Pentagon budget woes: furlough civilians, buy tanks you don't want
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.
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No matter on Capitol Hill, where a rare bipartisan coalition is forming to force the military to buy $436 million worth of Abrams tanks that it insists it does not need.
The tank is big money for the congressional district that manufactures them in Lima, Ohio.
In a congressional hearing last week, Gen. William Phillips, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology, attempted to answer the concerns of Rep. Michael Turner (R) of Ohio, whose district includes the Abrams manufacturing plant in Lima – and who also chairs the House Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee.
While telling Representative Turner that “it’s not the Army’s intent to shut down Lima,” General Phillips added: "Having said that, the Army actually has more M1A2 tanks ... is buying more than it actually needs at this point.”
The production of some 67 tanks will extend through December 2014, he pointed out. In the last budget, the Pentagon received another $181 million for 20 to 24 tanks that would be built at the Lima plant, as well.
“That takes us at about two to three per month out to about the middle of ... June 2016 maybe,” Phillips noted.
In response, Turner pointed out the obvious. “General, I just want to point out that the vehicles that you’re talking about ... were not requested by DOD. If they had not been funded by Congress, this facility would be at risk. If you continue to not fund something, you are, in essence, shutting it down.”
Senior military officials have for months been decrying the tough choices they must make, and as the Pentagon’s strategic shift to the Pacific begins to emphasize naval power, few make the argument that more Abrams tanks are at the top of the list of needs for US troops.
Explained David Welch, deputy director of the Army budget office, earlier this month: “The Army is on record saying we do not require any additional M1A2s.”