The Army’s top two leaders defended the service’s strategy to cut spending before lawmakers on Capitol Hill today, including a plan to shutdown M1 tank production.
Members of the House Armed Services Committee applauded the Army’s proposed 2013 defense budget but expressed concern over how the plan’s deep cuts will affect the defense industrial base.
Texas Democratic Congressman Silvestre Reyes said he was worried about the future of the Army’s armored combat vehicle fleets since “the current plan, according to the budget submitted, calls for a total shutdown of the Abrams, Bradley and Stryker production lines for three to four years, which starts in 2014.”
Such a move could result in layoffs of experienced workers and damage industry’s ability to meet the Army’s needs in the event of an unforeseen conflict, Reyes said.
“That is a very real concern on behalf of industry, that the skilled workers aren’t going to be there after such a lengthy shutdown,” he said. “So after going cold for three or four years, how can we be sure that that capacity will be able to be regenerated?….
I’ve tried to bring out a similar point up in the “Artillery Evolutions” posts of late. America entered World War I with the assumption that industrial might would “build” an army – just let the captains of industry know what is needed, and within a few months there will be plenty of guns for the expanded army.
Didn’t work out so well – embarrassingly low production numbers and an Army using guns made by foreign sources.
Lesson learned – if you want the ability to mass produce weapons for the next “great war,” the mix is one part good design and two parts production capacity. Contrary to the popular myth, the automobile industry is not capable of switching from Chevy Volts to Abrams MBTs without substantial retooling and retraining. During the Cold War, men who’d been around to see the “Arsenal of Democracy” in action were keen to throw a little money around here and there in order to maintain capacity.
If history is any guide, industry will need ten to twelve years to rehabilitate the skills and capabilities which will grow stale in the projected three to four years. Who knows, maybe the next “great war” will wait.