The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have presented the U.S. Army — and to a lesser extent the Marine Corps — with an enormous number of challenges. In addition to fighting and winning its current wars, the Army must also prepare for an uncertain future. Making the future all the more difficult is the likelihood that defense budgets will decline as the current conflicts wind down, leaving the Army with the difficult problem of having to choose between resetting the existing force or buying new capabilities for future wars.
One of these challenges is what the Army is going to do about its fleets of tracked and wheeled vehicles. The Army is vehicle rich, with its current fleet of M-1 Abrams tanks, the Bradley tracked fighting vehicle, Stryker wheeled fighting vehicles, up-armored Humvees, MRAPs and the new MRAP ATVs, and medium and heavy trucks. Now add to these the new ground combat vehicle and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle development program. Ironically, even as the Army changes the emphasis in its planning for future conflicts from large-scale combined arms campaigns on relatively flat terrain to an emphasis on counterinsurgency in complex terrain, it is buying more vehicles and becoming more dependent on them.
It is beginning to look as if the Army has too many vehicle programs. The only vehicles it is getting rid of are the 1950s vintage M-113s that are part of the Heavy Brigade Combat Teams. This does not mean fewer vehicles, however, because the M-113s are to be replaced, probably with Strykers and Bradleys.
It is not clear why the Army needs new types of vehicles in addition to everything it already has or is buying. Even if the new programs are successful, the Army will retain much of its current vehicle fleet for decades to come. It is also not clear how the Army will pay for the new capability while it is resetting and upgrading its existing fleets. New vehicles might be nice but it makes sense first to upgrade existing platforms, making them capable of employing advanced systems and networks.
The Army is supposed to have developed strategies for both its tactical wheeled vehicles and tracked, armored vehicles. There is little evidence of a well-thought out strategy in light of the current welter of programs for both refurbished and new vehicles.
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