Congress Insists on Increasing Funding of General Dynamics Tank Despite Pentagon Pleas that It’s not Needed
Monday, May 28, 2012
(photo: Department of Defense)
“We don’t need the tanks,” was the message delivered to Congress in March by Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno and Army Secretary John McHugh, who were criticizing calls to force the Army to spend more than it proposed on the M1A2, the world’s most advanced tank. In the current climate of fiscal austerity, the Army brass might have been expecting praise for its self-restraint in requesting “only” $74 million for 2013 to upgrade its M1 fleet. The average Abrams tank in service is less than two years old, and the Army has such a surplus of them, it actually offered last December to let Greece have 400 of them…for free.
“Buy them anyway,” has been the response from Congress so far, and that speaks volumes about how Washington really works. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives last week voted to spend $181 million more than the Pentagon requested, while the Senate Armed Services Committee, controlled by Democrats, has approved an additional $91 million. So what happened to the slogan, repeated endlessly by war hawks in recent years, that civilian pols ought to give the “commanders in the field” what they say they need?
This is economic stimulus, war hawk style. The M1 tank is manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) in a government-owned factory in Lima, Ohio, that directly employs nearly 1,000 workers, and indirectly provides jobs to thousands more who work for suppliers. For technical reasons, the factory requires production runs of at least 70 tanks per year, and the Army has been planning to close it from 2014 to 2017, when new orders are set to arrive. To close and later reopen the production line would cost $600 million to $800 million, versus nearly $3 billion to keep it up and running during that same time, although GDLS argues that the real cost for the first option is closer to $1.5 billion. Even if GDLS is right, that still comes to spending $1.5 billion to save 1,000 jobs—or $1.5 million per job.
To Learn More:
U.S. Army Tells Congress: We Don’t Need More Tanks (by Kate Brannen, Defense News)
Congress to Spend More on Tanks than Military Wants (Agence France-Presse)
The M1A1/2 Abrams Main Battle Tank (Armor Site)
U.S. Defense Cuts Hit Home at Ohio Tank Plant (by Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters)
Crazy Leon’s Discount Battle Tanks (by Rich Smith, Motley Fool)
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