Army says "No Thanks" to Tanks, Congress Insists

It's like trying to turn down food at your grandmother's house, it seems.

Senior Army officials have repeatedly turned down more M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, but there is a bipartisan push to spend $436 million on tanks the Army said it doesn't need or want.

The reason, of course, is politics.

The assembly plant for the M1 Abrams tank is located in the town of Lima, in the politically important state of Ohio. The plant employs about 700 people, and is the fifth-largest employer in Lima. Over 500 smaller manufacturers scattered across the country (employing around 18,000 people) also manufacture critical sub-assemblies and other components used in the final assembly of the Abrams. Because of the large number of jobs, these extra tanks have broad bipartisan support. This was apparent when 173 House Democrats and Republicans sent a letter to former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in 2012 complaining about the potential reduction of tank production.

This leads to a seeming conflict of interest, where Congressional representatives who push for across-the-board budget cuts for both the government and military push for spending millions in unwanted equipment to protect jobs in their districts. Advocates of the tanks say that the tanks are still needed, and closing the plant will cost more in lost jobs and additional costs to reopen the plant in 2017, when the Army says it wants to resume buying tanks.

In addition to manufacturing Abrams tanks for the US military, the Lima plant is also currently manufacturing tanks for export to other countries. Currently the US Army receives about 4 tanks a month, Saudi Arabia receives 5 tanks a month, and Egypt also receives 4 tanks a month.

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