Skip to comments.Pentagon budget woes: furlough civilians, buy tanks you don't want
Posted on 04/30/2013 4:20:44 PM PDT by SkyPilot
Once again, the Pentagon wants to scrap a weapon in this case, the Abrams tank that Congress has an interest in preserving. But with 'sequester' cuts, the tradeoff will be civilian furloughs.
Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno testifies on Capitol Hill on April 23. The Armys hulking Abrams tank, built to dominate the enemy in combat, is proving to be equally hard to beat in a budget battle, because of a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on tanks, which the Pentagon does not want.
Even as the Pentagon struggles to make some tough, congressionally mandated cuts to its budget, lawmakers are now trying to force defense officials to buy expensive equipment that the military insists US troops do not need.
The most recent example of this congressional arm-twisting involves the hulking, 70-ton Abrams tank.
In the face of sequestration (the 10-year plan to cut federal spending by $1.2 trillion that went into effect March 1), the US military has warned that it will have to trim back on crucial troop training exercises and maintenance.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described as "heart-wrenching" the cuts that the military is currently being forced to make including to child development programs and schools on military bases when he spoke last week at a town hall meetingwith US troops stationed in Japan.
The service branches are trying to stave off civilian furloughs.
For civilians who work alongside US forces in critical support jobs in the midst of war, this issue of furlough hangs over you, General Dempsey says. And I am personally embarrassed about that, frankly its not the way to treat people.
(Excerpt) Read more at csmonitor.com ...
Here’s the problem that this country faces when it comes to major hardware like the Abrams, Virginia/Seawolf class submarines and next generation fighter aircraft.
I can see how the army does not need more tanks. We’re not likely to face a battle of Kursk type exchange where we take heavy losses. I am not sure of the future of the MBT as a platform and I’m unaware of any plans to upgrade/replace the M1A2 with a new MBT. So, do you let our nation’s ability to produce an MBT go the way of making buggie whips? Or do you keep the lines open and the skills intact that are otherwise perishable. It’s a tough choice.
Same is true of our submarine programs.
The most confusing to me is that the air force does want more F-22’s and they canned it. Meanwhile the Europeans, Chinese and Russians are forging ahead with programs to equal it and we stopped making them. This one, to me, is unforgivable. Unless, of course, we have a program of hypersonic drones designed for air to air combat in which case I fully agree that manned fighters are obsolete.
We have exactly one tank manufacturing plant. There is no commercial counterpart. Unless we want to import tanks from another country, we have to make them there.
If we shut it down, then it would have to be completely started back up again. The Congress has correctly decided that the costs of buying a few tanks now to keep it open would be lower than the costs of shutting it down, mothballing it, and then reopening it.
The tanks will eventually be sold as the Army gets a new tank. South Korea retired their last M-47 in 2007. M-48s are still serving in Israel, Lebanon, Morroco, Thailand, and Republic of China, M-60s are still serving in many countries.
My vote is keep the assembly line open so when and if we need more we have the production capability right then.
While our most valuable weaponis pour men at arms, the hardware is equally important and all so much harder to spin up if there is a dirth....
The M1 Abrams is still the premier land combat weapon save the dog-faced Soldier or the baggy pants Marine.
We need, no we require these tanks. To sell the tools to feed the bureaucrats and chair sitters that work the civilian side of the DOD is foolhardy and stupid.
Trim the fat but keep the punch.
I know my comments won’t be taken well by many. However, when the chips are down, and a GI is facing a tank, he really will wish he had one supporting him, trust me. I know.
When you want to push deep and fast, and keep what you take, THE M1 WORKS RATHER WELL.
As the US learned early in OIF (research the 11th AHR deep attack in April 03), air assets are fine for attriting the enemy, but they really don’t hold ground (being nice), nor are they necessarily effective.
I worked for General Dynamics on the Abrams. They cost about 44 million. GD was continuously updating them to take care of obsolescence. But, they were careful not to do too good a job as they wanted to update them again in 5 years. The smallest assembly, with two relays a diode and a few resistors, costs out at $45,000. It’s the size of four packs of cigarettes. If you built it in your garage it would cost $100 and you’d be happy.
As to the tank itself, when Israel went into Lebanon, they lost an unknown (to us) but significant number of Murkavas. The Murkava was designed based on the M1A2 and is probably better in many respects. What killed it was every other Arab had a $10,000 shoulder launched, wire-guided missile. Nobody can afford that kind of uneconomic exchange. Israel has announced they’re taking all 1500 Murkavas out of action. They’re replacing them with something resembling an RPV VW bug.
The other problem is the tank’s logistics footprint. They have to be transported by ships and ships are vulnerable to any first-world power. They need a fleet of tankers following them and tankers can be taken out by RPVs.
The tank is the battleship of 1941. It is nice to have, but no longer effective or cost-effective. The Army needs to invest in RPV’s and AI weapons platforms. The tank is a dinosaur.
I will now duck as the flamethrowers open fire.
It will be hard to kill the tank as so many senators have a stake in it in their home states. But jobs are a poor reason to waste precious money on a platform we don’t need.
(We do need the F-22 as everybody who might fight us is fielding a similar plane. The F-15 is old and obsolete. If we went to a wartime operational tempo we’d quickly be out of planes.)
Keeping the line open to refurbish the M1 tanks that have been worn out by use in Iraq and need rebuilding. Back during the Cold War, the Army had a major vehicle rebuilding facility in Germany. But that was closed down a decade ago. There is also a vehicle rebuild facility at Anniston Army Depot, AL. And it is cheaper to rebuild tanks than to build them from nothing.
I get a lot out of your posts and appreciate them.
I was a mere lowly NG 19k years back on Abrams and appreciated the platform for what it could do even just doing NG ride arounds on the trails.
Not to mention all the “Solar Farms” being installed everywhere on military posts.....what is the status of THAT program? Or the “sensitivity training” classes that apparently include distributing lists saying Evangelical Christians and Catholics are “extremist groups....?”
Why is NOBODY reporting on this????
Every 5 years, I see far too many political types (liberals and conservatives included) and even professional military men stating that, “Oh, based on the the contingency operations we are doing RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT, such and such a weapons platform is obsolete.”
Whatever company builds the chassis, there will always be a need for a system that can move fast over land and deliver massive amounts of firepower. While particular models become obsolete, the concept never does.
Horses and bayonets are still useful in certain situations. The same is true of tanks. Much of the current dismissive attitude towards tanks comes from the fact that we have been *too* hesitant to deploy them in supposedly “low-intensity” situations over the past 20 years.
But if you ask a grunt, they may talk trash on tankers generally, but those who have gone into combat alongside the tanks well understand how they can be useful.
The worries about man portable weapons systems are warranted, but there have been man portable weapons systems capable of killing tanks for over 50 years (albeit with varying degrees of effectiveness). In part for this reason, tankers will also admit that they are better off working next to dismounts (cavalry scouts or infantrymen). With better situational awareness, the dismounts can also recon ahead of tanks and provide fire to keep the bad guys’ heads down.
I suspect the Abrams is still a legit platform against potential foes like China. But even if the Abrams itself is or becomes obsolete, the need for something with similar capabilities will not go away.
So we sent our manufacturing base to China.
Started importing what we once exported.
And now everyone is surprized we cannot afford a real military??
Wake up people. Bring back US jobs now.
I agree with you, and it is a tough choice and a valid question.
Some great (and very similar) points were raised here by other posters.
The most confusing to me is that the air force does want more F-22s and they canned it
Obama was asked about this during the fall campaign by an 8th grader (no kidding), and he said it was "too expensive."
But Food Stamps for 1 out of every 5 American households is completely affordable - in his mind.
Here is the crux of the problem: throughout the last several decades, there has always been a tussle between Congressional members (who control the power of the purse), OSD, the Services, industry lobbying, and the President's Budget as to what the mix is regarding weapons systems.
It is a fight between competing groups for dollars/jobs vs. mission requirements.
Let me give you a recent example:
Congress won't allow Pentagon to save money - Although Congress has ordered the Pentagon to cut $487 billion in spending, lawmakers are also forcing the department to keep unaffordable and unnecessary programs and equipment running, making it impossible to save money. The Pentagon has long wished to retire some of its aircraft, ships and other military equipment, but is being forced to use its budget to keep them in service. Military officials claim that the Navy and Air Force are spending $5 billion more than they would if they could retire their old vehicles, many of which are parked at airstrips or warehouses, the Associated Press reports. The Pentagon begrudgingly keeps its C-5A Galaxy transport planes and other expensive vehicles in service, despite the fact that it has no money to operate them, repair them or employ them. The Air Force recently hoped to save $600 million by retiring the C-5A and C-130 aircraft, 18 high-altitude surveillance drones, and three B-1 bombers, but Congress rejected the request and insisted that the equipment be maintained. The Air Force has newer C-5 models and no longer needs the old ones especially since they are costly to maintain.
Many, many times in recent years, the Services have said: "Hey, we really don't want XXX more MRAPs - we can't even afford to bring all the excess ones we do have in Iraq or Afghanistan back home." Congress is looking at jobs in their state/district, so the MRAPs get produced and now we have excess ones being transferred to Janet Napolitano's private domestic army.
The same issue came up a year and half ago with the Air Force and the funding it wanted for Guard and Reserve forces/aircraft. The Air Force wanted less money for Guard and Reserves, and Congress HAD A FIT.
It was a HUGE food fight, and the Air Force lost.
So here we are....in the Sequester mess. Not only did Congress go along with the $487 Billion reduction in military spending over 10 years that started in 2011, they are now cheering on Obama's Sequester that levies $650 Billion ON TOP of the previous cuts to the DoD.
People who whistle through the graveyard and spin this as just wonderful are nuts or ill informed. They know less about actual military operations than my grandmother.
The combination of the 2011 cuts plus the Sequester is eating the US military alive. Operations and Maintenance accounts took the largest share of the immediate cuts, as dollars such as military pay were exempt.
I have also never understood the so-called "shift to Asia" that the article talks about. Shift to Asia....why? If you read the Bible, the next devastating wars (Psalm 83 war, Ezekiel 38 and 39, etc) will take place in the Middle East, not Pago Pago.
As regards to keeping industry lines open, yes - that is vitally important. But, in the past Congress would appropriate the proper money to do that. Now, they are taking money to pad their districts through Sequestration and the 2011 cuts they are fiscally raping the military. The Navy and the Air Force will not even be able to perform maintenance (over 70% of maintenance by these services is by civilians) on their ships and aircraft.
This is serious, serious stuff.
Congress better get off this "Sequestration is Just Peachy" false narrative. It is NOT wonderful for the US military, who at 17% of the budget takes 50% of the cuts. Congress can't have it's payolla cake and eat it too, especially since it is walking out of the restaurant before it pays the bill.
The F-22 and the F-35 have the same prime: Lockheed Martin.
Cutting the F-22 permitted good engineers (and mechanics) to be released from the F-22 line, and applied to the many problems of the F-35. Those engineers were needed on the F-35.
That is, there was no industrial base reason to keep the F-22 line open.
The US has more generals now than in 1944. When they start cutting the number of generals, as a necessary measure to keep the fighting units going, I will be more receptive to thinking the US has low funding.
The same is true of Senior Executive Service positions (essentially a civil service general). When you cut the SES positions because it is necessary to to keep necessary functions, you have an argument that funds are low.
I would fold the AF and Marines into the Army. I would fold NASA into the Navy. Overhead buys no capability.
I would like to have more competitive procurements: weapons developers should develop product designs, and sell rights to their designs to producers competitively. Atlantic and Pacific commands should bid against each other for access to the weapons produced. Better products should normally win. I recognize that the remains of the arsenal system at present prevents normal competition, and some investment/licensing would be required to develop multiple sources for certain technologies such as advanced armor, cannon barrels, and some munitions.