National Guard October 2011 : Page 38
New Wheels Tracks By William Matthews & War funding has greatly bolstered the Army Guard combat vehicle inventory, but numbers don’t tell the whole story and fiscal woes imperil further growth 38 ITH MONEY POURING in to ﬁght two wars, the Army National Guard has built its Humvee ﬂeet to 51,250 vehicles—about 2,000 more than its current requirement. That’s quite a turnaround. When the war on terrorism began in 2001, the force was 10,000 Humvees short, says Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, the acting director of the Army Guard. The Army Guard today also has 99 percent of its 323 required Stryker vehicles, 95.6 percent of its re-quired 88,835 medium and heavy trucks, and 90 percent of its required 559 M1 Abrams main battle tanks. The Guard still lags a bit on M2 Bradley ﬁghting vehicles with 77 percent, 783 of the required 1,013. Overall, though, it’s been a remarkable run for the Guard’s vehicle inventory. “Over the last six years, we have witnessed ﬁll rates that we never experienced before,” Carpenter told the Senate Appropriations subcom-mittee on defense earlier this year. The Guard has beneﬁted as the Army has spent $6 billion annually on tactical wheeled vehicles since 2003. That compares to less than $1 billion a year during the six preceding years, according to the Army’s Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Strategy report. “As a result, the Army now pos-sesses greater tactical wheeled vehicle capability than at any time in recent history,” the report says. But numbers don’t tell the whole story for the Army Guard. About 60 percent of the Army Guard’s Humvees have reached their “economic useful life” of 20 years, according to Guard officials. And only about a third of the Guard’s medium tactical trucks are modern. The rest “range from 20 to 30 years old and are difficult to sustain due to lack of available parts,” accord-ing to the Defense Department’s annual Guard and Reserve Equipment Report. It’s much the same with heavy tacti-cal trucks. While the Guard has close to 100 percent on hand, many are old. “We’re still in the business of mod-W Army Photo | Na tional Guard
New Wheels & Tracks
War funding has greatly bolstered the Army Guard combat vehicle inventory, but numbers don't tell the whole story and fiscal woes imperil further growth
WITH MONEY POURING in to fight two wars, the Army National Guard has built its Humvee fleet to 51,250 vehicles–about 2,000 more than its current requirement. That's quite a turnaround. When the war on terrorism began in 2001, the force was 10,000 Humvees short, says Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, the acting director of the Army Guard.
The Army Guard today also has 99 percent of its 323 required Stryker vehicles, 95.6 percent of its required 88,835 medium and heavy trucks, and 90 percent of its required 559 M1 Abrams main battle tanks. The Guard still lags a bit on M2 Bradley fighting vehicles with 77 percent, 783 of the required 1,013.
Overall, though, it's been a remarkable run for the Guard's vehicle inventory.
"Over the last six years, we have witnessed fill rates that we never experienced before," Carpenter told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on defense earlier this year.
The Guard has benefited as the Army has spent $6 billion annually on tactical wheeled vehicles since 2003. That compares to less than $1 billion a year during the six preceding years, according to the Army's Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Strategy report.
"As a result, the Army now possesses greater tactical wheeled vehicle capability than at any time in recent history," the report says.
But numbers don't tell the whole story for the Army Guard. About 60 percent of the Army Guard's Humvees have reached their "economic useful life" of 20 years, according to Guard officials.
And only about a third of the Guard's medium tactical trucks are modern. The rest "range from 20 to 30 years old and are difficult to sustain due to lack of available parts," according to the Defense Department's annual Guard and Reserve Equipment Report.
It's much the same with heavy tactical trucks. While the Guard has close to 100 percent on hand, many are old.
"We're still in the business of modernization in terms of our wheeled-vehicle fleet," Carpenter said. In fact, Humvee recapitalization and Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle trucks are both on the fiscal 2012 Top 25 Equipment Modernization Shortfall List.
The Guard also is still in the process of modernizing its tracked-vehicle fleet. Most armor units are getting the Army's second-best tank, the M1A2 Abrams Integrated Management. Guard leaders would prefer the M1A2 System Enhancement Package (SEP), which the active-component Army uses, but only one Guard brigade is scheduled to receive the Army's most advanced tank.
Similarly, the Guard would like to forgo the M2A2 Operation Desert Storm-Situational Awareness (ODSSA) Bradley fighting vehicles it's receiving for the even more up-to-date M2A3 Bradleys.
Since 2006, the Army Guard has received more than $36 billion to buy new equipment, including new ground vehicles, and the Guard hopes for at least another $7 billion by 2015 to continue modernizing.
Whether the money keeps flowing is of increasing concern. Multiple factors now threaten to force cuts in defense spending. For example, deep reductions may be imposed automatically as part of Congress' July deal to raise the federal debt ceiling.
The automatic defense cuts can be avoided if a special congressional committee comes up with an alternative deficit-cutting plan, but even that is certain to include some defense cuts.
And there are other budget pressures.
The overseas contingency operations budget is shrinking as the war in Iraq winds down. It was $158 billion this year, and is expected to be about $118 billion in 2012. It will shrink even faster as troops begin departing Afghanistan in greater numbers in 2012. That affects modernization because a fair amount of the money for new equipment and upgrades has come from the OCO budget.
The rest of the defense budget– the "base budget"–is also under pressure. Last spring, President Barack Obama called for $400 billion in defense spending cuts through 2023.
Then in August, White House budget chief Jack Lew told federal agencies, the Pentagon included, to cut 5 to 10 percent from their 2013 budgets to rein in deficit spending.
The bottom line is, U.S. defense spending is likely to decline gradually over the next decade, not only in buying power, but in real dollars, says Travis Sharp, a defense budget specialist at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C.
Sharp predicts a 10 to 15 percent reduction.
"Army vehicle modernization could take a big hit, and if it does, the Guard will suffer," he says.
Shrinking budgets aren't the only threat to further vehicle modernization. The end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will mean a much lower operating tempo for the Army, Sharp says, and that means less "strategic rationale" for buying new combat vehicles.
Even the Army has begun to argue that it has enough of at least one combat vehicle–the venerable Abrams tank.
This spring the Army proposed to close the tank factory in Lima, Ohio, for three years starting in 2013 in order to save $1.3 billion.
Lt. Gen. Robert Lennox, the Army's deputy chief of staff for programs, told the Senate Armed Services' airland subcommittee that "we've got a very fit and complete fleet" of tanks, so it's time "to stop buying something that we no longer need."
But Congress isn't convinced. Closing the tank line would eliminate 1,000 jobs at the factory and thousands more at companies that make tank parts. And some critics contend that shutting down the factory in 2013 only to start it back up in 2016 will cost more than simply keeping it open.
In its version of the 2012 defense budget, the House Armed Services Committee more than doubled the Army's $181.3 million request for tank upgrades by adding $272 million, for a total of $453.3 million. The money is for turning older M1A1s into M1A2 SEPv2 tanks for the Army Guard.
The Senate Armed Services Committee was even more generous, adding $322 million to upgrade an additional 49 tanks.
"It's not a question of whether the Army really needs" more upgraded tanks, says Daniel Goure, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, a pro-business defense think tank in Arlington, Va. It's a matter of preserving the industrial capability to build and upgrade tanks in the future.
For Congress, "there's real angst about being without that capability," Goure says.
But to Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, the Pennsylvania adjutant general and chairman of the NGAUS Combat Vehicle Task Force, it's more about military necessity than industrial-base policy. Equipping the Guard with the Army's best tank means more Guard soldiers will survive in combat, he says.
"I want soldiers to have the best vehicles," he says, "not just something the Army says is good enough."
The Guard would also like to upgrade its Bradley fighting vehicles. The House, at least, agrees.
The Army asked for $250.7 million for Bradley improvements in fiscal 2012, and the House raised that to $403.7 million. Lawmakers again expressed concerned about preserving the industrial base. Army spending plans would lead to a two-year shutdown of the Bradley production line, the House Armed Services Committee said, and there's no guarantee that the industrial capability to build Bradleys could be revived after a two-year hiatus.
"A more prudent course of action," the committee said, is "continued production of the most capable version of the Bradley fighting vehicle, the M2A3," and to provide them to the Army Guard.
Again, Craig cites military need. The M2A2s that many Guard units still have are so outdated that "the Army considers [them] not deployable," he says.
The active-component Army operates M2A3s. So far, only one Guard heavy brigade combat team, the 116th from Idaho, is scheduled to receive M2A3s. The other six HBCTs and three combined-arms battalions are converting to the M2A2 ODS-SA over the next three years.
Unlike the analog Bradleys they are replacing, the M2A2 ODS-SAs are fully digitized, but still lack some of the upgrades included in the M2A3s.
Even if budget cuts preclude upgrading more Bradleys, there are other ways the Guard might receive M2A3s in coming years. One is that before 2020, the active-component Army might begin switching from the Bradley to the new Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) and cascading M2A3s to the Guard, Goure says.
Another possibility that's "being kicked around in the Pentagon," Sharp mentions, is shifting more heavy-combat capability to the Guard and Reserve to make the active-component Army more of a medium-weight force. The premise here is that defense leaders don't expect to get involved in a large land war anytime soon.
While Congress and Pentagon leaders contemplate the future of tanks and Bradleys, the future of Humvees is pretty clear. They're going to remain in service for perhaps another 30 years.
But the Army won't be buying any more new Humvees. Instead, Army officials plan to recapitalize 60,000 of its 150,000 Humvees beginning in 2013. This includes about 13,000 Guard Humvees–about a third of the Guard fleet.
The Humvees will be disassembled, refurbished, rebuilt and modernized, emerging as essentially new vehicles. They'll have new engines and new transmissions, better generators and better protective armor, greater acceleration, better braking and handling, and safety improvements to protect crews against enemy weapons fire and fuel fires, the Army says. They even get a new name– Humvee MECVs, for "modernized expanded capability vehicles."
The cost per vehicle is not to exceed $180,000, or almost three times the cost of the original Humvees.
Craig says the Army Guard needs more recapped Humvees than the 13,000 in current Army plans.
"In Pennsylvania alone, I need 1,000," he says. And if Pennsylvania needs 1,000, the need nationwide is probably closer to 20,000, he says.
In addition to the "recaps," the Army plans to provide the Army Guard with 500 new Humvee-based ambulances, according to Carpenter. The Guard now has only 74 percent of the ambulances it needs.
Surprisingly, the Army Guard has a higher percentage of armored Humvees than the active-component Army, according to the Army's Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Report. But overall, the Guard's Humvee fleet is not as modern as the active-component Army's.
Even as the Army's Humvee fleet is being modernized, it will also be shrinking. The Army plans to trim its fleet by 15 percent by 2016 "due to affordability concerns," the House Armed Services Committee reports.
Then in 2017, the Army is supposed to begin receiving the first replacement for the Humvee–the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles. But that's far from certain. After four years in development, the JLTV program is in serious trouble.
Excess weight and inadequate underbody blast protection have plagued multiple prototype vehicles. Costs have risen sharply and other vehicles–the bomb-resistant MRAPs and M-ATVs that were rushed into service for Iraq and Afghanistan–have already filled part of the role intended for JLTVs.
Because of their excessive weight, Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, has threatened to pull the Marines out of the JLTV program.
"The early feedback is they will weigh 20,000 pounds and cost $500,000 apiece," Amos said in July. That's nearly twice the weight and three times the cost of the up-armored Humvees the JLTVs would replace.
The problems prompted two House committees that oversee defense spending to cut $50 million, nearly 25 percent, from the JLTV funding for 2012. The Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee went even further, cancelling the program in its version of the 2012 defense bill.
Even if the JLTV program survives, the Guard might not see new vehicles in significant numbers until about 2027, Craig says.
The Army also is working on another new vehicle, the Ground Combat Vehicle, and it, too, is in jeopardy.
The Army wants more than 1,800 GCVs to begin replacing Bradleys after 2017. They're intended to carry nine troops compared to the Bradley's six. They're also supposed to offer more protection and consume less fuel.
Development is just beginning, but already costs are climbing. The Defense Department released new estimates in August which pushed the vehicles' price tag to $13 million apiece, up from earlier estimates of $9 million to $10.5 million.
In light of the rising cost, Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter ordered the Army to look at other options. The House also ordered an analysis of alternatives, including the possibility of upgrading Bradleys instead of building GCVs.
So, the Guard might never see GCVs, but they'll likely remain familiar with MRAPs. The Army is trying to decide what to do with them after the wars end.
"If you talk to the Army leadership, the sense is that they would dearly love to park them and forget about them," Goure says. "The second best thing is send them to the Guard. And that's not necessarily a good news story [for the Guard]."
The multiple types of MRAPs are likely to create maintenance headaches, he says.
But Craig predicts MRAPs and M-ATVs will remain in the active-component Army and the Guard. "They're certainly useful," he says. "And we've spent too much on them to just park them."
Despite uncertainties about tank and Bradley upgrades and questions about the viability of the JLTV and GCV programs, the Army Guard's vehicle fleet is in unusually good shape.
"The Guard has really been nearly made whole with all the Iraq and Afghanistan spending," Goure says. The situation is so good "that you could argue that they could manage a procurement holiday in many areas without any loss of capability."
If there's a procurement holiday, it should be short, Craig says.
"The wheeled-vehicle fleet is in the best shape I've seen it in 30 years in the National Guard. [If ] budget pressure means that what we've got is what we're going to have for a while," the Army Guard can cope with that for two or three years, he says.
But then recapping Humvees becomes all the more important, "and I worry about repair parts," he says. Even when it's in good shape, Craig points out, the vehicle fleet "requires constant attention."
William Matthews is a freelance writer based in Springfield, Va., who specializes in military matters. He can be contacted via email@example.com.
NGAUS has worked Capitol Hill for Army National Guard vehicle modernization since the first Army hand-medown trucks began arriving at armories early in the 20th century. More recently, the association helped win $371 million for new tactical trucks and $150 million for new Humvees in the fiscal 2010 budget. In addition, NGAUS lobbying led to enough funds in the fiscal 2011, congressionally directed National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account to purchase 1,576 medium tactical trucks and 500 Humvee ambulances for the Army Guard.
"Over the last six years, we have witnessed [vehicle] fill rates that we never experienced before."
–Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter
Acting director of the Army National Guard
"I want soldiers to have the best vehicles, not just something the Army says is good enough."
–Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig
Pennsylvania adjutant general Chairman, NGAUS Combat Vehicle Task Force
Read the full article at http://nationalguardmagazine.com/article/New+Wheels+%26+Tracks/855937/83707/article.html.