We’re Low on Howitzers?!?!

WTF?

The Army is recalling some 105mm light howitzers it lent to some ski resorts…not because it can’t afford to waste them when budgets are tight–but because they need them in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We’re out of howitzers? OK, I can see that we might be light on some B-2s worldwide, even the specially-armored Humvees that the Pentagon is desperately ordering (despite questions about how long it took them to realize the need). But howitzers? Sure they may be $1 million per gun (though that seems steep), but the largest military in the world is fresh out, so much so that it has to go scrounging?

I don’t object in principle to not subsidizing the operations of some ski resorts–let them buy some surplus bulky howitzers and get special training and permits at their own expense–but how can we be out of what are really simple and basic weapons owned by almost every military in the world? Aside from the weight, are these high-tech super howitzers? If so, what were they doing at ski resorts?

I mean, I know that the three times we took a “peace dividend” plus the slashing Rumsfeld was doing before 9/11 (how I wish a Democrat would be brave enough to take responsibility for over-reducing the military during the Clinton years and then attack the Bush administration for being no better before 9/11) left the cupboards a bit bare, but we’ve been spending quite a bit recently.

Rumsfeld has proved he knows how to fight and win two very quick wars in places far removed from our usual supply lines. Give the man credit. But apparently he’s either not getting the budget the military really needs or just doesn’t get supply management. And if he needs more money, why does he say that everything’s fine, troop levels are fine, etc. etc. when asked? I don’t think the EPA administrator will argue his budget doesn’t need increasing.

Maybe somebody can explain to me how basic weapons like howitzers can be in short supply given the reach of our military (and the stocks we should have in mothballs after the height of the Reagan buildup), but until they do I’m kind of stunned. This isn’t the case of having the wrong thing (unarmored Humvees), this is a case of just not having the basic tools for a job.

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One Response to We’re Low on Howitzers?!?!

  1. This is just a guess — but my theory is that this is fallout from the Pentagon’s typical institutional arrogance when it comes to procurement.

    You see, up until 2002, the Army had been planning to replace much of its existing field artillery with the “Crusader”, a new, high-tech self-propelled cannon that came with all the bells and whistles:

    * http://www.army-technology.com/projects/crusader/

    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XM2001_Crusader

    Of course, this meant that the Crusader was (go figure) horrendously expensive and behind schedule. So as part of his “Transformation” initiative, Secretary Rumsfeld killed the Crusader program in 2002, over much wailing and moaning from the Army. (It was a gutsy decision on Rummy’s part — and one of the decisions that made him so unpopular with the service chiefs.)

    However, I would guess that, while the Crusader was still a live project, nobody ever stopped to ask “what happens if this program gets cancelled?” And once it *was* cancelled, probably nobody had a plan for what to use to fill the gaps with. It’s so rare for a program of that size to be killed outright that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this was the case — if the DoD bureaucrats literally could not imagine a world without the gold-plated Crusader, even years after it was dead and gone.

    Combine that shortsightedness in procurement with the logistical demands of a large-size conflict and it’s not hard to imagine why they’d be scrounging for cannon. Though I agree that it does make us look like a freaking banana republic…

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