As it prepares to deploy 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, the U.S. military could buy nearly 4,000 additional mine-resistant all-terrain vehicles than currently on order.
During testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the military may need as many as 10,000 of the M-ATVs, which were designed for Afghanistan's rugged terrain.
The Pentagon has already tapped Oshkosh Corp. to build 6,219 of the vehicles by April. With production runs expected to hit 1,000 vehicles a month, it appears the firm could produce the additional vehicles by August or September.
Gates first indicated that more M-ATVs would likely be needed if more troops were deployed into Afghanistan during a trip to Oshkosh's Wisconsin production facility last month.
"The M-ATV's lighter weight, independent suspension system and greater off-road mobility is well-suited to Afghanistan's rugged terrain and will make a real difference in our operations there," he said during the trip.
Funding for the additional M-ATVs would be included in the administration's request for more funding for the war this year, which Gates said administration officials are just beginning to tabulate.
Gates has estimated the funding request would total $30 billion to $35 billion this fiscal year -- figures that appear to be based on the White House's calculation that each deployed troop will cost roughly $1 million annually.
But House Budget Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C., who is also a member of the Armed Services Committee, questioned the estimate, arguing that the additional troops will not deploy until the middle of the fiscal year.
Gates said the $30 billion-$35 billion estimate is "basically a ballpark figure and we now need to get down and get the details."
But Gates added there would be additional costs, such as the M-ATVs, which were not factored into the cost-per-troop calculation.