As we noted last year, the U.S. military has more than enough tanks and Army chiefs of staff such as Ray Odierno protest that they don’t want any more. Politicians, on the other hand, wanted the Army to have 280 more tanks, at $8 million a pop. It turns out that there is more to this story.
As this Washington Post report notes, “tanks are something of a relic,” and ill-suited for modern warfare, which tends to be asymmetrical. So the manufacture of tanks, the military says, is no longer essential. The future belongs to “nimble and tactical” weapons. Given those realities, why have politicians pushed for the manufacture of more tanks and armored vehicles? For one thing, the manufacturers of tanks and armored vehicles lobby Congress to support their work.
Last year, BAE Systems “convened its suppliers—it has 586 across 44 states—in Washington to storm the Hill, chatting up representatives about the jobs they provide and pushing for Congress to help the Bradley program.” As the Post observed “and jobs, after all, are what their representatives in Congress are working to protect in their home districts.”
Angela Canterbury of the Project on Government Oversight told the Post that all this “is really making us less safe when we’re throwing money that’s hard to come by at programs that don’t meet what should be our current national security strategy.”
The push for more tanks and armored vehicles the military does not want is not only wasteful but dangerous. As we noted last year, taxpayers have a right to expect defense spending to enhance national security, not detract from it. For all their sophistication and exemplary record of service, American tanks did not prevent terrorists operating out of caves in Afghanistan from inflicting major damage on the United States and killing thousands of innocent civilians.