US Sec Def Gates to institutionalise MRAP

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Mine resistant armour protected vehicles are set to stay in the US military inventory if comments by Secretary of Defence Robert Gates are anything to go by.
That`s the view of the influential London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies think tank that expects the US military to acquire up to 15 000 of the vehicles.
The US Army took delivery of the 10 000th vehicle in Iraq this month. The current US military holding of all classes and make of MRAP is now approaching 12 000, from zero as recently as 2005.    
The IISS says Gates, who has been defence secretary since December 2006, “has made his policy priorities clear through both formal statements and his shaping of the Pentagon leadership”.
It adds Gates has emphasised the centrality of the counter-terrorist campaign, with the August 2008 National Defence Strategy saying that “for the foreseeable future, winning the Long War against violent extremist movements will be the central objective of the US.”
“Some analysts report that the document may have met resistance in some quarters of the military, with willingness to support large standing forces and the purchase of systems like MRAP vehicles over longer-term more established programmes perhaps being less than wholehearted. Gates pushed back against such ideas,” the IISS says in its latest Military Balance publication.
The IISS say Gates drew the line in a speech to the National Defence University in September last year “that saw him focus, among other key issues, ‘the shifts required for the US defence establishment – in priorities, procurement and institutional culture – as we assess and balance future risk`; a speech that was, he assured his audience about hard power.
“Within an overall framework of seeking ‘balance` in US strategy (such as addressing present as well as future conflicts and balancing traditional and ‘non-traditional` military capabilities), Gates considered the nature of future threats and future conflicts, the limits of military force and the need to consider ‘psychological, cultural, political and human dimensions of warfare.`
“He saw frustration over the ‘defence bureaucracy`s priorities and lack of urgency when it came to the current conflicts`, saying that the US should ‘not be so preoccupied with preparing for future conventional and strategic conflicts that we neglect to provide both short-term and long-term all the capabilities necessary to fight and win conflicts such as we are in today`.
“Noting the ever-rising cost and dwindling numbers of platforms, Gates said that ‘resources are not unlimited [and] the dynamic of exchanging numbers for capability is perhaps reaching a point of diminishing returns.`
“Conventional modernisation programmes deserved support, and the need for state-of-the-art systems would not fade, but he wondered whether specialised, lower-cost low-tech equipment suited to stability and counter-insurgency operations were also needed, in light of the contingencies US forces are likely to face in future and considering the difficulties encountered in fielding MRAPs, up-armoured HMMWVs and ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] in Iraq.
“Ensuring that there is also institutional support (in procurement terms, for instance) for such programmes was necessary, so that in future the US would not have to ‘bypass existing institutions and procedures to get the capabilities we need`, the IISS summarised.
The London think tank notes that Gates has to date not made major changes to Pentagon procurement plans and priorities. He has instead “used a combination of powerful rhetoric, doctrinal innovation, hirings and firings, and supplemental appropriations from Congress to push his ideas and to set the agenda. Gates` term in the Obama administration may see more fundamental debates take place over long-term Pentagon resource allocation.”
The IISS also speculates that the acquisition of “several thousand Strykers (wheeled armoured personnel carriers for the new-style brigade combat teams) and up to 15 000 MRAPs may affect the US$200 billion Future Combat System, originally a family of 18 major systems, including 11 types of ground vehicle. “The addition of so many new vehicles to so many units, as well as the combat environments in which such equipment is employed, has led some to assert that this equipment should be used and assessed before major new decisions are made.”
It adds that a February 2007 “restructuring of the FCS project was already “part of a balancing act between equipping the current force and modernizing the future force.” The goal of the FCS is to use information, networks, situational awareness, active defence and manoeuvre to ensure survivability to make ground forces more efficient and enable manpower reductions.
Critics of the programme have argued that pursuing so many capabilities at once risks confusion and that FCS has been rushed in a number of technology areas, saying add-on capabilities can be as cheap, and nearly as effective as creating new vehicle fleets.