Called an MRAP, for mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, it can survive roadside bombs because of a V-shaped chassis that deflects explosions better than the Humvee and has won the highest possible accolade from the commandant of the Marine Corps, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
"We have yet to have a Marine killed in the al Anbar Province who is riding inside an MRAP," Top Marine commander Gen. James Conway said.
Marines in the field asked for 1,200 MRAPs in February 2005 — but so far, they've received less than 100. Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to know what's taking so long.
"My concern is that the rate of production is nowhere near what it needs to be to meet the demand on the part of either the Army or the Marine Corps," he said.
An MRAP is the latest example of a problem that has plagued the military throughout this war — the time it takes the bureaucracy to field better equipment.
A Marine Corps document obtained by the Associated Press says that of 100 requests for critical gear sent in last year, less than 10 have been filled. It blames red tape and the failure of bureaucrats to take risks.
"Unnecessary delays cause … deaths and injuries," the document says — and nowhere is it more true than with MRAP.
"How do you not see it as a moral imperative to get as many of those vehicles to theater as rapidly as you can?" Conway said.
Counting the Army, 18,000 MRAPs are needed in Iraq. But even with a crash program, that will take more than two years — long after this decisive summer when the enemy is expected to go all out to cause American casualties.