The addiction to pork in Washington is coming in 70-ton servings — the M1 Abrams tanks the U.S. Army says it can't stomach but Congress keeps serving. This is bipartisan spending run amok to preserve jobs back home, and it reflects what is wrong with a Congress that talks tough on reducing the fiscal deficit but wastes taxpayer money on military equipment the Army doesn't even want.
The Army wants to stop the ongoing refurbishing of Abrams tanks, which would largely idle a General Dynamics plant in Ohio until 2017 and save roughly $3 billion. After the Pentagon first announced its plan two years ago, the company estimated more than 500 subcontractors employing up to 18,000 people could be affected.
The predictable pushback from Congress came amid aggressive lobbying and campaign contributions from General Dynamics' employees and political action committees, according to the Center for Public Integrity. As the donations rolled in, Congress reauthorized the tank spending in fiscal year 2012, and last year 173 Democratic and Republican House members signed a letter urging the Defense Department to continue tank production to "preserve the industrial base.''
The Army has 2,300 of the M1 Abrams tanks deployed and 3,000 more sitting idle at a military base in California. The Army has said its needs for a 2,384-tank fleet can be met by the end of this year, but Congress wants to spend $436 million to keep refurbishing additional tanks despite the military's objections. Never mind that the Pentagon must absorb $42 billion in sequester cuts by September and cut $487 billion over the next decade. This is another waste of public money just when the pressure to cut spending is increasing.
These are the contradictions from Washington that drive taxpayers crazy and keep voter approval ratings for Congress in the cellar. Congress wants the Pentagon to cut the fat while simultaneously swallowing more political pork.