Disruptive Technology and Reforming the Pentagon Establishment—Part II

Posted on July 16, 2012



Part II of a reblog from Small Wars Journal

Disruptive Technology and Reforming the Pentagon Establishment—Part II

The Origin of MRAPs in DoD

by Thaddeus L. Jankowski

“Dear Mr. Secretary, thank you for your letter of June 27th 2011…As I noted when you were here in June you had my back throughout that time. More importantly you had our Troopers and our families’ backs throughout that time, too. You were masterful in ensuring they received the support and resources they needed, even when there was institutional resistance. As you well know we never would have gotten MRAPs, or UAVs, M-ATVs, much of the counter insurgency systems and a host of other vital enablers were it not for your determined leadership. Please accept my sincere appreciation for that leadership and for your steadfast commitment during your time as Secretary….”

General David Petraeus, July 12th 2011, in a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, by Paula Broadwell. Emphasis added.

Part I of this series looked back at the defense reform efforts of the 1980s, discussed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ rhetoric for reform of the Pentagon establishment, and exposed the continued failure to carry through on deep institutional change. In this article, the author provides a first-hand account of the origins of the MRAP vehicle from the perspective of one of the first five officers to initiate the MRAP program as we know it today. As is the case with any after-action review, knowing who initiated one of the most important new devices in DoD history, why they initiated it and how they initiated it will help officers understand technological foresight in war.

Part II: Origin of MRAPs in DoD

Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles are the largest land acquisition program in DoD history and the largest program of its kind since WWII. These vehicles were critical to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan and will likely be in service in the Army and even in the Marine Corps for the next 30 years. Rarely do we see the emergence of a toolset of this nature – a toolset on the order of the Higgins Boat, F-16, A-10, and the light armored vehicle to name a few. We should therefore understand how MRAPs came to be. Who are the real initiators of the MRAP? Success has a thousand fathers. The answer to this question will help Pentagon leaders understand disruptive technology in application. It will help us all understand the severe need for reform in what Mr. Gates referred to as the “Pentagon Establishment.”

By now we are painfully aware that MRAP vehicles were designed by the South Africans, who in the 1960s – 1970s found themselves fighting an enemy who regularly planted mines in their roads. While many label improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as a revolutionary, asymmetric development, we must realize that the South Africans faced and created a solution (MRAPs) to this problem over thirty years before we would need them. The term “IED” unhelpfully hides the fact that we should have been much more prepared for landmine warfare than we were. Landmine use has been increasing for 100 years as a cheap and easy response to the technological might of the United States and other powers. “IED” connotes something “new” and “unexpected” in warfare, whereas the historically more common term, “landmine”, is more accurate.

Keeping this in mind, we must ask why military wheeled vehicle planners at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command still had no real understanding of technological foresight even into 2007. Even in 1989, when I was a student at the Infantry Officer Course, we were aware of the superior truck design characteristics of South African vehicles.

In the early and mid-1990s, those with real foresight, like Col Wayne Sinclair USMC or COL Bill Schneck USA, published works of MRAP advocacy. Col Sinclair and LtCol Roy McGriff III USMC made a name for the MRAP in the US military in 2004. Sinclair and Schneck supported their “successor” of sorts, LtCol McGriff and his 2004-2005 leadership on MRAPs, and all of them, in turn, lent a helping hand at times to the 2006 MRAP Planning team under MajGen Anthony Jackson, GS-15 Susan Alderson, Col Gary Supnick, LtCol Joe Allena, and others, to help us finally break through the phalanx of Pentagon Establishment opposition to MRAPs.

When a recalcitrant Pentagon Establishment continued to refuse to put sufficient emphasis on MRAPs, GS-15 Franz Gayl and others drove home the importance of rapidly fielding toolsets to support the war effort in 2007-2010. This helped existing MRAP requirements get noticed, and it then helped field a variety of other toolsets useful for COIN. Everyone who really initiated MRAPs over the opposition of the Establishment has been scrupulous to avoid attention (with perhaps one exception). Despite the size and importance of the program, these innovators have not been well known. While some of the key players have been mentioned above, the list is not exhaustive.

Though the Pentagon Establishment ultimately acted as if they had the foresight to develop these new, wheeled vehicles, in reality they opposed vital lifesaving technology. As Mr. Gates stated in 2011, “Thousands and thousands of lives have been saved and multiples of that in terms of limbs.” Despite this endorsement, the establishment tried to end the career of Mr. Franz Gayl – a prime driver of the program – in a systematic and deliberate attempt based in part on manufactured organizational amnesia about the 2005 MRAP requirement. After MRAP manufacturing began, incorrect testimony was given to Congress and inaccurate statements were given to the Press. Additionally, if we forget the past, we will repeat it, whether that is 3M Corporation Establishment resisting Post-it Notes, the integrated steel mills resisting mini-mill technologies until they all went bankrupt, or the Pentagon Establishment resisting some of the most useful toolsets tailored for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

MRAPs at MARCENT, 2004-2006

The MRAP program was initiated at Headquarters, U.S. Marine Forces Central Command (MARCENT). MARCENT attempted to get MRAPs approved twice. MARCENT first attempted a large MRAP program in Feb 2005 under the efforts of LtCol McGriff and LtGen Wallace “Chip” Gregson. McGriff was a War Planner in the G-4 (Logistics Branch) and Gregson was the MARCENT Commanding General at the time. A variety of specious arguments and bureaucratic maneuvers, complete with retroactive excuses, were used to drown the 2005 MRAP requirement. These kinds of bureaucratic maneuvers are common in the Pentagon today and were described by the DoD Inspector General (DoDIG) MRAP Audit of December 2008. They will be the subject of a future article.

MRAPs were re-introduced by a new MARCENT team in 2006 under MajGen Anthony Jackson, then a brigadier general and Deputy Commanding General of MARCENT. Initiation and planning phases were closely monitored until fielding began. The second time proved to be successful.

Now let’s zoom in a little closer, to understand why the second MARCENT attempt was successful. We need to take a closer look at specifically how MRAPs broke past the Pentagon Establishment gatekeepers.

MajGen Anthony Jackson said in approximately April 2006, “History will judge us on whether or not we buy this equipment for our Marines.” (Paraphrased based on author’s memory of the comments). Those words were electric when he spoke them. They marked the beginning of the end of Pentagon Establishment resistance to MRAPs, more than a year before Secretary of Defense Robert Gates would discover MRAPs on the pages of USA Today.

What drove MajGen Jackson’s conviction? He had visited Marines in Afghanistan and rode an MRAP across an anti-personnel minefield. He had been thinking about MRAPs and this experience cemented his conviction that we needed MRAPs in Iraq and Afghanistan. The driver of the MRAP was a contractor clearing old minefields from the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They popped 14 anti-personnel mines on one run!

About the same time, the MARCENT Science Advisor GS-15 Susan Alderson was working on a study of casualty data by vehicle and realized the huge, statistically significant gap between the performance of legacy vehicles and MRAP vehicles when hit by a landmine. Alderson similarly developed a belief that this truck was necessary, with the same intensity as MajGen Jackson.

When MajGen Jackson returned from Afghanistan, he ordered the MARCENT staff to study MRAPs. We sensed the intensity in his voice and knew we were onto something very special. We had a sense that this MRAP effort would not be routine. From that point on, MARCENT officers working on MRAP requirements for the warfighters in Iraq had fire in their eyes. That may sound melodramatic, but we could see the impact on the war effort these vehicles could have. We would defeat the obstructionist Pentagon Establishment. We had to.

The MARCENT MRAP Planning Team, 2006

The 2006 MRAP planning team stood on the intellectual foundation and lessons learned in previous attempts to get MRAPs. The McGriff/Gregson effort of early 2005 had a comprehensive brief and we had a similarly compelling brief in May/June 2006. They had MARCENT Commander support from LtGen Wallace Gregson in 2005 and we had support from his successor, LtGen John Sattler, in 2006. They had support from the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps at the time, we had support from the Commandant of the Marine Corps (Gen Hagee). The Dec 2008 DoDIG MRAP Audit relates how the first major MRAP attempt was derailed, the following paragraphs describe how the second attempt was successful.

The main difference between the two efforts? The 2005 MARCENT MRAP effort tried to convince Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) middle-managers to support MRAPs, while we went around MCCDC. At risk of over-simplification, they were the Greeks, philosophically advocating MRAPs almost as if logic was useful in convincing the Pentagon Establishment to change course. We were the Romans, constructing all arguments to go directly to those who could overrule the Pentagon Establishment obstructionists, and then standing guard over those requirements so they could not be deferred for study again. Every time I spoke to Quantico officials about MRAPs in 2006, it was to get information from them, not convince them. Perhaps the most important difference: the MARCENT 2005 MRAP team saw where insurgent tactics were leading and predicted the need for MRAPs based on that intelligence, as McGriff’s 2004 Future War thesis paper written at the School of Advanced Warfighting made clear in simple, unclassified prose. By contrast, we realized their predictions were correct, so we argued from actual casualty data and the obvious reality that McGriff’s 2005 foresight was accurate. More bluntly: they argued from South African casualties, we argued from actual OIF casualties. Some have suggested there is 20/20 hindsight in critiques of the Pentagon Establishment, and yet such suggestions are entirely unsupported by the data of these proceedings.

Innovation in war takes teamwork. The more important innovations in DoD history warrant study of the teams that produced those innovations. The MARCENT MRAP planning team of 2006 had three members. First, Ms. Susan Alderson was the Science Advisor for both MARCENT and I MEF, and the senior member, bringing many years’ experience in technology. Notably, she was a GS-15 willing to embrace this program when all the cultural headwinds within the Pentagon Establishment were directly against us. She has since become known as the Mother of the MRAP. The importance of her leadership on this initiative cannot be overstated. Next, LtCol Allena (then a Major) was a war planner, and had been involved with LtCol McGriff’s MRAP analysis in 2004 when they were both majors at the School of Advanced Warfighting. He had helped with the 2005 effort as well, so he served as an eyewitness link to previous attempts to get MRAPs. He brought additional intellectual continuity from McGriff and Sinclair. Finally, I led MARCENT’s new technology “Urgent Needs” program. I personally handled initiation of all of the MARCENT Commander’s top-priority projects. I had been mobilized to be a war planner liaison to U.S. Central Command’s J5 war planning team, but was quickly shifted to lead the new technology program. My background was in leading change in technology and strategic marketing projects in a variety of civilian companies. I had also studied disruptive technology and technology as a component of strategy.

The three of us were from very different backgrounds, but we came together as a team from the beginning. Alderson, Allena, and I prepared the 2006 MRAP initiation briefing that MajGen Jackson had ordered us to create. The MARCENT MRAP Planning Team began studying the problem and picking it apart in the spring of 2006. When senior leaders in Washington, D.C. stated that warriors are four to five times more likely to survive a landmine “IED” attack in an MRAP, they are quoting Alderson’s data. Just for good measure, that data was reviewed in July/August 2006 and confirmed valid by a senior thinker at the Center for Naval Analysis. We had done our homework. (Recently, Alderson received the Department of Navy’s Commendation for Superior Civilian Service for her work on MRAPs, a prestigious award that is well-deserved.)

The MARCENT Chief of Staff gave us critical rudder steers on the content of our brief, and guided strategy for its presentation. In late May, at MajGen Jackson’s direction, Alderson presented a full brief on MRAPs to LtGen Sattler and MajGen Jackson. He approved this request for MRAPs and then we whittled that down to seven slides for LtGen Sattler to personally present to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Michael Hagee. And so, in July 2006, a major end-run around the Pentagon Establishment was completed when the Commandant immediately approved a major MRAP requirement. There would be very little opportunity for the USMC portion of the Pentagon Establishment to spike MRAPs under the ruse of “studying” the issue. The compelling brief grew legs and went everywhere in the senior levels of the U.S. government by September 2006.

Like Post-It Note engineers at 3M Corporation going directly to the senior executives or the Board of Directors and bypassing middle-management establishment players to create one of the most profitable technologies in 3M’s history, the MARCENT Commander effectively went around MCCDC gatekeepers and directly to the Commandant. Next, MARCENT senior staff communicated this decision to senior USMC leaders in Anbar Province, Iraq at Multi-National Forces-West (MNF-W), in July 2006. We explained that the Commandant approved a major requirement. Only with “top cover” from the Commandant was MNF-W willing to release a significant MRAP requirement. They requested an additional 1,000 MRAPs, bringing the total requirement as of July 2006 to 1,185.

Those who study military reform and the history of defense acquisition should understand that this sequence of events was the beginning of one of the most significant new technological programs of OIF/OEF. More importantly, it spelled the beginning of the end of the Pentagon Establishment’s capacity to block MRAPs. Most importantly, it worked well on the battlefield—and as we shall see, it continues to work well on the battlefield, many years after it was introduced. It did not just buy us a little time during the surge: it continues to be a useful tool even with wide adoption of COIN tactics.

Now, almost every major military in the world has an MRAP capability. They realize the truth of one of Gen James Mattis’ (the current Commander of U.S. Central Command) dictums: make yourself hard to kill.

MRAP Initiation for All Troops in Iraq, July 2006 – May 2007

One would think that if the Commandant of the Marine Corp approved MRAPs, then the USMC portion of the Pentagon Establishment would stop resisting MRAPs. Civilians or young officers might think that when a general or admiral gives an order in the Pentagon, people obey. But with technology, this is often not the case. The middle managers in DoD continue to do what they want, to use their knowledge of red tape to oppose the will of general officers. Events covered in this period, July 2006 through May 2007, address some of the MARCENT actions taken within U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to make sure MRAPs were not blocked again, and to get MRAP requirements for all warfighters in Iraq.

We sought to get MRAP requirements approved by the Navy component of CENTCOM, NAVCENT (for Naval Construction Battalion “SeaBees” in Anbar). We also sought to get MRAP requirements approved for soldiers in MNF-W and Multi-national Divisions Baghdad and North. May is chosen as an end-date for this period because by May, the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Secretary of Defense took up the mantle and decided that all MRAP requirements should be funded. It should also be noted that MARCENT actions taken below are only those actions that be described in an unclassified journal.

To understand actions taken in MARCENT’s MRAP Initiation Program during the second half of 2006, one must first understand judgments made about what had happened in 2005. Our study of what happened to the McGriff/Gregson MRAP initiative of 2005 revealed that the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and the MCCDC Commander supported a major MRAP requirement in late March 2005. This occurred at the March 2005 annual Executive Safety Conference, as has been confirmed by the DoD Inspector General MRAP audit of Dec 2008, page 10: “The Executive Safety Board minutes stated that the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps favored procuring mine-resistant vehicles.”

My 2006 study of MCCDC’s “analysis” of the McGriff/Gregson initiative in 2005 made it obvious that it was a Pentagon Establishment hatchet job. It proved that no logic would convince the Pentagon Establishment to change course with wheeled vehicles. It was clear that MRAPs had been tabled by the Quantico staff in 2005, a conclusion that would be obvious to all of Washington, D.C. by the time that the House Armed Services Committee entered the PP&O Science Advisor’s MRAP Case Study of Jan 2008 into the Congressional Record. And it was made obvious again when the DoD Inspector General MRAP audit was published in December 2008.

To some who are less familiar with these events, this may sound like unnecessary “who shot John” retroflection. Yet some in the Pentagon Establishment have been providing conveniently skewed histories of these events, like the Kelsey Grammer character in the movie “Pentagon Wars.” GS personnel in the USMC portion of the Pentagon Establishment cannot be permitted to retroactively create convenient histories that dovetail with their desire to maintain control of the levers of device initiation.

Study of the 2005 events illustrated that the Pentagon Establishment has the capacity to use knowledge of the bureaucracy to effectively overrule even general officers. Clayton Christensen in his 1997 book, the Innovator’s Dilemma observed that organizational establishments systematically fight change. Three decades earlier Col John Boyd observed the same thing. For example, Col Burton’s book Pentagon Wars describes how Boyd had a green light from the Chief of Staff of the Air Force to build the F-15, but he realized that was not enough. He had to convince many subordinate constituencies within the Air Force. Permanent personnel in government are often more powerful than transitory senior leaders.

I became the lead officer for the MARCENT MRAP initiative July 2006 through March 2007. This was the only comprehensive MRAP initiation effort in all of CENTCOM. The program’s first goal was to make sure MRAPs did not get “tabled” in Quantico, as they did in 2005. As 2006 progressed the MARCENT MRAP initiative quietly expanded the scope to include all CENTCOM troops in Iraq, not just those in Anbar. Informal support to Special Operational Command (SOCOM) MRAP initiatives was also provided.

It became clear in the summer of 2006 that the Marines would ask for only 805 MRAPs in the 29 Sep 2006 Supplemental Appropriations Act. This only took care of the USMC portion of the initial Joint requirement for 1,185 MRAPs, a number that was almost identical to the 1,169 MRAPs requested in Feb 2005. The Navy and Army had not yet funded MRAP requirements for SeaBees in Anbar, Soldiers in Anbar, or Soldiers in the rest of Iraq. With a significant USMC MRAP requirement it seemed that a camel-in-the-tent strategy would result. But it seemed best to speed up the process, given the monthly casualty reports: many lives were depending on how well MARCENT officers fought all the bad ideas that were dominant in the Pentagon Establishment.

In mid-July 2006 we could not risk the Pentagon Establishment spiking MRAPs in 2006 the way they had in 2005: it became increasingly clear throughout 2006 that we needed to keep the pressure on and coming from multiple directions. We needed insurgent tactics against the Pentagon Establishment. “Insurgency” is precisely how Burton and Coram described Boyd’s first application of maneuver warfare in the Bradley Fighting Vehicle testing fiasco (where the liars got promotions and the men who refused to accept dishonest testing got thrown out of the military).

In Sep 2006 I briefed officers at Headquarters, U.S. Navy Component Central Command (NAVCENT). NAVCENT endorsed MRAPs for Naval Construction Battalion and the Navy quickly funded the MNF-W requirement for SeaBees by early November 2006. Even though vehicles would be distributed to Marines, Soldiers, or SeaBees on the basis of operational requirements—not what Service was “paying” for the MRAP—no Service had yet funded the MNF-W requirement for soldiers in Anbar Province, the most dangerous area of Iraq at the time. This meant the overall MNF-W requirement would be far short. So, the focus of effort of MARCENT’s MRAP program shifted to persuading Army warfighters to consider MRAP requirements. All of these requirements existed primarily in the Joint channels, so people in the Pentagon Establishment could not as readily defeat them as they could in 2005, when MRAP requirements were primarily in Service channels.

In July-December 2006, a series of briefings with many CENTCOM officers were given in Tampa, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait. These briefings were designed to spread the case for MRAPs widely, and to get the Army warfighters to weigh in on the MRAP program. For example, Task Force Troy (the task force charged with defeating IED networks) was approached twice with the MRAP requirement. At least twice, CENTCOM J8 officers were requested to forward the Marines’ MNF-W requirement to Army troops in Multi-National Division-Baghdad (MND-B) and Multi-National Division-North (MND-N), so that they could decide whether they could use MRAPs, too.

Officers at Multi-National Corps-Iraq (MNC-I) and Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) were briefed about MRAPs for Army warfighters. By the end of 2006, ARCENT (the Army component of CENTCOM) decided all soldiers in Iraq should have MRAPs, and due to the leadership of Gen James Amos and Gen James Mattis, MARCENT increased its MRAP requirement on 18 Dec 2006 from 1,185 to approximately 3,700. Later, the USMC Service requirement was scaled downward to 2,225 for Iraq, and then it increased for Afghanistan when M-ATV’s were added to the inventory.

And so we see the debunking of a myth: MRAP did not spring forth out of whole cloth from Congress. Quite the contrary, Congress responded to the efforts of officers in CENTCOM and its warfighters to get MRAPs when they became aware of those requirements. This in turn opened up additional opportunities for retooling. In addition to MRAPs, we advocated other toolsets of war such as unmanned aerial systems and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies that have doubled in use almost every year since.

By the end of 2006, almost every major subordinate command within CENTCOM had approved an MRAP requirement. The MARCENT MRAP program’s attempt to get MRAPs for all soldiers in Iraq had gone as far as it could go: MRAP funding for Soldiers in Anbar and funding for Soldiers in MND-B/N would have to be accomplished at the political level. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees would leverage the Marines’ and Navy’s requests for funding of MRAP requirements to force Big Army to establish their official MRAP requirement and request MRAPs for their soldiers, too…and thus put their sacred cow, Future Combat Systems, at risk.

Afterward, I never found any analysis that suggested Surge Planners were also focusing on technological aspects of counter insurgency. On one level, this was understandable. Surge advocates like Gen Jack Keane and Dr. Eliot Cohen could not simultaneously initiate the surge and take on the deeply entrenched technology establishment of Big Army and the USMC portion of the Pentagon Establishment. Frankly, I doubt any of them had any technological foresight for tools tailored for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the fact that Dr. Eliot Cohen realized that emphasis on technology was a common trait of senior civilian leaders in wartime. Unhelpfully, one surge planner, retired General Barry McCaffrey, was quoted as saying “[MRAPs are] the wrong vehicle, too late, to fit a threat we were actually managing.” Almost every day since those words were printed, a Soldier, Marine, Sailor, or Airman has been saved from a landmine attack because they were in an MRAP. Thankfully, Mr. Gates did not take this advice.

Conclusion

The USMC portion of the Pentagon Establishment gave us zero foresight, zero leadership and only minimalist approval of 805 vehicles. Yet, from Big Army, the MRAP program saw even greater opposition even into 2007.

By the end of 2006, MRAPs became like a 350-pound pulling lineman, breaking the phalanx of Pentagon Establishment control over the levers of device initiation. They would quickly try to re-establish power, but the balance of power had shifted.

In terms of the Boydian OODA loop (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, a simplified construct of maneuver warfare theory), they could not take observations from the warfighter and wrap them up in red tape as easily. They had to begin orienting, deciding and acting on information flows from creative thinkers on the battlefield. The MARCENT prioritization and the program records being kept and regularly published prevented the Establishment from delaying and ignoring urgent new technologies as easily as they had been able to do previously. Prior to 2006, officers would sometimes get busy and lose focus on urgent new requirements they had submitted. Since then, several officers began watching unrelentingly. An audit eventually revealed that MCCDC had the responsibility to maintain the urgent needs program in a transparent manner and MCCDC was required to build a piece of software to maintain visibility of the end-to-end process. COIN toolsets began to get a seat at the table.

A number of Marine officers collaborated with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force (REF), an organization created to give the Army a kind of rapid maneuver they evidently did not have at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command or their Tank and Automotive Command (TRADOC/TACOM). The REF officers did excellent work and through the years I have made a point to visit them and learn from them in my travels in Iraq and Afghanistan. We used the MRAP program’s success to support a prioritized list of brilliant ideas coming from the warfighter, and then we used that success to advocate maneuver warfare doctrine for the support establishment.

By early 2007, it was clear that the enemy would try hard to kill us in these new vehicles. It was also clear that there would be a political conflagration between Congress and the Pentagon Establishment. We had started MRAP “fires” in the form of many official Urgent Needs documents and in the minds of many, many officers within CENTCOM. We knew those fires would jump the Pentagon Establishment firebreaks.

As I demobilized in early 2007, I replayed the entire MRAP initiative in my mind—the data, and the tactics, again and again—questioning our assumptions. How could the enemy in Iraq repeatedly and consistently defeat MRAPs (when used as a part of COIN tactics)? I was worried—had we done enough? Had we thought through the problem? Did we miss something? The enemy had cut through each HMMWV innovation to keep our casualty rates relatively constant. When you are not winning a counter-insurgency fight, you are losing. We were in a race against time: Congress was losing patience. Would the enemy cut through MRAPs like they cut through all those HMMWV retrofits? Soon enough the Secretary of Defense personally answered those questions; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would answer those questions; and battlefield results that were recently made public would leave no doubt.

To illustrate the residual strength of the Pentagon Establishment, by the end of 2006 almost every Commander in CENTCOM and SOCOM had approved major MRAP requirements. And yet Mr. Gates still did not find out about MRAPs until May 2007 (he repeated that assertion at least four times in four years). He rapidly made it the Pentagon’s #1 priority program for steel and other resources. The very people who have now been resoundingly repudiated for casting stones at Mr. Gayl’s career cannot explain why Mr. Gates had to find out about MRAPs from a newspaper—instead of from his own senior leaders in the Pentagon.

We will never learn from our mistakes in DoD if we do not have the courage to admit them. As with the Bradley Fighting Vehicle testing fiasco 30 years ago, those responsible for blocking MRAPs keep their jobs, get promotions and awards for alleged “foresight” even as those who had the moral courage to advocate MRAPs, in 2007, 2006 and earlier, are sidelined marginalized or even attacked. This is not behavior of a learning organization.

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