MRAP Money

By Tony Bertuca / August 8, 2012 at 3:30 PM

The Pentagon recently announced a $90 million funding shift from the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle Fund to pay for the transportation, upgrade and maintenance of the vehicles in Afghanistan.

Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale signed the internal reprogramming on July 23.

Several days later, a pair of economists published an essay in Foreign Affairs arguing that MRAPs were not worth the $40 billion spent to rapidly acquire and field them. Money has been flowing steadily to MRAPs since they were first sent to Iraq in 2006, and DOD's most recent reprogramming from the specially configured MRAP fund is only one in a long line of spending measures.

“For infantry units, one life was saved for every seven medium vehicles purchased, at a total cost of around $1 million to $2 million per life saved,” the authors wrote in the July 26 essay. “However, tactical wheeled vehicles with 'heavy' amounts of protection, such as the MRAP (which has higher quality armor and a V-shaped hull designed to improve resistance to IEDs), did not save more lives than medium armored vehicles did, despite their cost of $600,000 apiece -- roughly three times as much as the medium-protected vehicles.”

As reported this week by Inside the Army, which obtained the authors' original research paper, the assertions made by Chris Rohlfs, an assistant professor at Syracuse University, and Ryan Sullivan, an assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, have drawn sharp reactions from the MRAP joint program office.

“The data cited was neither researched nor developed by the JPO,” Barb Hamby, a spokeswoman for the MRAP program, wrote in an Aug. 2 statement to ITA. "Therefore, it would be inappropriate for us to comment. What we can say is that the authors of that data are not privy to the hundreds of extensive test-event classified data, or that collected in the theater of operations. We developed internal data and analyzed it to ensure we delivered the optimal solution to our warfighters in the form of lifesaving MRAPs and [MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles].”

Dakota Wood, a former fellow for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments who has closely studied about MRAP procurement, hopes the economists' research will drive further discussion on the subject, and sources have since disclosed to ITA that the authors' research is being looked into by the Government Accountability Office and Capitol Hill.