Logistics: The Reset Racket


March 3, 2007: The U.S. Department of Defense, and Congress, are having a hard time sorting out just how much damage operations in Iraq are doing to the equipment stocks, and the readiness of army and marine combat units. Many in Congress believe that the military is being run into the ground by six years of combat operations. Vehicles and weapons are being used three, or more, times as much as they normally would in peacetime, and getting shot at a lot as well. Originally, the military asked for $3 billion a year to "reset" (repair or replace worn and damaged equipment), but now that number is up to $17 billion.

But there's something else going on. The military is certainly repairing and replacing a lot of equipment. But the repaired stuff also tends to get upgraded in the process. Replacement equipment tends to be a new, improved models. Most of the upgrades and new equipment is redesigned as the result of combat experience. Put another way, the army and marines are ending up with much superior weapons and equipment as a result of the "reset" process. While Congress wails about the cost, and the "lower readiness", no one has bothered to compare what combat units were equipped with in 2003, compared to what they have now. Big difference. Huge difference. In addition, the pre-positioned equipment, which has been drawn on by combat units, is now being replaced by much better stuff. Same thing with reserve units, who usually have older models of everything.

The army and marines would prefer that Congress not look at the quality angle, because both services are using the reset process to achieve upgrades they did not expect to get for years, in some cases, over a decade from now. It's not that the services are doing anything illegal. But it would be stupid to repair gear to its original state, or replace it with duplicates of the original equipment. It's normal for wartime experience to result in numerous and frequent changes in equipment design. However, the military would rather not have to try and explain all that to Congress.


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