WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2012 – Vice President Joe Biden today joined Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter at a Pentagon ceremony marking the end of production of the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle.
There are seven MRAP variants, and nearly 28,000 of the vehicles were produced over the past five years, with 24,059 fielded to Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly 13,000 of the vehicles remain in use in Afghanistan. The vehicle, with its blast-resistant V-shaped hull, was rushed to production as a better defense against roadside bombs than the up-armored Humvee, and it is credited with saving thousands of lives.
Biden noted the speed of MRAP production and fielding since 2007 was the result of a joint effort involving defense, industry and Congress. During that effort, the members of “team MRAP,” he said, showed “remarkable leadership.”
“[It’s] not easy to push something this big through this system this fast,” the vice president said.
Biden said the nation’s leaders, while they have many obligations, have only one “truly sacred obligation”: to equip and protect those who fight the nation’s war, and to care for those who come home from those wars.
The MRAP program faced a crucial vote in Congress in 2007, Biden noted, when — despite then-Defense Secretary Robet M. Gates’ designation of the program as his top acquisition priority — many lawmakers could see little reason for the expense. The vice president was a senator leading the battle for funding at the time, and said today Gen. James T. Conway, then the commandant of the Marine Corps and now retired, tipped the balance toward congressional approval.
Biden said he called Conway before the vote, and asked the general how important the program was to him.
Conway, Biden said, called the program his “highest moral imperative,” because “my kids are getting killed.” Biden quoted those words on the Senate floor, he said, and the vote passed.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, then a lieutenant general and commander of U.S. Forces Iraq, also made an ardent case for the lifesaving troop carrier, the vice president said.
Ultimately, Congress appropriated $47.4 billion for the MRAP through fiscal 2012. The alternative in 2007, Biden said, was “a new vehicle in five years” that might only now have begun reaching troops.
“What do we get for the effort?” he asked the audience here. “We’ve got a whole lot of young women and men coming home in one piece.”
Carter noted that at peak production more than 1,000 MRAPS – each weighing between 26,000 and 56,000 pounds – arrived in Iraq or Afghanistan. The deputy secretary, who served under Gates as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, read a message Gates sent about today’s milestone.
The MRAP team, Gates wrote, “implemented the largest defense procurement program to go from decision to full industrial production in less than a year since World War II.”
The members of that team, Gates continued, can look back on their MRAP work and know “that your work truly saved the lives and limbs of many men and women in uniform.”
Carter said the transition formalized today, which sees the MRAP move from production status to a program of record for the military services and U.S. Special Operations Command, marks a strategic turn.
“The era of total focus on Iraq and Afghanistan – which had to be done – is coming to an end, and a new strategic era is dawning,” he said. The defense strategy launched nine months ago provides the framework for the new era and “transitions all of us to the strategic future,” focused on regions including the Asia-Pacific and emerging security challenges such as cyberdefense, he added.