It’s not a story you hear every day. The Army would rather turn down $91 million dollars worth of battle tanks from Congress. But that’s the case.
The Senate Armed Service Committee (SASC) has just approved its $631.4 billion version of a bill to authorise the new defence budget.
Austin Wright at Politico digested the multi-page press release summarizing the SASC bill and confirms tanks are a “Winner” — the Senate committee wants to authorise $91 million for 33 new M1 Abrams tanks. The House agrees.
But the Army says it doesn’t have any use for them.
It has actually been planning to end its orders of Abrams tanks by 2014, and won’t need to upgrade its current vehicles until 2017. Kate Brannen at defence News reported in March that U.S. Army Officials tried to convince lawmakers that the service really didn’t need any more. Officials explained:
Not only does the Army not need new tanks, it doesn’t need to upgrade the ones it has for another few years, Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, told lawmakers during a March 7 hearing of the House Appropriations defence subcommittee.
It is one of the most modernized platforms in the Army and has an average age of two-and-a-half-years old, Army Secretary John McHugh said.
Plus, the Army is looking into re-structuring its forces — cutting combat teams and the need for “heavy capabilities.”
So why do lawmakers insist on spending $91 million for unwanted tanks?
It comes down to this:
Ordering the 33 new tanks will keep the production line of the General Dynamics Land Systems’ facility in Ohio open.
The new SASC bill indicates congressmen want to keep the defence contractor in business, just like they did last year when the Army previously attempted to convince lawmakers to hold off on new tanks.
“The Army tried to make the same argument last year, but Congress did not agree. In the 2012 defence appropriations bill, it provided an additional $255 million to buy 42 more tanks,” reports defence News.
Austin Wright at Politico points out the president’s budget request this year, on the other hand, would temporarily shut down tank production in Ohio. The Army’s own analysis of the production line agreed it would be more cost-effective to close the plant and re-open it later, when necessary:
“It would cost $600 million to $800 million to close and later reopen the production line versus the nearly $3 billion it would take to keep it up and running during that same time.”
But the SASC has disregarded that — coming up with yesterday’s authorization of $91 million to sustain the GD factory. It’s a very calculated number — just enough to keep the factory lines open at minimum production capability, safeguarding a military-industrial partnership with General Dynamics.
The SASC bill will be considered by the Senate this June or July.
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