Despite more than 130 urgent-need requests from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force while it was deployed in Iraq, less than 10 percent were fulfilled and many were "canceled, delayed" or led to solutions which were not asked for, according to government watchdog Project On Government Oversight.
POGO, citing an allegedly canceled March presentation by 1 MEF technology staff to the Defense Department's Office of the Director for Defense Research and Engineering, declared May 31 that the requests "frequently languished" at coalition headquarters until U.S. Central Command officials "intervened," restoring urgency to the process.
Unrequited needs included counter-improved explosive device technology, including Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, and for surveillance, especially Scan Eagle unmanned aircraft, POGO announced while publishing copies of the supposed 1 MEF presentation. The Associated Press and Wired News recently also reported on the leaked presentation (PDF).
"Congress should undertake an in-depth investigation into the situation with rapid acquisition at the Defense Department to ensure that the right balance is struck between getting equipment into the field rapidly while maintaining accountability," declared POGO defense investigator Nick Schwellenbach.
POGO often lambastes Capitol Hill and the Pentagon for alleged waste, fraud and abuse in the defense acquisition realm, and their muckrakers have helped the likes of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) -- the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and legislative thorn in the side of the military industrial complex -- highlight questionable acquisition decisions such as the scandal-borne Boeing-Air Force aerial refueling tanker deal years ago.
But to be sure, the Marines have also led the way at times when it came to getting the U.S. military juggernaut to provide badly needed technologies to front-line war fighters -- especially MRAPs. Officers in Washington appearances have discussed for years how insurgents have exploited the Humvee's flat-bottomed vulnerability, stacking mines and shaping blasts to flip the workhorse transports. The Marines in 2003 reached out to Force Protection for its Cougar and Buffalo MRAPs, while the Army has followed more slowly, coming around this year to earnestly swapping out its Humvees in Iraq for MRAPs.
When I interviewed Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittee, in early spring for a DTI profile I asked him why he thought the Marines and Army were so different in their culture over something like the MRAPs. "The Marines have kind of taken the attitude that a 90 percent solution right now is better than a 100 solution years away," Taylor said. The Army leans toward a total solution later, he opined.