Friday, June 26, 2009

Not the Right Word

MRAP trucks: Afghan savior or boondoggle?

This appeared on Yahoo but the headline and story are drawn directly from the Christian Science Monitor.

.....The truck was a Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected truck (MRAP) – a 16-ton behemoth that came to be regarded as the soldier's lifeboat in Iraq, its V-shaped hull saving lives by deflecting the blast of roadside bombs.
Rummel's story points to the same success in Afghanistan. "God bless the MRAP and what it does," he says.
But the mammoth trucks are built for Iraq, where troops are fighting a largely urban insurgency on city streets. Afghanistan's insurgency is rural, and the Pentagon is in a race to completely redesign the MRAP for its new duty, making it lighter, with a beefier suspension and better off-road capabilities for troops who launch missions into fields and up hillsides – often with no roads.
The effort, however, calls into question one of the bedrock tenets of Defense Secretary Robert Gates's regime: He wants to prioritize equipment that saves troops' lives. But experts wonder if, in the process, he is saddling the military for years to come with a fleet of vehicles that can be used in only one spot on the globe.

Here's the problem. There is no suggestion in this story that this is a boondoggle.

Boondoggle, according to various dictionaries, suggests something unnecessary, a waste of money, a bit of a con:

A work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.

a project funded by the federal government out of political favoritism that is of no real value to the community or the nation.

–verb (used with object) 4. to deceive or attempt to deceive: to boondoggle investors into a low-interest scheme.

–verb (used without object) 5. to do work of little or no practical value merely to keep or look busy.

(Really? Only a federal project?)

Anyway, none of those usages fit this story. What the reporter finds is that the trucks are extremely costly and may be suited for only one kind of environment. Adapting them to a different environment is costly. It may not be a wise decision to spend so much on a project with limited value. But boondoggle? No.

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