Army leaders have thus far taken up a losing battle against Congress to temporarily halt funding for its Abrams tanks. However, that changed in its latest budget proposal as the service has reversed course and asked for 50 percent more funding for the M1 Abrams tank over last year.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress in 2o12 that the Army wanted to spend money on other modernization priorities. Congress pushed back saying it was a mistake to shut down the production line of the M1 tank, which is located in Lima, Ohio, even if it’s a temporary shut down. The Army would risk losing the skilled workers at the plants and spend more on training when they needed to reopen the production line for the Abrams upgrades the Army had said it needed in 2017.
The Army apparently listened to the critique, as service officials requested $368 million for upgrades to the M1 tank. Last year, the Army asked for $237 million.
Despite the Army’s pleas for less tank funding in the past two years, Congress has added funding to keep the tank plants open. The Army received an additional $120 million for tank upgrades it didn’t request.
The Army has about 9,000 tanks in its force. Rather than spend U.S. tax dollars on tank upgrades, the Army recommended that the production line could stay open by finding foreign investors.
In December 2014, the State Department approved a sale of 175 Abrams tanks to Iraq in a deal that could be worth $2.4 billion.
Last month, the new chairman for the House Armed Services Committee said it was proven right in its defense of the Abrams production line after the U.S. Army announced it would send more tanks to Europe following the aggressive actions of the Russian on the Ukraine border.
“We made a judgment call” to keep the tank production line open at the General Dynamics plant in Ohio, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said in January. “Just last month, the U.S. Army sent 100 M1 Abrams tanks back to Europe in response to the Ukraine crisis. That might be some evidence that Congress made the right call.”