Army Cash Crunch
WSJ’s Greg Jaffe [$] reports on the small ways the war in Iraq is causing the Army’s equipment costs to skyrocket:
Of the $1.9 trillion the U.S. spent on weaponry in that period, adjusted for inflation, the Air Force received 36% and the Navy got 33%. The Army took in 16%, it says. Despite the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, both dominated by ground forces, the ratio hasn’t changed significantly.
It may seem hard to believe that a country which allocated $168 billion to the Army this year — more than twice the 2000 budget — can’t cover the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the two pillars of the Army, personnel and equipment — both built to wage high-tech, firepower-intensive wars — are under enormous stress:
The cost of basic equipment that soldiers carry into battle — helmets, rifles, body armor — has more than tripled to $25,000 from $7,000 in 1999.
The cost of a Humvee, with all the added armor, guns, electronic jammers and satellite-navigational systems, has grown seven-fold to about $225,000 a vehicle from $32,000 in 2001.
The Humvee stands as a metaphor for the problems the Army faces. First fielded in the early 1980s, it was designed to ferry soldiers around behind the front lines of a conventional war. In recent years, the vehicle, which troops drive on the streets of Iraq, has been modified countless times. The Army has bolted layers of armor onto it to protect troops from roadside bombs. It has added sophisticated electronic jammers, rotating turrets, bigger machine guns, satellite navigational systems and better radios.
The result is a Humvee that is much better than the version the Army took to Iraq in 2003. But the add-ons have driven up its cost. The modified vehicle is top heavy and tends to tip over at high speeds. Army officials say they can’t add more weight without overwhelming the engine or breaking the axle.
“The Army recognizes that the Humvee has reached a limit of our ability to improve it for the current fight,” Gen. Speakes says.
What the Army says it really needs is an all-new vehicle, designed to better withstand roadside bombs that have become part of life in Iraq. But such a vehicle likely won’t be ready until 2010 or 2012, Army officials say. In the interim, the Army wants to buy something on the commercial market — South Africa, Turkey and Australia all make alternatives. Yet it’s not clear whether the Army, which is struggling to equip the current force, has the money.
The Humvee was designed and fielded as a replacement for the venerable Jeep, as a personal transport vehicle for use in much the same way that civilians use cars and pickup trucks. It was never designed to be an armored personnel carrier. (Ironically, it was too wide and unwieldy for it intended use, too, especially on the narrow streets of Germany.)
That we did not fully anticipate the nature of ground combat in this war and have had to react on the fly in changing the way we equip soldiers is regrettable but understandable. The we’re continuing to spend more than two-thirds of our equipment budget on the Navy and Air Force, which are on the periphery of the war, while the Army and Marines go begging despite bearing the brunt of the casualties, is inexcusable.
via Defense Tech