National Defense:

Rapid Acquisition of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles

GAO-08-884R: Published: Jul 15, 2008. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 2008.

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About 75 percent of casualties in current combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are attributed to improvised explosive devices (IED). To mitigate the threat from these weapons, the Department of Defense (DOD) initiated the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle program, which uses a tailored acquisition approach to rapidly acquire and field the vehicles. In May 2007, the Secretary of Defense affirmed MRAP as DOD's single most important acquisition program. To date, more than $22 billion has been appropriated to acquire more than 15,000 MRAP vehicles, and about 6,600 of the vehicles have been fielded. In view of the importance of this program and the significant cost involved, Congress asked us to (1) describe DOD's approach for and progress in implementing its strategy for rapidly acquiring and fielding MRAP vehicles, and (2) identify the challenges remaining for the program.

DOD used a tailored acquisition approach to rapidly acquire and field MRAP vehicles. The program established minimal operational requirements and relied heavily on commercially available products. The program also undertook a concurrent approach to producing, testing, and fielding the vehicles. To expand limited existing production capacity, the department awarded indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts to nine commercial sources for the purchase of up to 4,100 vehicles per year from each vendor. To evaluate design, performance, producibility, and sustainability, DOD committed to buy at least 4 vehicles from all vendors. According to program officials, subsequent delivery orders were based on a phased testing approach with progressively more advanced vehicle test results and other assessments. To expedite the fielding of the vehicles, mission equipment packages including radios and other equipment were integrated into the vehicles after they were purchased. Finally, DOD designated the MRAP program as DOD's highest priority acquisition, which helped contractors and other industry partners to more rapidly respond to the urgent need and meet production requirements. While the department's concurrent approach to producing, testing, and fielding the vehicles has provided an urgently needed operational capability, it has also increased performance, sustainability, and cost risks. For example, safety and performance testing is not yet complete, and any shortcomings revealed may require design changes or postmanufacturing fixes. Operating, maintaining, and sustaining a fleet of more than 15,000 fielded vehicles manufactured by at least five different vendors could also present significant challenges--especially for the Army, whose fleet will include more than 10,000 vehicles from five manufacturers. Future budgets could be significantly affected by these challenges, particularly since the department is still determining its cost estimate to operate and sustain the current MRAP quantities. At the same time, DOD is seeking to develop a replacement for the ubiquitous high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle and to fund various other high-priority weapon systems across the services. Finally, as threats change, performance requirements--and MRAP's role in DOD's overall tactical wheeled vehicle strategy--could change, further exacerbating these challenges.

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