February 3, 2009 – Army and Marine Corps officials knew nearly a decade before the invasion of Iraq that its workhorse Humvee vehicle, was a “deathtrap” even with armor added to protect it against roadside bombs, according to an inspector general’s report.
Reports distributed throughout the Army and Marine Corps after the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the Somalia conflict in 1994 urged the development of armored vehicles to avoid the devastating effects of roadside bombs and land mines, but the Pentagon failed to act, the report says.
The Pentagon didn’t field significant numbers of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles until 2007, more than three years after roadside bombings began to escalate in the Iraq war. The conclusions of the 1991 and 1994 reports were not included in the one-page summary of the inspector general’s findings released in December.
The inspector general’s full report was later posted on a website by the Center for Public Integrity, a government watchdog group.
Troops added makeshift armor to their Humvees and the Pentagon rushed kits to retrofit the vehicles with better protections after the threat from roadside bombs escalated in 2003 and 2004. Even so, retrofitted Humvees remained vulnerable to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), because of the vehicle’s “flat bottom, low weight, low ground clearance and aluminum body,” the inspector general found.
The report distributed throughout the Army and Marine Corps in 1994 found that Humvees “even with a mine-protection retrofit kit developed for Somalia remained a deathtrap in the event of an anti-tank mine detonation.”
That report called on the Army to outline what types of mine-resistant vehicles it might need, according to the inspector general.
The Pentagon didn’t develop such a fleet because championing the vehicles wasn’t seen in the ’90s as a “good career move,” said John Pike of Globalsecurity.org. The military had spent hundreds of millions on Humvees and drawn-out ground wars were seen as a thing of the past, he said.
Geoff Morrell, Pentagon spokesman, said the full inspector general’s report had nothing new.
The recent report focused on the Marine Corps and included findings that its Combat Development Command did not create a plan to field the vehicles or obtain funding for them despite receiving an urgent request from field commanders in Iraq for MRAPs in February 2005. The Pentagon inspector general is now investigating the Army’s response to the IED threat.
Troops suffer four times more casualties from roadside bombs while riding in Humvees than MRAPs. The Marines insist they rushed the best protection available at the time – armored Humvees – to Iraq.