MRAPs provide far more blast protection than the “up-armored,” or armor-enhanced, Humvees used by American troops here before the MRAP rush order, which circumvented the Pentagon’s sclerotic procurement process. The emergency order was pushed hard by then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates because of soaring U.S. casualty rates among troops in Humvees, who were being decimated by roadside bombs.
Gates’ predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, had resisted deploying massive, heavily armored vehicles. He considered them inimical to his vision of a fast, light, maneuverable U.S. military in Iraq.
In a notorious 2004 put-down of Iraq-bound National Guardsmen in Kuwait who complained of poor-quality equipment and of having to scrounge through landfills for “hillbilly armor” for their Humvees, Rumsfeld said: “You go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time. If you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up.”
Those comments were viewed by some U.S. service members in Iraq as callous and demeaning.
The subsequent rush to develop MRAPs was a clear repudiation of Rumsfeld’s strategy, which failed to anticipate the tenacious and lethal Iraqi insurgency. Rumsfeld stepped down in 2006 when President George W. Bush concluded that the war in Iraq was “not working well enough, fast enough.”
In 2011, Gates said that MRAPs had “saved thousands and thousands of lives,” and are 10 times safer than Humvees. A study published that year by the Pentagon’s Joint Program Office for MRAPs concluded that the vehicles saved 30,000 lives in Afghanistan and 10,000 in Iraq. The study was criticized by some security experts as exaggerated, but they agreed that MRAPs have prevented a significant number of deaths and injuries.