Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2009

MRAP's Irregular Warfare, and Pentagon Reform

Christopher J. Lamb, Matthew J. Schmidt, Berit G. Fitzsimmons

June 2009

Academy of Political Science


Mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles1 offer an excellent case study for investigating the current debate over the Pentagon’s approach to developing and fielding irregular warfare capabilities. MRAPs first gained prominence for their ability to protect U.S. forces from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and because the Pentagon did not deploy them en masse to Iraq until almost 5 years of fighting had passed. More recently, following extraordinary efforts to field more than 10,000 MRAPs quickly, the program has been criticized as wasteful and unnecessary. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates often cites the slow fielding of MRAPs as a prime example of the Pentagon’s institutional resistance to investments in irregular warfare capabilities. Some irregular warfare requirements traditionally bedevil the United States—such as human intelligence—but quickly producing and fielding vehicles is something the country has done well often in the past. Moreover, the Pentagon assessed MRAPs as 400 percent more effective2 at protecting U.S. troops than other vehicles, and Congress was eager to pay for them. Thus, the slow fielding of the MRAPs certainly seems like prima facie evidence for the Secretary’s claim that the Pentagon does not do a good job of providing irregular warfare capabilities.