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
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.