Andrew Feickert Specialist in Military Ground Forces
Congress has played a central role in the MRAP program, suggesting to defense and service officials that MRAPs would provide far superior protection for troops than the up-armored High Mobility, Multi-Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs ). Congressional support for MRAPs, as well as fully funding the program, has been credited with getting these vehicles to Iraq and Afghanistan in a relatively short timeframe, thereby helping to reduce casualties. Congress will likely continue to be interested in the MRAP program to ensure that the appropriate types and numbers are fielded, as well as to monitor the post-conflict disposition of these vehicles, as they represent a significant investment.
In 2007, the Department of Defense (DOD) launched a major procurement initiative to replace most up-armored HMMWVs in Iraq with Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles. MRAPs have been described as providing significantly more protection against Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) than up-armored HMMWVs. Currently, DOD has approved an acquisition objective of 25,700 vehicles, of which 8,100 are the newer Military-All-Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) version, designed to meet the challenges of Afghanistan’s rugged terrain. DOD officials have indicated that this total may be increased depending on operational needs in Afghanistan. DOD reports that as of July 21, 2011, 14,749 MRAPs had been delivered to Afghanistan, including 6,980 M-ATVs. Many MRAPs deployed to Afghanistan are not in use because they have been deemed too heavy for some Afghan roads and do not have sufficient cross-country mobility.
Afghan insurgents are employing larger improvised explosive devices (IEDs), resulting in increased casualties to M-ATV occupants. In response, DOD is installing additional armor to MATVs. While this armor is intended to provide additional protection to occupants, it might also result in operational restraints associated with a heavier and possibly less stable vehicle.
Through FY2011, Congress appropriated $38.35 billion for all versions of the MRAP. In FY2012, there was no procurement funding requested for the MRAP program. The FY2012 MRAP Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget request is for $3.195 billion to repair, sustain, and upgrade existing MRAPs. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees recommended fully funding the MRAP budget request, and the House Appropriations Committee has also recommended full funding.
Among potential issues for congressional consideration are the status of older, unused MRAPS in Afghanistan that are reportedly not being used because of their size and weight; possible redundancies with the MRAP, M-ATV, and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) programs; and the impact of adding additional armor to M-ATVs.
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