Pentagon giving away 13,000 armored trucks

The vehicles, which cost about $500,000 new, have outlived their purpose, officials say. And that's bad news for defense contractors.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 23, 2014 2:00PM
Credit: © Alice Keeney/AP

Caption: Mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAP),By Bob Tita, The Wall Street Journal

Available: armored patrol trucks; battle-tested; some dents, dings, shrapnel scars. Price: free.

The Pentagon wants to give away 13,000 mine-resistant, ambush-protected trucks because they have outlived their original purpose. 

"We've notified our friends and allies that we have MRAPs available and if they want them they can have them," says Alan Estevez, deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics.

Unclaimed trucks are probably destined for the scrap heap -- bad news for the defense contractors that keep the vehicles supplied with suspensions, engine parts and transmissions. Truck makers are cutting jobs as revenue drops.

Although the trucks' armored bodies are credited with protecting U.S. troops from roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, military planners want more-versatile vehicles that can be deployed quickly as troop levels decrease. A full-size MRAP (pronounced EM-rap, of course) weighs about 40,000 pounds, stands 10 feet tall and costs the Pentagon about $500,000 new.

"There's no opportunity in holding on to what you don't think you'll need for the future," Mr. Estevez says.

Interest from foreign militaries has been tepid. But they are a hit with stateside police agencies. Almost 200 trucks have been distributed to police departments since August and requests are pending for an additional 750 trucks. The vehicles, many of which feature machine-gun turrets, are off-limits to private citizens and businesses.

Lucky recipients run from the Ohio State University campus police force to Florence County, S.C., which replaced an armored vehicle from the 1970s that the sheriff department's SWAT team had used for about 15 years. A new armored truck would have cost at least $188,000.

"The price was right because it was free and it fit with what we need it to do," says sheriff's Capt. John Crouse. "It stops bullets. It keeps you from getting shot." Ohio State declined to comment.

Scrapping unclaimed MRAPs would be a blow to truck maker Navistar International (NAV), which built nearly 9,000 of the 27,000 vehicles bought by the Pentagon. Navistar's defense-related revenue fell 51 percent last year to $541 million as demand for trucks and replacement parts dried up. 

The company wants the U.S. Army to repurpose MRAPs for other uses, such as vehicles for battalion commanders. The more MRAPs that remain in service, the more sales of high-margin replacement parts for Navistar.

"We've been trying to get the government to take a pause instead of pushing these vehicles into the shredder," says John Akalaonu, senior program manager for Navistar's defense unit. The Illinois company, which was generating $2 billion a year from MRAP sales a few years ago, recorded just $39 million in total defense sales in its latest quarter.

"The money has been spent to get these vehicles. It doesn't make sense to just give them away or shred them," Mr. Akalaonu says.

Oshkosh Corp. (OSK) and BAE Systems (BAESF) also built armored trucks.

Oshkosh predicts that defense sales could fall by about 40 percent this year, after dropping 23 percent in 2013. The Wisconsin company cut 900 employees from its military-truck assembly business last year. Production of an all-terrain MRAP for Afghanistan kept Oshkosh afloat when sales of its commercial and public-safety vehicles crashed during the 2008 recession.

BAE is closing a truck plant in Sealy, Texas, for lack of work and is fighting to keep a York, Pa., plant afloat with low-rate refurbishment work for the British company's Bradley armored personnel carriers.

The Army, Marine Corps and other services intend to keep about 11,000 MRAPs. About 6,500 trucks are still being used in Afghanistan, but the bulk of those will return stateside by the time the U.S. military withdrawal is completed late this year. About 6,000 trucks -- many of them, older models used in Iraq -- already have been returned to the U.S. Another 1,600 or so are in Kuwait.

Trucks that aren't being kept by the military are being offered as-is. And an expert on military vehicles predicts they won't find many takers from foreign militaries, especially for the trucks used in Afghanistan.

"Nobody will want them," says Dean Lockwood, an analyst with Forecast International Inc. "The Afghan terrain is hell on vehicles. It's eating them alive."

For police, though, the bulky trucks project a show of force at hostage incidents, civil disturbances and other situations where SWAT officers with military-grade weapons, uniforms and helmets are deployed.

Design and testing for the seven-year-old, $50 billion MRAP program took months, rather than the years that is typical in U.S. military procurement. To expedite production, contracts were awarded to five companies. Several variations were ordered, including wreckers, ambulances and bomb-disposal vehicles.

That variety required the service branches to stock different sets of replacement parts and train mechanics to work on more than two dozen variations. That is why the Pentagon doesn't think it is a good idea to transfer the trucks to the fledging Afghan army.

"They're a great vehicle, but they're an expensive vehicle to maintain," says the Pentagon's Estevez. "Part of that is because they weren't built to be sustained over time."

More from The Wall Street Journal

It's amazing the waste that the government creates. These trucks should be given to US Border Patrol and police departments around the country or National Guard. Why don't they do that? They act like they have money to burn...
Jan 23, 2014 3:14PM
Govt needs money, hire an auction house to auction them off and split the proceeds! Maybe use the money for our VA Hospitals and our injured Vets?
Jan 23, 2014 2:57PM
Seeing that they are purchased with TAX PAYER MONEY, HOW BOUT WE GET FIRST DIBBS!! I want a bug out vehicle and I am pretty sure this would fit the need....just saying.
Jan 23, 2014 2:55PM
They should give one to every family that lives in an area on the U.S./Mexico border that the Government no longer controls of because of the Drug Cartels.
Jan 23, 2014 3:08PM

Really can't sell them or find any use for them in this country? Though I also have issues with local police departments gearing up and becoming equipped like a small army but to just give em away? What a waste. The defense contractors are worried? Who writes this garbage? They couldn't be more happy. This means billions more to make on a new vehicle contract. Quite the opposite, they are having wet dreams about the money they are going to be making on the new contracts.

Nothing more than a continuing of waste by our government. Sad in deed.  Topped off by them likely ending up in the hands of people who don't need them. Sure no weapons but a moderately armored vehicle can still be used for the wrong reasons.

We have got to start holding our government accountable.

I think its time

Jan 23, 2014 4:04PM
Government does not care about how they waste or spend money because they steal it from us.
Jan 23, 2014 3:17PM

Jan 23, 2014 2:30PM
Friends and allies huh? I wonder who that could be.
Jan 23, 2014 3:17PM
In the past surplus vehicles were stored until sold to the PUBLIC!! None of these will be. They will be given to each local, state and county law enforcement and used when they pull into your driveway to confiscate your guns. Mark my word. Another Obama/Soros "executive Order".
Jan 23, 2014 5:14PM
Just a Backdoor way of building up the Police State in America ! Watch out Folks. This is not the Land of the Free any Longer. It's the Land of the Police ! Nazi Germany would be envious of what is going on here in America !
Jan 23, 2014 4:05PM
The country and Economy are in decline We are paying taxes and Govt for their "leadership and great minds" and the best they come up with is "Give them to our "friends and allies" 13,000 EM-crap trucks now  destined for scrap .What about using them in some capacity in the numerous natural disasters we have in this country hurricanes tornadoes fires earthquakes or border Patrol ,,It seems we need to expect more and more stupidity lack of leadership and waste from a bloated exorbitant self destructive US Government gone to scrap too
Jan 23, 2014 2:40PM
i want one, could pull my boat to the lake lol
Jan 23, 2014 2:47PM

I wants one to drive thru the 'Hood....

NO, it said in the article they were not for sale or gifting to Private Citizens...go figure.

Jan 23, 2014 3:31PM
I agree whole heartily, give them to the border partol, police departments around this country.  I am sure they can use them.  So much waste..
Jan 23, 2014 3:41PM
Can I get one?! Would be awesome for Zombie Apocalypse preparations.
Jan 23, 2014 2:33PM
I would like to rent those to lease out to VOTERS that would like to make it to the polling boths on election day.
Jan 23, 2014 3:57PM
I would like one of these , they can take the machine-gun turrets off it if thats not legal for private citizens. I still love this truck :)
Jan 23, 2014 4:42PM

Just another way for Big Brother to Militarize  the local Police.

Jan 23, 2014 3:51PM
They should ship them to places that need mines removed! Just drive them around, blow up the mines. Mines are less powerful than IED's, won't hurt them.
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