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After Delays and Criticism, Pentagon Shifts Priorities to Protect Soldiers

Beginning in 2007 the Pentagon shifted its spending priorities to meet the deadly threat of roadside bombs leading to the procurement of the MRAP, or 'Mine Resistant Ambush Protected'. The fourteen-ton vehicle is credited for a drastic decline in roadside bomb fatalities, but why did it take so long? Paul Solman investigates.

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  • FRANZ GAYL, Science Adviser, U.S. Marine Corps:

    Before I start reading this, I just want to make clear that the views I express do not represent the views of the United States Marine Corps or the Department of Defense.

  • PAUL SOLMAN, NewsHour Economics Correspondent:

    Retired Marine Corps major, current Pentagon science adviser, reluctant whistle-blower Franz Gayl.

  • FRANZ GAYL:

    This culture has been criminally negligent in a way that has led directly to the unnecessary loss of hundreds of American and innocent Iraqi lives and countless serious injuries.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    Gayl wrote those words last May, trying to make the case that the Marine procurement system was responding too slowly to urgent equipment requests from the front. He's recently been on a five-month fact-finding trip to Iraq, had prepared a detailed presentation, but…

  • FRANZ GAYL:

    I was told by my superiors that I would not be allowed to give that presentation after all.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    So Gayl went public. And what specifically was his beef? That the Marine bureaucracy ignored, in some cases for years, urgent equipment requests from Iraq for, among other items: an automatic language translator; an unmanned aerial drone; a laser device to warn off oncoming drivers at checkpoints, thereby preventing innocent people from entering a shoot-to-kill zone; and most important, the MRAP, the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle whose V-shaped hull disperses the impact of an IED or land mine from below, the leading cause of American deaths in Iraq.

    The first urgent request for MRAPs was sent in February 2005. Since then, at least 1,200 Americans have been killed by IEDs, and even the military agrees that MRAPs could have saved most of them.

  • FRANZ GAYL:

    The bottom line is, after many casualties and many deaths, unfortunately, in a couple of years, now it has become a moral imperative.