Creeks and Paddles

He rolled into town with little warning and preached a message of protection from evil and a promise of safety. The Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle would cost the boys and girls in uniform, but they already understood the cost of war.

The problem was they had yet to master the concept of monetary cost. But they did not have to, buoyed by the make-believe budgets and supplementals those high on the Hill allowed. Thousands melted into millions of dollars without any apparent consequence.

Enter the GAO. (Cue bugles.)

In a report released recently the government watchdog concluded the procurement of MRAP could cost DoD more than it had bargained for.

The GAO looked at DoD’s “approach for and progress in implementing its strategy for rapidly acquiring and fielding MRAP vehicles, and the challenges remaining for the program.”

Generally it found that the urgency of the purchase produced significant risks. “While the department’s concurrent approach to producing, testing, and fielding the vehicles has provided an urgently needed operational capability, it has also increased performance, sustainability, and cost risks,” the report states.

In the rush to field more than 15,000 MRAPs, $22 billion was spread over no fewer than five companies. Risk was certainly pushed to the future: typical testing requirements were waived. To date, safety testing is not yet complete. MRAP’s stability issues, evidenced by the 30-plus reported rollovers in theater, have played a role in design modifications and changes in orders. The accountability gurus have warned modifications could be costly — and they’re right: In a move away from MRAP II (Kong), the Army will eat $25 million paid on development of the beast.

Get this: According to the GAO, cost estimates to operate and sustain the current MRAP fleet have not yet been determined (and could send overall program costs right through MRAP’s reinforced frame).

There is a move toward a “lighter,” “smaller” MRAP (we like Son of Kong), which underscores another GAO concern: Functional obsolescence. According to the GAO, “… as threats change, performance requirements — and MRAP’s role in DOD’s overall tactical wheeled vehicle strategy — could change, further exacerbating these challenges.”

Interpretation: These things might be obsolete before the last ones roll off the assembly line, but certainly before they are redeployed to … maybe … Afghanistan.

Oh, they’re already there.

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