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Being ‘Army strong’ gets weak backing with Obama’s strategy
Equipment plans left behind as technology forges ahead
The Future Combat System once stood as the Army’s future, with its artillery piece, infantry carrier, light tank, and air and ground sensors designed to dominate the battlefield. But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates scrapped most of it, saying he wanted more money spent on current wars, not future ones.
The Army scorecard: No new tanks. No new combat helicopters. No new artillery. And, possibly, no new tactical vehicles.
Some retired officers are whispering the word “hollow,” the infamous label imprinted on the Army in the late 1970s after budget cuts left combat units existing virtually in name only.
They also are a bit bitter, noting that it has been the Army that has spilled the most blood in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to see it rewarded with a personnel cut of 80,000 soldiers and with little hope of true modernization.
‘Use it up, wear it out’
“The tank, the Bradley, the Apache — they’re all old platforms,” said Gen. Dubik, now an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. “But given the financial situation the county is in right now, my personal opinion is that modernization should wait and we should spend the money on personnel cost and readiness and not on modernization.
“In an objective sense, we should have replaced them 10 years ago. But once the financial crisis is over and we are in a better financial footing, then it is time to revisit.”
Some lawmakers are questioning the need to buy two new troop carriers, the $40 billion Ground Combat Vehicle to replace the M2-3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and the $54 billion Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, to succeed the ubiquitous all-terrain Humvee.
As the top Army procurement brass sat at the witness table on March 27, Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, told them that those two new vehicles are projected to double or triple the cost of adding improvements to the ones that they would replace.
“I do want to ask our witnesses today whether the higher costs of those two new vehicle programs are justified by increased capabilities they will buy, as opposed to sustaining current programs for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the Humvee,” said Mr. Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Armed Services air/land subcommittee.
The Army took another blow last month. Andrew Krepinevich, an influential military futurist who has advised Congress and the Pentagon, issued a paper arguing that now is the time to wear out what the troops are using while beginning a search for a truly advanced family of vehicles.
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