Vehicles that protect the troops

by Mary Ann McGivern

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Here’s the last weapons system the Government Accountability Office identified as a boondoggle, as reported in The New York Times.

It is the Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected Vehicle, or MRAP. We actually have 20,000 of these in varying designs from different manufacturers. We spent $36 billion to construct them. Most are so big that only three fit in a C-17 transport which raises the question of whether we will leave them behind in Iraq and Afghanistan and who might eventually use them.

They only drive on roads because they are so heavy and they have a tendency to roll over and to collapse bridges. They get about 4 miles per gallon. Maintenance for the coming year is projected at $3.2 billion.

The way they protect soldiers from ambush is that the undercarriage is v-shaped and channels mine and IED blasts away from vehicle occupants, dissipating explosive impact.

This is a tough one because of course we want to protect our soldiers. On the other hand, these MRAP vehicles make it more tempting to send our military into regions where the local populace doesn’t want us. Because we have the MRAPs, we don’t feel the need to use diplomacy in the countryside.

This ends my meditation on the GAO boondoggles. They point the way to easy Department of Defense procurement cuts. But no serious Congressional proposals have been put forward to make these cuts. Our treasure is in our military hardware. That’s why we can find it in our hearts to cut food vouchers to women with infant children.

I’ll keep talking about military spending. Lent is not the only time to look at our fiscal priorities.

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