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Editorial: Stop funding tank Army doesn't want

7:27 PM, Apr. 29, 2013  |  Comments
This undated file photo provided by the General Dynamics Land System shows the production of an Abrams tank in Lima, Ohio. Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams, which the Army refers to with a moniker that befits their heft: the M1A2SEPv2. The upgraded tanks cost about $7.5 million each, according to the Army, and service officials say they have plenty of them. (AP Photo/General Dynamics Land System, File)
This undated file photo provided by the General Dynamics Land System shows the production of an Abrams tank in Lima, Ohio. Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams, which the Army refers to with a moniker that befits their heft: the M1A2SEPv2. The upgraded tanks cost about $7.5 million each, according to the Army, and service officials say they have plenty of them. (AP Photo/General Dynamics Land System, File)
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When it comes to defying logic, Congress seems to supply plenty of examples. Occasionally those examples will get you mad. On Monday, an Associated Press story in the Press-Gazette did exactly that.

The wire service reported that the Army doesn't want any more Abrams tank. It has enough (2,400 of them), thank you. Senior Army officials say it wants to stop buying the tank until 2017 when a new design is unveiled.

That makes sense.

However, lawmakers and special interests want an extra $436 million to keep producing the tank.

Basically, they want to keep sinking money into a weapon the Army has said it doesn't want in order to keep jobs. That this foolishness has bipartisan support makes it all the more outrageous - in a time when the Republicans and Democrats can't agree on what to cut or what to raise, they agree to waste taxpayer money on a tank that's not wanted.

It's understandable that lawmakers want to keep jobs in their district and that companies want to keep making money. But to do that on the back of taxpayers who have weathered tough economic times and when the nation still faces a trillion dollar budget deficit.

The tank is built in Ohio, a politically important state, therefore the continued production of it has plenty of backers.

Unlike Wisconsin, where Oshkosh Corp. recently announced it will lay off 900 this summer, after 415 were laid off in February. The reason: Demand for the company's military vehicles is down. Department of Defense spending is being reduced as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down and truck orders are not coming in from foreign governments.

So the Oshkosh company has made cuts to its defense division.

It makes sense, and yes it hurts those being laid off. We don't like to see anyone laid off. But when you make military vehicles the reality is production will ramp up in wartime and decrease in peacetime.

In the meantime, Oshkosh Corp. is looking to the construction sector as the economy slowly improves. The company's CEO, Charles Szews, spoke last week at St. Norbert College and said growth in housing and construction will fuel the need for such vehicles as concrete mixers, which Oshkosh produces.

Contrast that adjustment with Ohio where lawmakers, state government officials and General Dynamics (which runs the federally owned plant) want to keep the status quo.

About 700 are employed at the Lima, Ohio, plant, and General Dynamics say about 18,000 more are employed by subcontracts involved in the tank program. It would be sad if some of those people lost their jobs, but it would be more absurd to keep producing that tank for the U.S. Army.

"When an institution as risk averse as the Defense Department says they have enough tanks, we can probably believe them," said Sean Kennedy, director of research for the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, in the AP story.

To keep producing this tank when the Army doesn't want it defies logic. It should not happen. However, when dealing with Congress we know that common sense may not win out.

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