What happens to the MRAPs Officer Friendly doesn’t get?

department-of-homeland-security-mrap-dhs-ndaa-hb347-totalita-politics-1334409716Some people are up in arms that the military is transferring hundreds, maybe thousands, of enormous Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected vehicles to local cops and sheriff’s offices.

Wait till you hear what happens to the ones the cops are not taking.

BAGRAM, Afghanistan — Faced with an epidemic of deadly roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military officials ordered up a fleet of V-hulled 16-ton armored behemoths in 2007 to help protect American soldiers and Marines.

At a cost of $1 million each, the ugly tan beasts known as MRAPS have saved countless lives and absorbed or deflected thousands of insurgent bomb blasts in teeming cities, desert flats and rutted mountain roadways. The lumbering vehicles are so beloved that soldiers have scrawled notes of thanks on their armor.

Er… call us doubtful about that claim, which is more likely to have originated in an MRAP maker’s PR shop than in the field. Still, troops who survive getting blow’d up in an MRAP are generally pretty thankful for the awkward, uncomfortable beast.

So why would the U.S. military suddenly start chopping up as many as 2,000 of the vehicles and selling them as scrap? After all, just six years have passed since high-tech MRAPs were developed and 27,000 of them cranked out and shipped in a $50-billion production blitz.

As they are “demilitarized,” many of the MRAPs are sold as scrap metal to eager Afghan buyers.

Afghan scrap workers, paid to cut up a $1m MRAP

Afghan scrap workers, paid to cut up a $1m MRAP

The military is as determined as it can be to forget the lessons of the GWOT, and that means the MRAPs are getting scrapped. But it’s not quite true that the $1 million trucks are “being sold.” In fact, we chump taxpayers are paying the Afghans again to have the remains of our vehicles hauled away.

It costs about $12,000 to crunch and dispose of a single MRAP here, said Mark E. Wright, a Defense Department spokesman.

The rationale for this waste? The Pentagon’s other means of disposing of the unwanted vehicles are even more wasteful. Which makes sense, in a brain-damaged, E-Ring, kind of a way.

To ship one back to the U.S. and rebuild it to current standards would cost $250,000 to $450,000, he said. Selling the vehicles as scrap instead of shipping them home and refitting them will consequently save about $500 million, Wright said.

via From MRAP to scrap: US military chops up $1-million vehicles – Middle East – Stripes.

Then, there's the diversion of American supplies into the black market.

Then, there’s the diversion of American supplies into the black market. But that’s another issue.

Yes, the million-dollar MRAP they gave your local Barney Fife (who is no more able to maintain it than the Afghan National Army’s illiterate mechanics are) got a quarter-to-half-million dollar rehab job. And at least $2 billion worth of serviceable MRAPs are going to be “sold for scrap” at a value of negative $2.4 million, at least. Meaning we’re paying that to get rid of the machines that were DOD’s “highest priority” in 2007.

Why is this man smug? Buying MRAPs, scrapping MRAPs, either way his pockets get lined.

Why is this man smug? Buying MRAPs, scrapping MRAPs, either way his pockets get lined. You’d smirk too if you just knew you were that much smarter than the chumps in the MRAPs.

 

The architect of the entire MRAP fiasco is Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter. Carter is one of those remarkable individuals who evaded military service himself, but treats soldiers as something like personal servants — while emanating the contempt of the slaveholder. Instead of suiting up for war, Carter managed to make himself staggeringly wealthy in “public service,” alternating like three-phase corruption between government desk jobs, academia, and such government-tit rent-seekers as Goldman Sachs. One wonders what his personal cut of the MRAP racket has been.

The military, sensitive to its reputation for costly waste and abuse, wouldn’t let the Stars and Stripes snap a picture of new MRAPs being cut up in Afghanistan — but they let war profiteer Carter take a snap for his personal use. After all, mere soldiers can’t contradict him — they’re the building blocks of his fortune. And they wouldn’t want him to sic the overseers on them. 

This picture is rumored to be of a fixture in Carter’s executive rest room in the E Ring:

Money toilet paper

 

Millions for the DC deskbound, but not one cent for the troops.

13 thoughts on “What happens to the MRAPs Officer Friendly doesn’t get?

  1. Kirk

    Yeah. Don’t get me started on this one. At all.

    We started agitating for something like the MRAP back in the early 1990s. The “system” told us we’d never need them. The “system” assumed that a.) we were never going to fight another counter-insurgency, and that b.) the rear areas were always going to be like they were in WWII. Which ignored many of the very lessons of that war, along with past bitter experience in Korea and Vietnam. Not to mention, copious amounts of evidence that a blind man could have gleaned from the experiences of others in places like Rhodesia and South Africa.

    We told them that they needed to design the new FMTV so that it could deal with mine and IED strikes. They instead went with a cab-forward design that put the driver and crew right over the worst possible place, the front axle. We told them they needed to design a set of armor for the cabs. They ignored us.

    My take on this whole thing is that we need to gut the bureaucracy that makes these decisions, and start over fresh with something else, and entirely new people.

    It’s just like with the M60 machine gun. Everybody who used the things knew they were pieces of shit, and worn past the point of economic use. Did the “system” acknowledge that fact, and start working on a replacement for a fundamentally flawed weapon? Nope. They were getting geared up, in fact, to buy more of the same. Then, the Rangers and Marines decided to do an end-run around the idiots in procurement, and glommed onto the war-stock spare M240 coaxial MGs. No real fielding tests were conducted, and if those had been done right, we’d have known back in the 1990s that the damn things were really too heavy for light infantry operations at altitude. Instead, we had to learn by sad experience in Afghanistan. That little “situation” should have led to wholesale firings of idiots in the procurement business, and an entirely new small arms support/procurement agency being set up. The same set of morons are still doing the same things, despite the best efforts of some very good people who are working alongside them.

    Look at the XM-25 program for another example: It’s an answer to a problem nobody has really posed, and despite the millions of dollars poured into it, this modern successor to the SPIW program never worked, and likely never will. The concept, on the face of it, is absolutely fucking ludicrous–The warhead is too damn small to do what they want it to, and the idea that you’re going to be able to put a 25mm grenade into the slit of a firing position from any significant range firing the damn thing off-hand is absolutely ludicrous. If it were a tripod-mounted machine gun firing a burst of those little things? Yeah, maybe it would make sense, but in a magazine-fed semi-automatic with no provision for a bipod or other rest, how the flaming fuck do they think the average guy is going to be able to hit the sort of targets they’re claiming it’s designed for at any real range? You’d have to be RoboCop to fling that itty-bitty grenade into a firing slit at anything over a few hundred meters. The whole ‘effin idea is just a complete joke.

    Oh, and meanwhile? Nobody has spent a fucking dime to improve the 40mm we use most often. We’re still stuck with that damn HEDP round that’s neither fish nor fowl, and which doesn’t have the effect we need. And, the sights for the 40mm grenades? Again, hardly any money spent–They should have been dual-purposing the sights and fuzes from the XM-25, but that would have made too much damn sense. Instead, we’ve got all this money sunk into a system that will likely never be procured, and we’re using grenade launchers that really haven’t seen much actual improvement since Vietnam.

    Honestly? If an enemy inflicted the procurement system we have on us, I’d have to consider it one of their most effective strategies. It’s really that bad.

    1. Hognose Post author

      The ordnance system is always a little bit behind, and not just here. Remember the Krag with its really excellent magazine cut-off to keep the troops from wasting ammo by firing it at the enemy — the same reason that ordnance fought both breechloaders and repeaters (the horror!) in the Civil War. The Lee Enfield had a similar cut-off. When the T44 and T48 ran off against each other in 1956, a major obsession of ordnance was how to rapidly load the rifles with Springfield or similar charger clips. Because providing spare magazines was “wasteful.”

      We had an OK night sight for the 203 ten years ago, but where’s the day sight? Of course, you can get good enough to dispense with the sights if you just shoot 72 rounds a day like I did at SOT. (OK, that was with an M79, but the principle’s the same). But the Army also considers training ammo wasted (hence, idiotic three-round-burst on the A2).

      It also takes forever for anything to go through procurement. There’s every incentive to add another test or committee, and no incentive to delete one. The M14 is a classic example — it was a lightly modified M1, has has almost 30 parts in common with the M1. It merely added a selector switch (not installed on 90%+ of the guns), a box magazine (which they insisted on trying to feed with strippers), an improved gas system and a flash hider. It took 12 years for them to deliver that face-lift, by which time the gun was obsolete.

      1. RobRoySimmons

        That you got to shoot so much 40mm makes me extremely upset at the injustice of funding levels for Army SF as compared to USMC regular combat arms, I hope Obama fixes that inequality. When our battery would go out on combined arms ex. they would break loose with some 40mm for the battery’s 203s. I would cheat, lie and steal to shoot more than my share, with success that was noted by the officers. I liked both sights and was fairly proficient with them, maybe not like the guy in that one famous movie who did not need a flare, but still better than the average guy.

        1. Hognose Post author

          Obama and Hagel have promised to fix funding inequality… it’ll be like the seventies, the USMC and Army SF will both have zero ammo budget and field problems will end with you going “bang!” and the guy in the bunker saying, “missed me! But I got you.”

          SOT was not average training, it was a brief CT training course for ODAs, selected Ranger elements, and other folks that might have to do CT whilst deployed. It evolved into SFAUC and SFARTAEC. On the last exercise in SOT, the assaulters went through windows the instant that snipers popped the targets (concrete blocks) in those windows, and then up stairs as the snipers popped more blocks at the top of the stairs. Meanwhile the 79 gunners were laying down a barrage. The snipers were shooting the M21/ART II. From there you were in a live fire shoot house with shoot/no shoot targets, and/or a linear target (bus, aircraft fuselage). In those days we did all the indoor stuff with .45s.

          But a lot of guys have managed to shoot a lot of ammo on deployments. Prior to the Iraq War, Desert Spring in the Kuwaiti outback was a great “spendex”. Fact is, organized and careful shooting is the best way to get good at shooting.

  2. Stefan van der Borght

    You may be onto something there, Kirk. One certainly doesn’t come away with the impression your rulers are playing for keeps (at least not for the nation and law they said they’d serve….don’t ask me about our elites, please; they make yours look good). How many operational MRAP’s does the US military have in the Homeland? How many Abrams, Bradleys, LAVs and other MRAP-eating machines? How come the surplus gear couldn’t be sold to allies, and/or mothballed in pre-positioned dumps? Do you still get the old fashioned beefy bullet-trap rifle grenade issued alongside the 40mm? Why not take a leaf out of the Russian playbook and use barometric warheads for pesky entrenched opponents? Why are your senior officers being purged? Why are your armed forces being gelded? How will all this work out when China decides they are finally strong enough to knock you off your perch (or simply arrive to take possession of what they legally own anyway)? Questions, questions…

    1. Kirk

      Stefan, I’m afraid a close reading of history will show you that it’s always been like this.

      US small arms procurement has always been FUBAR. Go back to ye olde dayes, and you’ll find such stellar examples of things like Eli Whitney, who promised the moon and then delivered (over budget and time, by truly massive amounts…) weapons that were supposed to be State of the Art, and Fully Interchangeable ™.

      Go on from there to the Civil War era, when they didn’t want to buy either repeaters or cartridge weapons, and the post-civil war era when they issued single-shot rifles to go up against repeater-armed Indians. Or, how we wound up with the Krag-Jorgenson, instead of going with something like the Lee rifles. Then, there was the fiasco with the Lewis gun, where personality conflicts left us issuing piss-poor light machine guns. Or, even more recently, the idiocy where MacArthur overruled the design guys who’d come up with a pretty good little intermediate-style cartridge, the .276 Pedersen, which if we’d type-standardized on it, we’d likely still be using it.

      I’m afraid that when you look at it, it’s idiots, all the way down.

      The US, I’m afraid, has always relied on the stupidity of others, and the idea that God takes care of drunks, fools, and the United States. How much longer he’s going to be amused, I do not know.

      1. Hognose Post author

        Mac’s reasoning was logistical, and sound, on the .276: it was only a narrow incremental improvement over the .30, and would have screwed up logistics in the middle of the Great Depression, when the Army wasn’t exactly flush.

        It’s not an intermediate cartridge — 7 x 51mm, it’s a full-house battle rifle cartridge.

        Changing to the Pedersen cartridge would have been an optimizing strategy. You got 2 more rounds in an en bloc clip, reduced recoil, and downrange effects basically equivalent to the .30 M2. On the other hand, you have to either redo a basic trainload of machine guns, or accept split ammo logistics; and you have to accept that existing ammunition stocks are a sunk cost that will go to waste. Sticking with the .30 M2 ball was a satisficing strategy: perhaps not optimal, but “the handiest good-enough option” which is how I define satisficing.

        Now, Macarthur may have made his decision for all the wrong reasons, but ISTR that his given reason was logistics and desire not to obsolete ammo stocks.

        1. Kirk

          I’ve seen this argument gone over a couple of dozen times, over the years. The root issue is that the “sunk” costs in .30-06 ammo stocks were entirely illusory: We went through all of that ammo just doing the training for the WWII Army, and none of that stuff was ever supposed to be deployed overseas.

          The thing about the superiority of the .276 Pedersen had a lot to do with the design of the bullet itself, and the whole black art of cartridge design. Per the experts I’ve read, the .276 has a much better ballistic coefficient than the .30-06, and retains its energy at longer ranges because of that.

          I’ve had discussions with guys who told me that if we’d have gone with that cartridge, we’d have likely still been using it into the late twentieth century. If you go looking at the numbers, the .276 Pedersen is damn near the ballistic equivalent of the .280 British, which is itself nearly the same as that wunderkind 6.8 Remington they’ve been talking about. On top of that, the manufacturing machinery they had to build for WWII hadn’t been built yet, and if they’d have gone with the .276 Pedersen, the net savings in resources would have been huge.

          One of the things that still enrages me, looking back on it, is that the “system” we’ve got refused to acknowledge that they’d gotten it wrong with the NATO cartridge trials back in the 1950s. When the M14 turned into a failure in Vietnam for all the reasons that it did, instead of admitting they made a mistake and procuring the .280 British, they chose to go with the half-assedly thought-out SCHV study instead. That way, they didn’t have to eat crow. Which left us with the highly flawed 5.56mm, which I still have my doubts about.

          On top of that? Nobody is doing the studies and research that they should be doing, to develop actually quantified data with which to make decisions. The idiots running this system of ours think that they’re getting good down-range feedback by handing out highly subjective surveys at the end of deployments, and call that good.

          What they should be doing is actually getting into the weeds on these issues. Wire a unit for sound, so to speak, get some damn UAVs up there to actually observe what is happening in the firefights, and get some damn data that either refutes or confirms the thesis that the 5.56mm is a POS. Right now, I don’t think we can really say with any real accuracy whether or not what we think is happening in terms of downrange effects is actually what is going on.

          It’s like with the hyped-up “field-testing” of the damn XM-25 in Afghanistan. The reports were all good, the troops supposedly loved it, but the one thing that I noticed which was missing were actual casualty reports of what the thing was doing down range. Everything I saw was more-or-less “We took fire. We returned fire with the XM-25. The fire stopped. Yay XM-25!!!”. Anyone else see the issues I saw with that?

          No actual check for whether the damn thing was actually doing anything, downrange–It was all magical thinking. Did anyone close the loop, to see if there were dead bodies at the site they fired at? Were there abandoned weapons? Nope–Nobody checked for stuff like that. There was no downrange BDA conducted. So, we don’t really know if the damn thing worked–It could have been a simple function of the enemy observing something like “Hey, they’re using some new, different weapon on us… Let’s unass the area until we figure it out…”.

          There’s way too much of this kind of crap going on. We seem to have completely forgotten how to conduct good operational research, or why it’s a good idea.

          I think that if we were running a decent small arms program, we’d have been doing things like taking up every weapon in a unit just before deployment, and then doing a thorough study on them, noting where they were worn, what condition they were in, and where they were assigned. Then, when the unit returned, doing the same thing a second time, to determine what sort of wear and abuse they were taking on deployments. Another unit should have been issued completely brand-new weapons, and then when they deployed, look at them just as thoroughly, and take note of where things wore, what parts broke first, and what improvements need to be made.

          We’re not doing any of this, outside of some SOCOM units that have the great good luck to get specialized weapons out of Crane. We should be doing it across the entire force, but we aren’t.

    2. Hognose Post author

      No bullet-trap or blank-launched grenades for decades here. US will still have several thousand MRAPs in the inventory of a smaller military. They’re heavily computerized and maintenance intensive, so they’ll go to shit quickly in a leaner budget environment. (They also eat tires like candy bought with an EBT card). US has quantities of the bigger vehicles but most of them are tired; it’s been a long war.

      The MRAPs were offered to allies. In fact I believe the deal is: free, FOB Afghanistan. None of our allies wants to backhaul more than a few. The insurgency challenged small nations that would like them can’t afford to come to Bagram or one of the other three bases and collect them.

      We developed the fuel-air explosive, the hyperbaric warhead, and the EFP, and then put them in only limited service. The Iranians took the EFP and ran with them; every Shia juvenile delinquent in the middle east has the recipe now, and they’re not averse top sharing it with Sunni JDs when the object is dead Americans (Brits, Canucks, Aussies, Germans, just plain infidels in general).

  3. Aesop

    Under the heading “statistics are fun”:
    Assuming the $50B is accurate, we could have simply stayed home, and instead paid every man, woman, and child in A-stan $1607 each (or 150% of their current per capita share of the country’s GDP) to like us.
    And that’s just the MRAP budget. Forget about what we spent on shipping, food, POLs, ammunition, wear and tear on equipment, losses of same, and without even mentioning the inestimable cost of human lives wasted and shredded.

    Next time, I say we send them the Harry Truman version of plomo o plata:
    We ask them if they want to be paid off in greenbacks, or in formerly enriched uranium, preferably delivered from somewhere around Cheyenne WY. With the clear and explicit explanation that reneging on the greenback deal at any point in living memory enacts Choice B.

    If we’d had the atomic bomb in 1941, WWII would have been over by about December 15th, 1941.

    1. Kirk

      If we’d had the atomic bomb in 1941, WWII would have been over by about December 15th, 1941.

      Mmmmmm… No. I’m going to have to disagree with you. Had we had the atomic bomb in 1941, we’d have never used it effectively, and even if we had dropped the damn things in job lots on the Germans and Japanese, the whole thing would have been exponentially messier.

      See, the thing is, it took the intervening events from Dec 7, 1941 to August 1945 to give the US leadership the necessary cold-bloodedness to actually use the damn things the way we’d have needed to. It also took that long to convince the Germans and Japanese that they were defeated. Had we had the atomic bomb in secret, and then used it in 1945, the likelihood is that the upshot would have been that both parties would have believed that they were defeated only by us “cheating”. A similar dynamic to the “stab in the back” syndrome from WWI would have taken place, and the whole cycle of stupidity would have gone on from there, all over again.

      When the end of WWII came, there were two facts on the ground that everyone had to acknowledge: The Germans and the Japanese had gone down to bloody defeat, and lost the conventional wars that their ideologies both told them that they were superior at. The Germans don’t like to admit it, but they had their asses handed to them, and it was primarily at the hands of the untermenschen. Same with the Japanese–There was no way that anyone could argue that they hadn’t lost at the game of war, so they could both drop the idea of being successful militarists, and go about reconstructing their national self-images as being something else besides world-conquering heroes.

      Drop the bombs on them, out of the blue? The mindset that would have likely set in would have been that they’d been cheated, and that our victory wasn’t legitimate. And, in a generation or two, they would have been right back at it, even if we’d have leveled every city in each country. Of course, if we’d nutted ourselves up to commit atomic genocide, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but I’m not seeing us do that, to be quite honest.

      The same situation is prevalent in the Islamic world, and that’s one reason it was so important for us to go into Iraq and Afghanistan. So long as we fought our wars by remote control, dropping cruise missiles into training camps, we were demonstrating that we did not have the balls to take these idiots on in person. By the time the US Army conventional forces had cake-walked their way into Baghdad, that theory of theirs was pretty much shot: Every time they tried to engage us in battle, they had their asses handed to them. If you think that wasn’t an important point to have made, you don’t understand the psychology of the average Islamic knucklehead. Of course, we’ve pissed away all the good that we did by getting down into the weeds and engaging them mano-e-mano, but that’s another discussion entirely. Actually demonstrating that we had the will, and the skill, to take these idiots on and win was an important point to demonstrate. Now, what we likely should have done was conduct a couple of lightning punitive raids, leaving both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan effectively destroyed, and then withdrawn after having made our point. As a psychological point, that might have been the right path. Politically? Wasn’t happening.

  4. Aesop

    Uh huh.
    How’s that “taking it to them in person” working out in the long term?

    America had the cold-bloodedness to drop atomic bombs by about noon on Opening Day.
    We just didn’t have them yet.
    And if we’d sat on them for any other nonsensical rationale, those responsible for the decision would have been dragged out of the White House and the Pentagon by their hair by several hundred thousand gold star mothers, and hanged from the nearest lightpoles while their own troops cheered it.

    “There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change; it is, ‘To use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wounds, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time.”

    1. Kirk

      Arguing a counter-factual is always going to be difficult. However, reasoning from historical events and using the idea that what happened at “Point B” would have happened at “Point A” the same way as though the intervening experiences and events hadn’t taken place is always going to be a bit, shall we say… Foolish?

      There’s a book by Paul Fussell that you might want to read. The title is Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, and the opening chapter From Light to Heavy Duty goes over the point I’m trying to make a lot more eloquently. The America of 1941 was not the America of 1945. We hadn’t seen Iwo Jima, we hadn’t seen the death camps in Germany, and we hadn’t lost thousands of lives fighting both Germany and Japan.

      Like as not, were you to go back to 1941 and handed FDR the keys to the Nuclear Age, we’d have pissed away the few weapons we were initially able to produce by making futile “humane demonstrations” of them, a course of action that many wanted to follow even in the historic reality of having fought the war up until 1945. There were factions even then that thought we were being inhumane, and I’d wager that those factions would have been listened to.

      Let’s not even get into the necessity of having to start the Manhattan Project in the mid-1930s, in the midst of the peacetime depression, and building all the plants and infrastructure to build atomic bombs. Good Christ, without the necessary pre-requisite of having Grand Coulee Dam built and operational, which only went online in June of 1942, we couldn’t have set up the facilities at Hanford. Same situation with the TVA and Pine Ridge.

      On top of that, in order for us to have a monopoly on atomic weapons in 1941, we’d have needed to maintain security on the whole project. In peacetime, how likely would that have been? Like as not, were you to go back to 1933 and hand the responsible parties a full set of plans, and the requisite information to build the damn things, about all that you would have accomplished would have been starting the Cold War up a few years earlier, only with both the Nazis and the Japanese joining the Russians on the other side.

      The whole idea is a bit questionable, to say the least. I’ll continue to contend that the requisite cold-bloodedness wasn’t there, and that if we had somehow had the weapons available, it’s very likely that everyone else would have, as well. You don’t hide something like the Manhattan Project in peacetime America.

Comments are closed.