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Report: Marines slow to get protective vehicles into Iraq

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  • Report: Buying reinforced Humvees, not MRAPs, possibly cost lives
  • Defense Department knew of roadside bomb risk ahead of Iraq war, report says
  • Report: Department didn't immediately take available steps to get MRAPs
  • MRAPs are designed to shield troops from mines and other explosives
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By Mike Mount
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Marine Corps knew of the threat posed by roadside bombs before the start of the Iraq war, yet did nothing to buy protective vehicles for troops, according to a report to be released by the Pentagon.

Marines' armored Humvees are parked at a miltary camp in Fallujah, Iraq, in May 2007.

Marines' armored Humvees are parked at a miltary camp in Fallujah, Iraq, in May 2007.

Additionally, Marine leaders in 2005 decided to buy up-armored, or reinforced, Humvees instead of Mine Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles to shield troops in Iraq from mines and other explosives -- a decision that could have cost lives, according to the report obtained Tuesday by CNN.

The report by the Department of Defense inspector general was requested by the Marine Corps in early 2008 after a civilian employee with the service complained that bureaucratic delays undermined the program to develop the armored vehicles.

Inspectors found that the decision not to buy MRAP vehicles in 2005 stopped the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, the agency in charge of finding the best protective vehicle from troops in Iraq, from "developing a course of action ... to attempt to obtain funding for [MRAPs]," according to the report.

The report found that the Department of Defense knew before the war started in 2003 of the threats of mines and roadside bombs in Iraq but did nothing to acquire "MRAP-type" vehicles ahead of the invasion.

"As a result, the department entered into operations in Iraq without having taken available steps to acquire technology to mitigate the known mine and IED risk to soldiers and Marines," the report said.

In response to the report, Marine Corps spokesman Maj. David Nevers pointed out the inspector general found no "evidence of criminal negligence" in the Corps' actions.

The decision to buy the up-armored Humvee model, he said, was made "consciously by the Marine Corps leadership because of its proven capability to protect and its tactical utility; the survivability and mobility demanded by the Marines in theater; and its availability, based on an active, responsive production line."

"The Marine Corps fully cooperated with [inspector general] during this audit," Nevers said. "We are reviewing the report to ensure that our processes best support the war fighter in theater."

A civilian whistle-blower working with the Marine Corps on the MRAP program wrote a scathing report about delays in the procurement process in early 2008.

"If the mass procurement and fielding of MRAPs had begun in 2005 in response to the known and acknowledged threats at that time, as the USMC is doing today, hundreds of deaths and injuries could have been prevented," Franz Gayl wrote in his January report.

He said bureaucratic delays plagued the program at the height of the insurgency, when U.S. troops were regularly being attacked and killed by roadside bombs.

Gayl's report prompted the Marine Corps to request the inspector general's audit in 2008.

The Gayl report drew attention just months after MRAPs had been pushed into Iraq by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in an effort to protect troops from roadside bombs -- the leading killer of troops at the time.

All About Iraq WarU.S. Marine CorpsU.S. Department of Defense

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