Marine jeep contract under fire
Newspaper says the Corps is harshly criticized for new vehicles that cost $100K each.

NEW YORK ( - The Marine Corps is paying $100,000 apiece for a revamped military jeep that some critics call a rip-off of taxpayers, according to a news report Thursday.

The Marines budgeted to buy more than 400 vehicles, called Growlers, under a contract that could total $296 million including ammunition, USA Today said, citing Pentagon records.

Built by Ocala, Fla.-based American Growler, the Growler is made partly from salvaged M151 jeep parts and is available in several versions.

Four years ago, the Dominican Republic paid $33,000 for a version of the Growler, the paper said citing U.S. Export-Import Bank records.

A commercial version of the jeep costs just $7,500.

The Marines and the contractor, General Dynamics, said the vehicle has been thoroughly revised with modern automotive parts and adapted to fit on the hybrid airplane-helicopter V-22 Osprey, according to the paper.

"Yes, it did start off with jeep technology, and it does look like a jeep in a lot of ways," John Garner, the Marines project manager, told the paper. But he says it's now "state of the art."

The Marines' version has considerable upgrades from the commercial and Dominican models, the Corps and contractor said, including a turbo-diesel engine, disc brakes and other systems adapted from modern vehicles.

But some critics charge that the unarmored vehicle makes no sense for today's missions, the paper said.

Under current military safety rules, the Growler would be barred from service in Iraq except as a utility vehicle that doesn't leave the security of a base, according to the report.

"In a time of war, we should not be wasting money on a junker which will not protect our troops," Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a non-profit group that monitors Pentagon contracts, told the paper.

The Growler is expected to be deployed with the V-22 in 2007, the paper said.


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