The Army says military equipment is breaking down faster than it can be repaired, and has asked for more money. The estimated cost for repairs is $17 billion to $19 billion annually, and Congress has already approved an extra $23.8 billion for emergency maintenance in 2007.
The military’s ground forces are only beginning the vast and costly job of replacing, repairing and upgrading combat equipment—work that will cost an estimated $17 billion to $19 billion annually for several more years, regardless of any shift in Iraq strategy. The Army alone has 280,000 major pieces of equipment in combat zones that will eventually have to be fixed or replaced. Before the war, the Army spent $2.5 billion to $3 billion a year on wear and tear.
At Anniston [Army Depot in Alabama], the sprawling lots of tanks and other armored vehicles are just the start of a huge backlog in broken-down gear.
Responding to urgent requests from the Army and Marine Corps, Congress approved an extra $23.8 billion in October to replace worn-out equipment in fiscal 2007. With the money, the Army plans to double the workload at its depots, which will repair and upgrade 130,000 pieces in 2007, up from 63,000 last year. This will include a quadrupling of the number of tanks, Bradleys and other tracked vehicles overhauled, from 1,000 to 4,000.
At Anniston, which will handle 1,800 combat vehicles in fiscal 2007, a cavernous 250,000-square-foot repair shop is humming as damaged tanks are rolled in one by one and disassembled with the help of giant cranes. Removing an M1 tank’s turret alone takes a day and a half, and the entire overhaul requires 54 days and costs about $1 million, said Ted A. Law, the depot’s vehicle manager.