Attrition: What Money Can't Buy


December8, 2006: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are wearing out U.S. Army and Marine Corps (and to a lesser extent air force and navy aircraft) at a rate some nine times higher than during peace time. That comes to nearly $20 billion dollars of equipment loss and damage per year. Congress is only providing enough money to deal with about two thirds of that loss. That, in turn, is made up, to some extent, by the large number of Cold War surplus gear still available. After the 1991 Gulf War, half a dozen army divisions were disbanded, and most of their heavy weapons were put into storage. The marines didn't have much of a Cold War surplus to draw on, and has had to get a lot of new equipment to replace losses. Both services are using the "reset" (repair and refurbishment) money to upgrade vehicles and equipment. Vehicles are fitted with upgraded, or new, components, while busted weapons and equipment is replaced with newer, and superior, models.

The biggest plus from all this is the vast amount of practical experience the troops are getting in the use of their weapons and gear under combat conditions. Much more is known about this stuff, and the American ground forces have become, by a large margin, the most combat experienced on the planet. This does not register with many pundits and civilian analysts, but to military professionals, it is an edge that money cannot buy.


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