The US Army doesn’t want tanks, but that hasn’t stopped Congress spending $436 million in two years on … yep, tanks!
A bipartisan push to spend taxpayer money on more Abrams tanks has seen Congress approve orders worth almost half a billion dollars since early 2011.
But while Congress might have a taste for tanks, the Army would rather the money was spent elsewhere. As General Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, tells The Associated Press: “If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way.”
So if the US Army doesn’t want tanks, well, what’s with all the tanks?
Many feel it comes down to courting voters. Abrams tanks are manufactured at the Lima Army Tank Plant in Ohio. Slashing tank orders would mean heavy job losses, and we all know how crucial swing state Ohio is to both main parties. Lima’s tank plant employs 700 people in well-paid manufacturing jobs; to be seen as responsible for losing those jobs could be political suicide come the next election.
Commentators suspect that’s why lawmakers from both sides are such keen supporters of more tank production.
Republican Representative Jim Jordan and Senator Rob Portman are both behind further tank investment as is Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. All three men say their focus is on protecting national security. Jordan, whose district in northwest Ohio includes the tank plant, says:
“The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country.”
Yet that doesn’t change the fact that the US Army doesn’t want tanks. And that’s a message Sean Kennedy, director of research for the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, says Congress should listen to:
“When an institution as risk averse as the Defense Department says they have enough tanks, we can probably believe them.”
However, Jordan remains defiant:
“Look, [the Lima Army Tank Plant] is in the 4th Congressional District and my job is to represent the 4th Congressional District, so I understand that. But the fact remains, if it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do.”
What do you think about Congress’ insistence on buying more tanks?