It’s not bad enough that sequestration will cut at least an additional $13 billion a year from the Army’s share of the defense budget. Nor is it sufficiently destructive to the Army’s future performance that it must cut its current force structure by 13 combat brigades. And it’s not bad enough that Congress is preventing all the Services and OSD from making judicious reductions in overhead, excess infrastructure and retiree pay and benefits in order to preserve essential combat capabilities. Now, Congress wants to disarm the military by denying it effective weapons systems that have been proven on the battlefield.
This week, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) eliminated all funding for the XM-25 in its revision of the Pentagon’s budget. The XM-25 is a space-age tactical weapons system that fires 25mm programmable grenades that explode in the air just behind anything that an enemy is using for cover out to an effective range of nearly 3,000 feet. It is the most significant innovation in small arms since the invention of the bazooka or perhaps the wire-guided anti-missile rocket. Hundreds of XM-25s are deployed with U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan receiving rave reviews from the warfighters. It has been employed in combat some 6,000 times to great effect and with almost no problems. The system has proven so effective that the Army wants to buy an additional 10,000 XM-25s.
The XM-25 is a game changer for small-scale tactical combat. The XM-25 negates an adversary’s ability to exploit defensive terrain. It is particularly effective in those complex environments in which U.S. forces have fought over the past decade: cities, villages, mountains, forests and caves. By offering a means by which U.S. dismounted soldiers can successfully engage hostile forces in defensive positions without having to expose themselves, the XM-25 has saved American lives.
But the SASC, in a fit of misguided caution, effectively gutted this successful program. Why, you ask? Because there was a training accident in Afghanistan in which an XM-25 grenade caught fire but did not explode. The soldier undergoing training alone received superficial burns. That is one accident out of how many thousands of training rounds and combat rounds fired? Does the SASC direct the Army to study the problem and report to Congress on a proposed fix? No, it cancels the entire FY2014 buy of XM-25s.
One can only hope that the SASC’s decision may be altered before it becomes law. It is bad enough that Congress chose to stand by while sequestration gnaws at the U.S. military’s vitals. It is quite another thing for the SASC, in effect, to disarm the U.S. military. The XM-25 program is a clear technological, tactical and acquisition success story. Killing it would be a crime.
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