The Marine Corps has asked the Pentagon's inspector general to examine allegations that a nearly two-year delay in the fielding of blast-resistant vehicles led to hundreds of combat casualties in Iraq.

The system for rapidly fielding needed gear to troops on the front lines has been examined by auditors before and continues to improve, Col. David Lapan, a Marine Corps spokesman, said Monday night. Due to the seriousness of the allegations, however, "the Marine Corps has taken the additional step" of requesting the IG investigation, Lapan said in an e-mailed statement.

In a Jan. 22 internal report, Franz Gayl, a civilian Marine Corps official, accused the service of "gross mismanagement" that delayed deliveries of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks.

Gayl's study, which reflected his own views, said cost was a driving factor in the decision to turn down a 2005 "urgent" request from battlefield commanders for the so-called MRAPs.

Stateside authorities saw the hulking vehicles, which weigh up to 40 tons and can cost as much as a $1 million each, as a financial threat to programs aimed at developing lighter vehicles that were years from being fielded, charged Gayl, who prepared the study for the Marine Corps' plans, policies and operations department.

Gayl, a retired Marine officer, is the science and technology adviser to Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, who heads the department.

The Associated Press first reported on Gayl's study Feb. 15. At that time, Gayl's work had not been reviewed by his immediate supervisor, Col. David Wilkinson, Lapan said Monday.

"The paper represents Gayl's personal opinions and is clearly marked as such," Lapan said. "It is both preliminary and pre-decisional, and therefore a mischaracterization to term his work an official study or report."