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WASHINGTON – Army News Service, Oct. 5, 2012) -- Defense officials and leadership from the Army and Marine Corps were joined by Vice President Joseph Biden Oct. 1 to commemorate the rapid acquisition and delivery of thousands of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to Afghanistan and other high-risk areas and to formally mark the start of the transition of the program’s management to the services.

Thousands of the blast-deflecting, troop-protecting mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, known as MRAPs, and their lighter-weight counterparts, the MRAP All-Terrain Vehicles, were rapidly funded by Congress, acquired and delivered on an expedited basis in order to better protect service men and women from improvised explosive devices, roadside bombs and other threats in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.

The Pentagon ceremony marked the formal transfer of MRAP joint program executive officer responsibility from Brig. Gen. Joseph Kelley, commander, Marine Corps Systems Command, to Kevin Fahey, a member of the Senior Executive Service and the Army’s program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, or PEO CS&CSS.

“The MRAP program is the hardest, but most rewarding program with which I’ve ever been associated,” Fahey said. “From the very beginning, great people working in a powerful Army-Marine Corps partnership showed the departments’ and industry’s ability to recognize a need and field a vehicle in less than a year.”

This quick, joint action, combined with strong financial support from Congress and close teamwork across the services, saved an untold number of lives and taught the acquisition community some things about the art-of-the-possible in today’s full-spectrum operations, Fahey said.

PEO CS&CSS, which helped acquire and manage the Army’s roughly 20,000-vehicle strong MRAP fleet, is a subset of the Army’s acquisition community run by Heidi Shyu, the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology.

“The Army is proud to continue working with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Marine Corps to ensure that these battle-tested, life-saving vehicles are sustained for the future and retained as an enduring part of our vehicle fleet,” Shyu said. “We applaud the leadership of Marine Corps Systems Command and look forward to continued collaboration regarding this important joint capability.”

Shyu also said that Army and Pentagon senior leaders continue to make great progress harvesting and implementing acquisition lessons learned from the MRAP effort, in some cases codifying techniques and approaches for other procurement programs. In fact, Carter has established a Warfighter Senior Integration Group – a Pentagon committee comprised of senior leaders assembled to codify rapid acquisition techniques and facilitate future rapid acquisitions as needed.

At the same time, in order to preserve the urgency associated with the current fight in Afghanistan, the MRAP program will remain under the Secretary of the Navy through the end of fiscal 2013. Following this transition period, the JPEO MRAP will formally stand down in favor of service-led programs, where each service will lead and manage their own fleet of MRAPs into the future.

“I am tremendously proud of the joint team’s accomplishments and of the MRAPs that continue to do their job,” said Fahey. “The Army fielded and owns the lion’s share of U.S. MRAPS, and I look forward to conducting a smooth transition to sustainable, integrated service MRAP forces to meet tomorrow’s challenges.”

Carter also cited the leadership of Biden, who while serving as a U.S. senator in 2006 and 2007, was instrumental in marshaling bi-partisan support for MRAP funding in Congress.

“Congratulations to the entire MRAP team,” Biden said. “The team did an incredible job. You all demonstrated remarkable leadership in making sure that our women and men deployed with the best equipment and technology this nation could provide. It’s a genuine honor to be with you. You saved an awful lot of lives and protected an awful lot of our sons and daughters.”

Biden, Carter and others involved in the MRAP effort made a point to mention the inspirational purpose behind the acquisition by citing anecdotes wherein servicemen and women said “thank you” – because MRAP vehicles had saved their lives.

“I can count as many as 40 young women and men who approached me in hospitals or in the field and said thank you,” Biden said. “I can’t think of any greater satisfaction for playing a tiny part in this process.”

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Pentagon and service leaders signed the paperwork formally marking the transfer of the program’s management.