WASHINGTON – Two senators are urging the Pentagon to investigate a Marine Corps report that bureaucrats refused an urgent request from battlefield commanders in 2005 for blast-resistant vehicles.
"We need an official investigation to figure out why this happened and to make sure it never happens again," said Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., D-Del.
Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a longtime advocate of building and deploying more of the vehicles, called MRAPs.
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said the government shouldn't have to "explain to the families of American troops that a cost effective solution capable of saving lives was not deployed because of bureaucratic delays or insufficient funds."
The Associated Press first reported Friday that hundreds of U.S. Marines have been killed or injured by roadside bombs in Iraq because Marine Corps officials refused the request of the commanders. Both senators issued their statements Sunday.
"This is a stark warning that the military brass back home is not acting on needs of our war fighters on the front lines," Biden said. "We must be as fast and flexible as the enemy. We need an official investigation to figure out why this happened and to make sure it never happens again."
Bond said, "With our troops serving on the front lines in the war on terror, this gross mismanagement of our military's acquisition process is inexcusable. The military needs to take a hard look" at the report that details "the bureaucratic delays of lifesaving equipment to our troops in the field."
"The enemy will continue to search for ways to kill our troops and it is vital that our acquisition process be flexible enough and fast enough to respond quickly to emerging threats," Bond added.
The study, written by a civilian Marine Corps official, accuses the service of "gross mismanagement" that delayed deliveries of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks for more than two years.
Cost was a driving factor in the decision to turn down the request for the so-called MRAPs, according to the study. Stateside authorities saw the hulking vehicles, which 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.
After Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared the MRAP (pronounced M-rap) the Pentagon's No. 1 acquisition priority in May 2007, the trucks began to be shipped to Iraq in large quantities.
The vehicles weigh as much as 40 tons and have been effective at protecting American forces from improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the weapon of choice for Iraqi insurgents. Only four U.S. troops have been killed by such bombs while riding in MRAPs; three of those deaths occurred in older versions of the vehicles.