Tags: Army | erosion | cuts | programs

US Army Faces Erosion From Budget Cuts, Stalled Programs

Monday, 13 Jan 2014 08:41 PM

By Amy Woods

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The U.S Army is looking its age. The oldest military branch in the nation isn't evolving because of funding cuts, stalled programs, canceled contracts, and programs that effectively have been killed.

A Forbes report titled "Army Modernization Is Melting Down" said that in the eight months since the Army released its annual equipment plan, many of the key changes proposed in it are in danger of collapse.

"A new armored troop carrier . . . is effectively dead," the story said. "Both parts of a plan to upgrade armed scout helicopters already in the force while developing a more agile successor look doomed. The service has begun to back away from elements of a new battlefield communications network previously described as its top modernization priority."

A look at what each of the equipment reports called for and what's actually been implemented since President Barack Obama took office is startling.

A new iteration of networked combat vehicles: dropped. A next-generation air-defense system: canceled. The industrial plants where such things as artillery and armored vehicles are assembled: doomed for shutdown.

The Forbes story said that while other branches of the military are minimizing their modernization plans, the Army is the worst-off.

"The end result is a service that hasn't seen major renewal of its combat-systems inventory since the Reagan years," contributor Loren Thompson wrote.

"Programs begun back then, like the Abrams tank, the Bradley troop carrier, the Apache attack helicopter and the Patriot air-defense system remain the Army's core warfighting systems today. They've all been upgraded with new sensors, communications links and self-protection features since 9/11, but the Army's ground-combat arsenal today looks surprisingly similar to what the Reagan Pentagon thought was needed to fight the long-departed Red Army," Thompson wrote.

In the post-Cold War years of the 1990s, little was invested in the military because of the lack of a threat. After 9/11, funds went toward counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency warfare. The year 2010 brought a wave of tea-party politicians into office who slashed spending.

Army Times has reported planned reductions of those on active duty to 420,000 by 2019, down from 570,000 soldiers in 2010. Of those to be separated are up to 2,000 majors and captains, and that could start happening this spring.

Because Army leaders face big reductions, they are trying to make the best choices, and cutting money for training isn't one of them. As a result, the cuts hit modernization and troops.

"The service may desperately need a new troop carrier, but it's easier to work around the absence of a capability you've never had than to fight a war with soldiers lacking key skills," the Forbes story said. "So, modernization is being cut more than other accounts because the near-term impact of under-investment in technology is more manageable than the consequences of cutting personnel or readiness."

Lima, Ohio, houses the last operating tank plant in the United States, and production there could be curbed by the thwarting of military aid to Egypt. What's more, Army leaders are saying the plant, operated by General Dynamics, isn't needed until 2020, at which time upgrades to existing tanks in the field are conducted, Forbes reported.

"If the Army can't persuade political leaders to fund a much more robust modernization agenda, it will be hard-pressed to win wars in a world where potential adversaries have caught up with U.S. technology," Thompson wrote.

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