It's no secret that the Pentagon is the recipient of a lot of impressive goodies from Congress. Tanks, weapons, flying cars: Our Department of Defense can sometimes seem like the neighborhood cool kid with a house full of fancy toys.
That doesn't mean it wants them, however.
During a Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing on Wednesday, military officials warned that looming sequestration cuts in military spending could interfere with their ability to carry out major operations. But rather than asking for more money, military officials suggested that Congress should simply reshuffle the budget — and stop buying the Pentagon crap it doesn't need.
Army Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno specifically cited the overabundance of tanks — the Army and Marine Corps have roughly 9,000 in their arsenal — as a sign that officials have no idea what the armed services actually needs.
"We are still having to procure systems we don't need," he said, according to Military.com, adding that the Army spends "hundreds of millions of dollars on tanks that we simply don't have the structure for anymore."
Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, agreed. "There are too many people involved in the process [for acquiring equipment]," he said. "If I say 'I need a thing' ... there are a whole lot of people telling us, 'No, this is what you really need.'"
More of the same. As Military.com points out, the battle between the military and Congress over what supplies to purchase has been going on for a while. The Army has repeatedly suggested blocking programs that fund tank upgrades and building; it argues that we could keep up production by outsourcing it overseas.
Congress, however, laughs at that idea. In 2012, it voted to approve $181 million for tanks, despite Odierno's pleas to stem production. "Our tank fleet is in good shape, and we don't need to [make repairs] because of the great support that we have gotten over the last two years," he told the House armed services committee at the time.In December , Congress pulled the same move: It approved a $120 million budget on Abrams tanks, which were the same kind taxpayers funded back in 2012.
Why is Congress pushing back? Lawmakers defended the move, claiming that tank production props up the labor force and help protect national interests.
"The [Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act] recognizes the necessity of the Abrams tank to our national security," said Ohio Rep. Mike Turner in a statement in December. "This provision keeps the production lines open in Lima, Ohio, and ensures that our skilled, technical workers are protected."
Officials in Congress want to keep jobs in their home states, which isn't the worst line of thinking in the world. But as Mic's Matt Connolly asked in December, "If Congress wants to spend money to create jobs, isn't there a sector that could actually use the products?"
Odierno summed up the main point of contention best: "When we are talking about tight budgets, a couple of hundred million dollars is a lot of money."