The Marine Corps "grossly mismanaged" requests from marines in Iraq for highly survivable vehicles, leading to unacceptable delays in procuring the vehicles which has cost the lives of hundreds U.S. servicemen and women, Marine Corps science adviser Franz Gayl states in a report made publicly available for the first time by the Project On Government Oversight today. The report officially represents only the view of the author, not that of the Marine Corps. The Associated Press first reported on the internal study last week. Also, in response to Gayl's study, Senators Joe Biden and Kit Bond have called for congressional hearings.
Mr. Gayl, the author of the internal study, has been near the center of the story for several years. The study is based on dozens of primary sources, including official documents from the Marine Corps, the Inspector General of the Marines Corps, the Naval Audit Service , the Pentagon’s IG, and congressional testimony.
The kinds of vehicles in question are known as Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs), and were first developed in South Africa in the 1970s. Due to their heavy armor and V-shaped hull, MRAPs are much less susceptible to deadly improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other types of asymmetric weapons which are responsible for most U.S. casualties in Iraq and are being increasingly used in Afghanistan .
"Gayl's report of the failure of the Marine Corps acquisition system to respond timely to urgent requests for MRAPs from Marines in Iraq is a critical case study," said Nick Schwellenbach, national security investigator at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), adding, "This isn't a case of hindsight being 20-20—requests for MRAPs by people fighting were made, were ignored by bureaucrats for years, and thus lives were lost. Hearings need to be held and the process improved or lives may be unnecessarily lost again in the future."
Though an urgent request--an Urgent Universal Needs Statement (UUNS)--from Marines in Iraq was made in early 2005, Gayl cites the Marine's "Byzantine system" for procurement and the protection of entrenched programs as reasons for the two-year delay in procuring significant quantities of vehicles. A September 2007 Naval Audit Service (the Marine Corps is part of the Navy Department) report on the UUNS process supports Gayl's findings.
Furthermore, Marines who have studied the types of conflicts the U.S. has found itself in Iraq and Afghanistan have advocated MRAP capabilities since 1996, leading Gayl to question whether there is a disconnect between the Marine’s acquisition system and the needs of Marines.
"The MRAP program is perhaps the most significant rapid acquisition program the department has conducted since the end of World War II," according to John Young, Undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and director of the Pentagon's MRAP Task Force, at a congressional hearing on MRAPs last summer. As such, Gayl's case study is important for understanding past failures.
In a brazen manner, Gayl has twice been the subject of retaliation by his superiors for his disclosures to his superiors and to Congress of the Marine Corps' gross mismanagement of urgent equipment requests. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is currently investigating Gayl’s reprisal allegations, according to the Government Accountability Project (GAP), which represents Gayl and other whistleblowers. In a strong bi-partisan letter to the Marine Corps Commandant, Senators Biden and Bond called Mr. Gayl a “hero,” and requested that the Marines Corps cease from any further retaliatory personnel actions.