Running the Numbers on MRAPs

Reliable Data Proves the Vehicles are Worth the Money

An MRAP (left) and an M-ATV on the ground in Afghanistan. (U.S. Army)

Chris Rohlfs and Ryan Sullivan’s recent article, “The MRAP Boondoggle,” raised questions about the cost and effectiveness of mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles in combat. Rohlfs and Sullivan’s argument, which was accompanied by a statistical analysis, claimed that during the late years of the Iraq War, the Pentagon’s decision to replace up-armored Humvees with MRAPs did not appreciably reduce fatalities. Therefore, they concluded, MRAPs were a waste of money.

That assessment is flawed for two primary reasons. First, Rohlfs and Sullivan misconstrued the data available to them. Second, employing those skewed interpretations, they committed methodological errors in their analyses. The result is an inaccurate report on MRAPs in combat. We can set the record straight. Data from the battlefield, as well as the results of live-fire tests (in which vehicles configured for combat are tested against live munitions), demonstrate that, compared to up-armored Humvees, MRAPs save a significant number of lives and, as a result, are worth the cost.

In comparing the two armored vehicles, it is important to review the history of their development. The Humvee is a light, tactical wheeled vehicle originally produced in 1985 without armor or other ballistic protection. The vehicles were meant to provide on- and off-road transport, away from high-intensity combat. In 2004, the Pentagon began rapidly fielding up-armored Humvees to provide better protection against improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Unfortunately, the increased protection could not match the increasing severity of the IED threat from insurgents in Iraq. So late in 2006, the Pentagon initiated the MRAP vehicle program, which U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates subsequently declared to be his highest priority. By the end of 2008, the result was an array of up-armored designs and add-on kits that were more resistant to roadside bombs. Soon thereafter, in the first half of 2009, the U.S. Department of Defense developed the lighter, smaller, more agile MRAP all-terrain vehicle (M-ATV), which continues to be

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