Being ‘Army strong’ gets weak backing with Obama’s strategy

Equipment plans left behind as technology forges ahead

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The Army is coming out of a decade of war beat up and strapped for cash.

The force that arguably did most of the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and suffered the most casualties, now finds itself in a new conflict.

It has begun a round of soul-searching and bureaucratic battles to determine its place in the Obama administration’s new military strategy, which celebrates the global striking power of air and sea forces and downplays the chance of another major land war.

After spending huge amounts of money on equipment to fight terrorists, the Army has none to truly modernize itself with new core platforms such as attack helicopters and battle tanks.

“We have an opportunity to take this experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and really achieve dominance on the ground, just like the Air Force achieved with the F-22 and F-35 and the Navy has achieved with its modern fleet of carriers,” said retired ArmyMaj. Gen. Robert Scales.

The Army has to rely upon the AH-64 Apache (above) as well as the OH-58 Kiowa Scout because the next-generation Comanche helicopter has been canceled. (Associated Press)

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The Army has to rely upon the AH-64 Apache (above) as well ... more >

“But for whatever reason, the Army is going to go into the future with no major platform modernization that I can see. It’s entirely likely that my grandchildren, should they choose to go in the Army, will be fighting with equipment I was using when I was a captain.”

The Army’s share of the total defense budget grew significantly over the past decade. The nation’s largest military branch spent billions of dollars on the health care and salaries of its soldiers, and the active roster ballooned from 480,000 to more than 570,000.

More billions were spent on the never-ending quest to protect soldiers by providing superarmored vehicles, special body armor, and bomb-detection and sophisticated surveillance gear.

Today, as the fog of war is clearing, the Army sees that something is missing. Though upgraded with new technology, its front-line combat systems are stuck in the post-Vietnam, Cold War era of the 1980s. Its budget is set to stay around $134 billion next year, with procurement falling by $1.3 billion from $19.5 billion this year.

As money moved out of procurement and into counterterrorism, the Army’s future moved to the casualty list.

‘List of failed programs’

The next-generation Comanche helicopter has been canceled. The Army will continue to rely on the OH-58 Kiowa scout and AH-64 Apache.

There is no planned successor for the M1 Abrams tank.

The Army’s ambitious Future Combat System (FCS), a mix of land and air combat assets, is gone because of delays, cost overruns and budget constraints.

The George W. Bush administration killed the Crusader artillery piece as too Cold War-ish, despite Army arguments that it would deliver precision strikes to protect land forces.

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