WASHINGTON, June 20, 2007 – The Army is working with its sister services to ramp up production of the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle and speed up the timetable for getting it to deployed troops, Pete Geren, the Army secretary nominee, said yesterday.

Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing, Geren, currently the acting secretary, said he shares the Army’s commitment to getting MRAPs to Iraq and Afghanistan “as quickly as we possibly can.”

Geren noted that Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, has requested more than 17,000 of the new armored vehicles to replace Humvees. Army leaders are evaluating which Humvees need to be replaced, based on the missions they are used to conduct, and to set priorities for getting MRAPs fielded, he said.

“We’re working with the Navy and the Marines to ramp up the production capacity so that we can get these to the theaters as fast as possible,” he said. “I think that we have to look at them as a vehicle that'll part of Army going forward.”

The Marines have had good success with the MRAPs, which have raised, V-shaped underbellies that deflect the force of improvised explosive devices and other blasts from below.

Sixty-five MRAPs in use in Iraq are saving Marines’ lives, Lt. Gen. Emerson Garner, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for programs and resources, told a congressional committee earlier this year.

“Our experience is that Marines in these vehicles have been four or five times safer than a Marine in an armored Humvee,” Garner told members of the House and Senate Sea Power and Expeditionary Forces subcommittees. “Based on this experience, we recently decided to replace our armored Humvees in theater on a one-for-one basis with MRAPs.”

The Marines’ success caught Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ attention, and he’s pushing to speed up the timetable for getting more MRAPs to troops in Iraq.

Up-armored Humvees offered the best protection available when they were fielded, but Gates told Pentagon reporters in May that MRAPs provide even more. “Now we have something better, and we’re going to get that to the field as best we can,” he said.

Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and head of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, recently visited Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., with other defense leaders to see the various versions of the MRAP being considered.

“MRAP vehicles have saved lives in Iraq and will continue to save lives,” the admiral said. “It is the best vehicle protection we have to date.”