Congress forcing Army to accept useless tanks

An Abrams battle tank during a tour of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center, Lima Army Tank Plant, in Lima, Ohio (Reuters/Matt Sullivan)
How much of the US Defense Department’s budget is wasted each year? If the Pentagon’s current proposal for 2013 gets approved as is, at least $91 million can more or less be trashed thanks to an order for 33 unneeded Army tanks.

The Senate Armed Service Committee has already approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013, and along with a handful of other military-related provisions are their spending requests for the DoD. Among billions of dollars’ worth of doo-dads and weaponry, however, sets a request for $91 million to procured nearly three dozen new M1A1 Abrams battle tanks made by General Dynamics.

To Congress, the proposal makes perfect sense. If you venture off of Capitol Hill and hound the guys at the Pentagon, though, you won’t hear the same answer: the US Army is adamantly opposed to any new tanks and is urging Congress to reconsider. And if their argument is continued to fall on deaf ears, the military might just be wasting more than just a few spare cents.

Speaking before the House Appropriations defense subcommittee only this past March, US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said that, not only does the United States not need any new tanks, but its current arsenal is far from antiquated — Business Insider reports that Army Secretary John McHugh called the military’s tank fleet one of the most modernized platforms in the Army and that the average vehicle is less than three years old.

As of right now, the Army intends on ending all Abrams purchasing in 2014 and then start upgrades only three years later. If Congress has their way, however, the Lima, Ohio General Dynamic production facility will stay open and continue to churn out millions’ worth of tanks for apparently no good reason.

Except for one, of course: the military industrial complex.

Ordering 33 new tanks will indeed waste nearly $100 million, warns the military top-brass. By ending production, though, the Pentagon stands to lose a powerful contractor. Last year, Army Secretary John McHugh told the defense subcommittee that, “In order to sustain the Abrams line at Lima, you have to produce at least 70 tanks a year.” Analysts working for the Army crunched numbers long enough , however, to eventually realize that it could cost upwards of $800 million to close the plant for a bit, versus around $3 billion to keep the plant up and running during the same span of time.

As Business Insider, reports, however, 33 new tanks would be just enough to keep the Abrams plant up at running “at minimum production capability” at a cost that keeps both the Pentagon and its pals in Ohio happy.

If that plan gets put in place, the only losers will be the American taxpayers, who will spend around $91 million on some heavy-duty toys to collect dust. That, of course, gives Uncle Sam yet another excuse to spend money: RT reported last year that the Defense Department is planning on spending around $115 billion over the next half decade just to keep tanks, trucks and planes in tip-top condition by keeping them clean and rust-proof, otherwise they may fall apart while left locked up.