent reduction of casualties with enough MRAPs available. Though this may sound like an optimistic assumption, Gayl says that it is actually probably undervaluing the MRAPs' ability to reduce damage. He writes:

"A 50% reduction in fatalities is assumed even though the overwhelming majority of IED strikes occurred against vehicles, and the MRAP provides significantly greater reductions in IED fatalities. Furthermore, it assumes that major fatality reductions only would have begun in Sep 05. In fact it is known that 6-7 months would not have been needed for mass deliveries of MRAPs into theater." (Italics added).

To further back up the 50 percent number, note the dramatic drop in actual IED fatalities in the first graph starting in mid-2007 when the vehicles arrived.

For the Pentagon, the investigation will have to cover several areas. First, is the claim that casualties could have been significantly reduced accurate? How many casualties could have been prevented with more armor?

Second, was MRAP delivery indeed too slow? If so, whose fault is it, and what changes can be made to the process? Gayl blames the USMC and Pentagon procurement offices, among others.

Gayl deserves credit for bringing attention to the issue, and as bad as things seem, the Marines should be applauded for seeking to investigate and fix the problems.

(For a quick overview of MRAPs, check out the sidebar of this article. More technical details are in the Gayl report.)