Worn-out Army Equipment to Cost U.S.

Worn-out Army equipment to cost U.S. (USA Today)

The Army is driving its crucial Bradley Fighting Vehicles an average of 4,000 miles a year around Iraq, five times as far as they’re designed to go. Nearly two years after U.S. forces invaded Iraq, the Bradleys and other vehicles and equipment are almost worn out. Most of the tanks and helicopters now in Iraq were bought in the 1980s, says Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a think tank in Arlington, Va. And it’s not unusual for Army officers serving in Iraq to encounter Humvees they drove during the 1991 Gulf War. “We hear a lot about the revolution in military affairs,†Thompson says, “But frankly, this aging equipment looks like something more akin to museum affairs.â€

That helps explain why the Bush administration on Tuesday said it needed at least $75 billion more to continue its war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. It also asked for an additional $5 billion or more for other global priorities, including building an embassy in Baghdad and training and equipping Iraqi and Afghan security forces. The $80 billion budget request is further evidence that the war in Iraq is proving far more costly than the Bush administration projected two years ago. Although the Defense Department had originally planned on drawing down U.S. troops in 2004 and 2005, the opposite has happened. The Pentagon increased U.S. troop levels to 150,000 late last year in anticipation of increased violence leading up to Sunday’s elections in Iraq.

While past Pentagon requests for extra money have been used mostly for operational and personnel costs, the new appeal includes funds to refurbish or buy new equipment. The Pentagon has been forced to budget billions to pay not only for re-enlistment and recruitment bonuses, but also for spare parts for helicopters, tanks, armored vehicles and Humvees. In some cases, Army divisions have been forced to completely overhaul equipment that was flown or driven five to 10 times farther than anticipated.

I have to keep reminding myself that the early 1980s was a long time ago. The equipment that was essentially brand new when I was on active duty (1988-92) –Humvees, Bradleys, MLRS, Abrams, etc.–are now as old as Vietnam era equipment was then. Our fighter planes are older still, dating from the 1970s.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. ken says:

    Since whatever we buy them is going to cost us more money than we can afford perhaps they will just have to make do for a while longer with what they have. Or perhaps patriotic conservatives may suggest a war tax to pay for new equipment? Nah.. they will probably just want to buy the stuff with another tax cut.

    I know it sounds dumb, but then we do have conservatives in charge of this country so don’t be surprised when you hear them calling for more military spending and more tax cuts. It’s what they do. It’s all they do.

  2. LJD says:

    “…they will just have to make do for a while longer with what they have.”

    I guess you weren’t an individual outraged over availability of armored vehicles in Iraq.

  3. Tig says:

    I remember fondly the Kaiser Jeep I drove while on active duty in the late 70’s. I am pretty sure Kaiser stopped making jeeps right before the end of WWII. The thing I liked best about my Kaiser Jeep was that is was much faster and more reliable than the Willys from the Korean era that most of the other guys were driving.

    Oh, and did I mention that sometimes our field rations were C-Rats from the Korean era, as well. Surprisingly, usually the cigarettes were still fresh.