MRAP: From Symbol of Iraq War to Symbol of Washington ‘Waste’?

MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles operated by US Marines from 1st Battalion 7th Marines Regiment leave PB Fulod in Sangin, Afghanistan in June 2012. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/GettyImages)

MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles operated by US Marines from 1st Battalion 7th Marines Regiment leave PB Fulod in Sangin, Afghanistan in June 2012. (ADEK BERRY/AFP/GettyImages)

The massive 14-ton, blast-resistant vehicles called MRAPs became the symbol of America’s misadventure in Iraq. And now, the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected trucks are, one US senator says, the symbol of Pentagon and congressional waste.

Sen. Tom Coburn, a self-described “fiscal hawk,” on Tuesday unveiled his “Wastebook 2013,” which identifies a long list of federal government programs the Oklahoma Republican says the nation could really do without.

The report is written in a style befitting Coburn: Informed, blunt and targeting just about everyone. That includes the Pentagon. Not only does Coburn dub the US military’s pricey MRAPs “the Afghanistan scrap market’s flavor of the month,” but he also hits the National Guard for spending “$10 million on Superman movie tie-ins while plans were being made to cut the strength of the Guard by 8,000 soldiers, the real supermen and women who fight for truth, justice and the American way.”

Ouch. And there’s more. Much more.

More on Superman in a moment. Let’s get back to the MRAP issue.

Coburn’s “Wastebook” notes Pentagon brass have determined the military no longer needs around half of the massive bomb-resistant vehicles. In fact, “about 9,000 will be shipped to the United States and U.S. military bases in Kuwait and elsewhere, but thousands of remaining vehicles, each worth at least $500,000, will simply be shredded,” the report states. Coburn also has some harsh advice about the US defense industrial base as America exits another war:

“There is worry the defense industry might suffer if the Pentagon unloads tons of used equipment on the market at vastly reduced prices. This should be viewed as market correction and a positive outcome of the drawdown, not a reason to send valuable equipment to the scrap heap.”

Back to the “Man of Steel.” Let’s let the “Wastebook’s” words speak for themselves:

“Sequestration, the across-the-board spending cuts agreed to by Congress and the President, will reduce the strength of the Army National Guard by more than 8,000 soldiers. So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that in the face of these cuts, the National Guard is turning to Superman for help.

“Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, not even the menacing threats of sequester or a government shutdown could furlough the caped crusader and his fight for truth, justice, and the American way. This year, the Army National Guard teamed up with Superman on a $10 million ‘Soldier of Steel” promotional campaign, intended “to increase awareness and consideration of service opportunities in the National Guard’.”

During the partnership, the Army was forced to cut its ranks — including Guard members — due to sequestration. The latest “Superman” flick made millions. Thoughts, Dr. Coburn?

“The Army still spent $10 million to subsidize the promotion of Superman with the hopes of enlisting new recruits. This money could have been better spent on the real life supermen and superwomen in the Army National Guard who are courageously risking all in the fight for truth, justice, and the American way.

“As Superman flies away with massive profits from sponsors and ticket sales and the force size and budget of the Army National Guard shrinks, the U.S. national debt continues to go up, up and away.”

Yikes. Coburn was equally blunt during a thought-provoking press conference Wednesday where he rolled out the “Wastebook.”

“Whether you agree with my opinion or not isn’t the issue. The fact is, is if you look at $750 billion in deficits, and almost an $18 trillion debt, some grownup in the room has to question whether or not we’re spending money wisely and effectively.

“And so, inside the ‘Wastebook’ this year is $30 billion of stupid — what I would consider stupid or at least poor judgment — when it comes to spending money in a time when we have very little money to spare.”

To watch Coburn’s entire press conference, click here.

John T. Bennett

John T. Bennett

Bennett is the Editor of Defense News' CongressWatch channel. He has a Masters degree in Global Security Studies from Johns Hopkins University.
John T. Bennett