It’s not about defense. It’s about government-funded jobs for their constituents.
If you need an example of why it is hard to cut the budget in Washington look no further than this Army depot in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada range.
CNN was allowed rare access to what amounts to a parking lot for more than 2,000 M-1 Abrams tanks. Here, about an hour’s drive north of Reno, Nevada, the tanks have been collecting dust in the hot California desert because of a tiff between the Army and Congress.
The U.S. has more than enough combat tanks in the field to meet the nation’s defense needs – so there’s no sense in making repairs to these now, the Army’s chief of staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told Congress earlier this year.
If the Pentagon holds off repairing, refurbishing or making new tanks for three years until new technologies are developed, the Army says it can save taxpayers as much as $3 billion. . . .
“When a relatively conservative institution like the U.S. military, which doesn’t like to take risks because risks get people killed, says it has enough tanks, I think generally civilians should be inclined to believe them,” said Travis Sharp a fellow at the defense think tank, New American Security.
But guess which group of civilians isn’t inclined to agree with the generals on this point?
To be exact, 173 House members – Democrats and Republicans – sent a letter April 20 to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, urging him to continue supporting their decision to produce more tanks. . . .
Lima, Ohio, is a long way from this dusty tank parking lot. The tiny town in the northwestern part of the Buckeye State is where defense manufacturing heavyweight General Dynamics makes these 60-plus-ton behemoths.
The tanks create 16,000 jobs and involve 882 suppliers, says Kendell Pease, the company’s vice-president of government relations and communications. That job figure includes ancillary positions like gas station workers who fill up employees’ cars coming and going to the plant.
Many of the suppliers for tank manufacturing are scattered around the country so the issue of stopping production or refurbishment becomes a parochial one: congressional representatives don’t want to kill any jobs in their districts, especially as the economy struggles during an election year.