The Army Must Look Up

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants to save $11 billion by dropping the development of a mobile artillery piece known as the Crusader. While this land gun would move quicker and shoot faster than its predecessors, it's only a somewhat more agile dinosaur in an era dominated by air power and other high-tech warfare. But wiping a major procurement item off the Pentagon's wish list isn't easy.

Mr. Rumsfeld, despite his high standing in the war on terrorism, faces resistance within the Army and from members of Congress whose districts stand to benefit from the Crusader's production, especially in Oklahoma. The public dust-up has deflected debate away from the point that the Crusader was originally designed for a cold-war era land battle against Soviet troops in Europe. It no longer fits into a military that must be transformed for new-style conflicts.

The Rumsfeld team would rather see the $475 million slated for Crusader in the 2003 budget go to development of precision-guided artillery systems with links to satellites.

Congress has an oversight role for military spending, but relying on politics rather than expert threat-analysis would harm the nation's defense.

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