Tags: Lawmakers | Fight | Save | Crusader

Lawmakers Fight to Save Crusader

Thursday, 16 May 2002 12:00 AM

The committee unanimously accepted language by Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn., that rejects a Pentagon "stop work" order on the system in the current fiscal year and requires a report from the Defense Department by June 15 of its analysis of alternatives, costs, and available technology.

Lawmakers from Oklahoma, where the Crusader is to be assembled, enthusiastically welcomed the decision.

"The Crusader has passed every test it has faced legislatively and, more importantly, in the field," said Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla. "The committee's strong support for Crusader was obvious in the debate."

"The administration hasn't convinced me we need to cancel the Crusader, just as it hasn't convinced others in our delegation who have been out front on this issue," said Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., who serves on the committee.

"Our artillery already can be outgunned by several other nations, and we cannot rely purely on our excellent airpower to protect our troops from artillery that can shoot farther than ours shoots. In Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia we saw too often that bad weather kept our planes grounded or limited their effectiveness," Istook said.

The 2002 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill passed out of committee and is expected to be voted on by the House next week.

The second-ranking Senate Republican said Wednesday that Congress would make the final decision on the system.

"The senior uniformed leadership of the Army supports the Crusader," stated Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., the Senate's assistant minority leader.

"The rank and file of the Army that work artillery support the Crusader. All say we desperately need to replace the aging Paladin system to keep America up-to-date for the foreseeable future and that the Crusader is the way to do it," he said.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who formally announced last week that he was killing the 155mm self-propelled, rapid-fire howitzer, Nickles joined Inhofe and Watts in requesting that the secretary reconsider his decision.

"If you stop work, you risk losing much of the intellectual capital - the technology, experience and information - that has grown out of the program's development over the last several years. Your ability to exploit and use this technology base would be seriously threatened by a near-term 'stop work' order," they said.

Rumsfeld is scheduled to address the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday to make the case that money allocated for the Crusader would be better spent on other weapons systems.

The military has already spent about $2 billion on the Crusader and last week the House approved a 2003 defense budget that included $475 million for continued development of the weapon.

Defense analysts said, however, if the Pentagon is serious about transforming the armed forces into lighter, more maneuverable units, canceling the Crusader would be a good place to start.

"I do understand where the Army's coming from and I understand why those in Congress are fighting so hard to save Crusader," said Jack Spencer, a national security analyst with the Heritage Foundation. "However, I think the long-term gains achieved by killing Crusader far outweigh any short-term gains we might get by saving it."

The Crusader was not meant to come into the field until 2008, only a few years before the Army plans to field its new future combat system, part of which will be the replacement for the Crusader, Spencer said.

Moreover, while supporters rightly claim the Crusader could be the best self-propelled howitzer ever invented, one of the reasons it's the best is because the munitions it would use - the Excalibur shell - is a precision-guided munition that can be shot out of some other system.

In addition, the Crusader, at 50 tons apiece, is difficult to transport.

"So it just doesn't seem to be consistent with the overall direction of Army transformation," Spencer said.

Other infantry support weapons systems being developed include the guided multiple-launch rocket system, the high-mobility artillery rocket system and possibly an unmanned combat aerial vehicle.

"All these things can provide the same sort of cover that you would use artillery for, and at longer ranges," Spencer said.

Robert Maginnis, vice president of the Family Research Council and a former Army colonel, said the Crusader was developed primarily for fighting in Europe and would not be suitable in many trouble spots the United States currently finds itself, including Afghanistan.

"In the mountains of Afghanistan I would think it would become almost more of a liability," he said.

The Crusader could not be transported with CH-47 transport aircraft and it's difficult to find landing areas for larger C-17 transports.

Satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) dropped from B-52 bombers have been accurate to within 10 yards in Afghanistan.

"That's as good or better than the Crusader would ever do, and a JDAM is going to have a lot more punch," Maginnis said.

"I really believe we have to jump forward a generation. The Crusader goes against all the thinking that we have on future battlefields. It's a non sequitur," he added.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said the Pentagon was looking at lighter artillery systems.

"No one is in any way questioning the importance of the field artillery or the capabilities that every commander would like to have. We just want to make sure that we have the best system at place where it needs to be when it needs to be there," Lt. Col. Catherine Abbott said.

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The committee unanimously accepted language by Rep. Martin Olav Sabo, D-Minn., that rejects a Pentagon stop work order on the system in the current fiscal year and requires a report from the Defense Department by June 15 of its analysis of alternatives, costs, and...
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2002-00-16
Thursday, 16 May 2002 12:00 AM
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