Written by Kirk Laughead
There’s a new advertisement out for Joe Biden that features a veteran talking about Biden’s efforts to get mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs) for our service members fighting in Iraq. He explains how our troops were being killed and injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and the Pentagon was dragging its feet in acquiring and deploying the vehicles. Then Joe Biden got involved and spearheaded the efforts to get the MRAPs approved, paid for, built, and delivered to the troops, saving countless lives in the process.
It’s a very compelling ad, to be sure. But it isn’t the first time that Joe Biden has used this issue for political purposes. Way back in July 2007, a USA Today front page story claimed that as our Marines were being killed by roadside bombs in Iraq, our military leaders were ignoring their requests and failing to provide mine resistant vehicles to service members that were in harm’s way during war time. The Marine Corps in particular was deemed extremely negligent for taking over a year and a half to respond to an urgent request for MRAPs.
The most damning information in the story had been provided by Marine Major Franz Gayl, who had been a science adviser to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq. Erin Logan, a staff member of then-Senator Joe Biden, facilitated the collaboration between Major Gayl and the authors of the article, which portrayed Gayl as a whistleblower. Within weeks, Biden was in full assault mode and was coordinating attacks with the media and Senate Democrats, who were quick to pounce and use the controversial story as an opportunity to attack President George W. Bush, claiming he had failed to take care of American troops in Iraq.
In August, Biden staged a press conference at a South Carolina manufacturing facility to announce a multi-billion dollar contract he had negotiated for a large purchase of MRAPs. The funding had not been specifically earmarked for the MRAPs and Biden seemed to brag about how he had to move appropriations around from other projects to pay for them. He had “robbed Peter to pay Paul.” Biden claimed it wasn’t about money, but saving the lives of our troops. This was going to be a World War II-style mobilization, after all.
Biden’s assault was thorough, including a Democrat offensive he coordinated to stymie criticism and coerce Marine Corps leaders into remaining quiet and not challenging the inaccuracies in Gayl’s story, which had been repeated continually by Biden and the media in a ruthless campaign to smear the Marine Corps and blame President Bush. The controversy Biden had engineered resulted in a $45 billion program that ultimately produced 27,000 heavy armored vehicles that no longer had a purpose. It would come to be known as “The MRAP Boondoggle.”
A decade went by and in May 2017, a report was published with the title, “Blowing the Whistle on a Whistleblower: The Real MRAP Story.” Prepared by retired Marine Lieutenant Steve Chill, it was intended to set the record straight and to reassure Marines and the families of the dead and wounded Marines in Iraq that their Corps did not let them down. The report painted a far different picture than the perception that Biden, Gayl, and the Senate Democrats had created with their manufactured media scandal based on Gayl’s misunderstanding of the complex process that is used to respond to requests from forces in the field and to acquire equipment for them.
The Corps had already assigned the highest priority to the effort and had been testing a medium-sized blast hardened M1114, also known as an up-armored Humvee. There were many benefits to the M1114 in that the basic Humvee vehicle chassis were already plentiful in theater. The cost to up-armor them was modest, and the quickness with which they could be modified and deployed was a huge benefit. The cost for the up-armored M1114s was less than one-third the price, and provided the same levels of casualty reduction as the much larger MRAP vehicles championed by Joe Biden.
Additionally, the versatility of the M1114 vehicles fit nicely in the longer-term vision of a lighter and more mobile fighting force that the military had been pursuing under a strategy initiated by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. In addition to its force protection role, the more agile M1114 could serve as a general utility vehicle and was also light enough to be transported by helicopter. The lumbering 40,000-pound MRAPs that resulted from Biden’s political fiasco had no real purpose outside of a combat environment.
When the wars began to wind down, there was a glut of the MRAPs and no military need for them other than to place a small quantity into mothballs for use in future conflicts. Through grants and other means, several of the surplus MRAPs did find their way into local police departments to be used as tactical vehicles. But Joe Biden is even attacking those now, claiming that we don’t need military vehicles making our city streets look like war zones. His comments have effectively closed down even that potential use for those very expensive surplus behemoths that he put so much effort into having built.
Perhaps if he had listened to the scientists and experts, like he claims he will do as president, and had not politicized the issue, he might not have wasted so much money creating his boondoggle. Money that could have been put to a far better use like purchasing body armor, aerial drones, and other technologies that could more effectively ensure the safety of our military personnel when they are sent into harm’s way.