Military Rebuffed Pleas For Safer Vehicles

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The Pentagon repeatedly rejected pleas from U.S. service members in Iraq to purchase safer vehicles to protect them from roadside bombs, according to a USA Today investigation.

USA Today says the military knew for years that Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs, provided better protection against the improvised explosive devices that are the "No. 1 killer of U.S. forces" – and even pushed to buy them for the Iraqi army. But appeals for more MRAPs "from commanders on the battlefield and from the Pentagon's own staff," dating back at least to December 2003, were turned down.

Finally, two months ago, Defense Secretary Robert Gates agreed to make MRAPs a priority.

Last month, two senators, Joe Biden, D-Del., and Kit Bond, R-Mo., said in a letter to Gates that the failure to purchase the vehicles resulted in the deaths of an estimated "621 to 742 Americans" who would have survived had they been in MRAPs rather than the Humvees used by U.S. forces throughout the war. The actual numbers are probably higher, since USA Today found the requests for the vehicles were made earlier than the senators realized.

How effective are the MRAPs? In Anbar province, where Marines have been using them, no deaths have been reported in 300 roadside bombings in the last year.

Critics attribute the delays in purchasing more of the vehicles to the Pentagon's bloated bureaucracy and the fact that the slow, heavy MRAPs didn't fit former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's vision of a lighter, more agile military.

Others say the explanation is simpler: Pentagon planners "never expected the war to last this long."

For Campaigns, More Money In, More Money Out

The 2008 presidential candidates are not only raising money at record levels, they're also spending it as soon as they get it.

The torrid spending pace, says the Washington Post, is putting the squeeze on a number of candidates, threatening to force some from the race nearly six months before the first primary votes are cast.

For example, campaign finance records show that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spent more than $20 million over the last three months – 50 percent more than he raised. And fellow Republican John McCain burned through the $11 million he raised in the same period, leaving him with "barely enough money to keep going, even with his dramatically scaled-down operation."

Lower-tier candidates are also feeling the financial heat. The Post says those struggling to make ends meet include Republicans Tommy Thompson and Mike Huckabee, and Democrats Joe Biden and Chris Dodd.

Meanwhile, the gap between richest candidates and the rest of the field is expanding. The Post says Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton finished June with $34.5 million and $32.6 million in the bank, respectively.

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