Money for defense is in short supply any time there isn’t actually a war going on, so it’s important to make what we do have stretch as far as possible. That means generals being realistic about the force structure they need, and procurement agencies getting the best value possible when buying new equipment. These are pretty difficult tasks, but they’re nothing compared to another problem that plagues defense spending – politicians making stupid decisions.
My own country, the UK, is an island nation with territories scattered all round the world and a centuries-long history of trading by sea. Right now we don’t have any maritime reconnaissance aircraft, which for an island doesn’t really seem like a smart move. Why don’t we have any? Because when we needed new ones, the MoD decided that, rather than buy new P-8s from the USA, they’d totally strip down and refurbish the old 1960s-era Nimrods that needed replaced. The planned rebuild involved replacing everything except the fuselage – new wings, new engines, advanced electronics – and would actually have resulted in a pretty good aircraft, but after all the new wings had been manufactured, it turned out they only fitted one aircraft. The wings had been designed with the latest CAD techniques, but the Nimrods had been built by guys in brown dust coats who’d laid the parts out on the factory floor with a chalk line. Some of the aircraft were up to five inches longer than others, so the new bits didn’t match up. They had to expensively scrap the lot, and now the plan is to buy P-8s anyway.
The USA has its share of expensive procurement decisions, complicated by the fact that Congressmen rarely vote to cancel anything made in their own district. That’s probably why the F-35 has survived so long – it must have the widest manufacturing base in history. Just about every congressional district is responsible for making some part of it. Industrially this makes no sense at all, but politically it was a great move by Lockheed.
Then there’s the tank problem. A couple of weeks ago I talked about tanks, and mentioned that the US Army has reduced its armored units substantially since the end of the Cold War. One result of that is the Army has a lot more tanks than it needs to fill out its armored formations, so of a total inventory of more than 8,000 M1 Abrams tanks, 6,800 are inactive and in storage. But, every year, Congress votes through money to buy more M1s.
The US Army doesn’t need more M1s. It doesn’t want more M1s. Every year the Pentagon asks Congress very nicely if they could please not waste any of the hard-pressed defense budget on tanks, and every year Congress ignores them and votes to spend a pile of cash on tanks that go straight into storage. This has been going on since 2012 and there’s no sign that Congress is listening; in 2014 they blew another $120 million on unwanted M1s.
It’s hard to understand why things like this happen. Politicians aren’t experts on military procurement. They don’t know better than the military leadership what equipment is needed. Usually it looks like they don’t know anything about the subject at all. What can’t be denied is that in an era of shrinking budgets and tough procurement choices, it’s an absolute scandal that political posturing takes precedence over the lives of the men and women who need the right equipment.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.