Marines halt study critical of MRAP program
USA Today
By Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
February 26, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps has ordered a civilian scientist to stop work on a report critical of its efforts to obtain new armored vehicles, saying he exceeded his authority, a Marine official said Tuesday.

Franz Gayl, a retired Marine officer and civilian science adviser, alleged in a Jan. 22 report that "gross mismanagement" of the program to quickly field Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles had resulted in the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of Marines in Iraq. Gayl had planned to continue his investigation.

"He's been told to stop any further work," said Col. David Lapan, a Marine spokesman. "It's gotten beyond its initial purpose."

Lapan said Gayl exceeded his authority by writing about MRAPs because the proposal that requested the report never specifically mentioned the new armored vehicles by name.

Today, top Marine generals will appear before a House Armed Services subcommittee to testify about the Corps' budget request and the status of the Marines' MRAP program. Rep. Gene Taylor, a Mississippi Democrat and subcommittee chairman, said he would ask about the Gayl report.

Gayl's report was first made public by the Associated Press on Feb. 15. The report said Marine procurement officers spurned requests from commanders in Iraq for blast-resistant vehicles because they didn't want to derail other projects.

On Feb. 20, the Marines asked the Pentagon inspector general to investigate the claims, two days after USA TODAY reported that two U.S. senators had demanded an investigation.

Lt. Gen. Richard Natonski, who approved Gayl's investigation, never saw the report because Gayl's superiors hadn't verified the conclusions, Lapan said. The charges of gross mismanagement were so serious that top Marine officers asked the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate, he said.

The Marines haven't determined whether Gayl's conclusions are valid, said Lapan, who called the report internal and preliminary.

Gayl's initial proposal indicated he would look at MRAPs and other equipment and weapons systems, said Adam Miles of the Government Accountability Project, a non-partisan Washington watchdog group.

Miles' organization provides legal counsel to Gayl, who filed for federal whistle-blower protection in May. Miles said Gayl had planned further studies on how the Marines had failed to field other needed equipment, including one regarding non-lethal weapons.

Miles applauded the call for an inspector general's investigation. "After the Marine Corps had basically spent a week trying to distance itself from Franz's study, this was important acknowledgement of the serious issues that he's raised," he said.

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