Procurement: The Early Retirement Sell

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November 17, 2005: Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are pushing a lot of the older American military equipment towards early retirement. Systems like the CH-46E transport helicopters, P-3 naval reconnaissance aircraft, KC-135 air refueling aircraft and M-113 armored personnel carriers (APC) are used far less in peacetime than in wartime. Thus the few remaining years of useful service for these systems are rapidly being used up. That will provide the Pentagon with a compelling argument to get the money to build replacements. For the last few years, the armed forces has been arguing with Congress over the cost of possible replacements. With these systems now about to die ahead of schedule, there’s a lot more pressure to provide the money to get replacements into service in time. The marines already have the V-22 tilt rotor aircraft coming into service to replace the CH-46E, and will be able to increase production of the V-22, rather than kill it (as many critics wanted to do). The P-3 is more complicated, as this aircraft is crammed full of complex and expensive electronics. The navy wants a very expensive P-3 replacement, and Congress may have to give in. The KC-135 is more straightforward, just a cargo plane modified to carry fuel, and pass it on in-flight. Congressional politics has stalled selection of a new tanker, but with so many wearing out over the Middle East, politics will soon have to back off. The M113 is an old APC that still does a lot of useful jobs, but they are worn out and some kind of replacement will be needed. Even some of the M-2 Bradley infantry vehicles, and the marines M-1 tanks, are wearing out. While there were lots of these 1980s vintage vehicles left idle because of the post- Cold War disbanding of divisions, the surplus ones are all older models, that will need multi-million dollar upgrades to make them compatible with what is now in use. That money will be easier to get because of all the vehicles worn out from service in Iraq.

 


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