Army Will Shed Thousands of Vehicles From Truck Fleet
An inventory glut and forecasts of shrinking budgets are shaping the Army’s plans to begin downsizing its fleet of nearly 300,000 trucks and trailers.
By 2017, the fleet will be 15 percent smaller, but more modern and less expensive to maintain, Army officials said at a Jan. 27 news conference.
After a seven-year buying spree, the Army now has more trucks than it needs, and it owns many older vehicles that require costly upkeep. A new “Tactical Wheeled Vehicles Strategy” unveiled this week calls for “rightsizing” the fleet and for a careful examination of spending priorities.
“This strategy makes tough choices today,” said Maj. Gen. ThomasSpoehr, director of Army force development.
Before the current wars and the emergence of roadside bombs as the preferred weapons of U.S. enemies, trucks were low-tech. They were used predominantly for combat-service support in rear areas of the battlefield. In order to protect troops from bomb attacks, the Army and Marine Corps had to completely change how they viewed the role of trucks in combat. They began to acquire thousands of armored trucks, including up-armored Humvees and the much larger mine-resistant ambush protected troop carrier, the MRAP.
With billions of dollars of extra funds from war-emergency appropriations, the services bulked up their fleets. TheArmy has spent an average of $6 billion per year on tactical wheeled vehicles (not including MRAPs) since 2003 — compared to less than $1 billion a year in the six preceding years. MRAPs alone cost the Pentagon about $36 billion.
The current Army inventory includes nearly 260,000 trucks and 20,000 MRAPs. With expectations of tighter budgets and gradual troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army will not be able to afford to keep this many vehicles.
Truck manufacturers should brace for much leaner times, according to the Army’s vehicle strategy.
Not including emergency war funds, the Army’s budget for tactical wheeled vehicles will drop substantially to its pre-2003 level of $1 billion a year. If all goes as planned, the intent is to gradually increase annual funding to $2.5 billion five years from now.
If the Army were to keep its existing inventory, it would need $4.4 billion to sustain it, which is far more than it can afford, Spoehr said. “Currently, the Army has more vehicles than the U.S. Postal Service.”
To be able to live with a much smaller budget, the Army will have to make cautious choices regarding future procurements. Most likely, it will spread out acquisition programs over longer periods, Spoehr said.
“We’re going to carefully balance whether to ‘buy new’ or improve the current fleet,” he said.
Of the 20,000 MRAPs, about 1,500 will be mothballed or given away to other countries. These will include older RG-33 and Cougar MRAP variants, which are expensive to support and have outdated technology.
Technology investments in the foreseeable future will focus on advanced armor, Spoehr said. But the Army wants to spend armor dollars more wisely than it has in the past. “We are taking a more incremental approach,” Spoehr said. “We think it makes more sense to buy a little bit of armor every year,” rather than make huge purchases upfront,” he said. “If someone comes up with a new kind of armor, we will not have bought out all our requirement. … Frankly, one of the things we learned in this war is that you can produce armor fairly quickly.”
One significant unanswered question concerning the future fleet is how the Army will replace or modernize its nearly 150,000 Humvees. Production of new Humvees for the Army will end next year. The service is developing a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle — three industry teams have designed prototypes — and the objective is to acquire up to 50,000. But the program has been delayed by budget cuts and concerns about its affordability. Spoehr dismissed those worries. JLTVs will cost about $300,000 each, he said. “That is cheaper than any MRAP we’ve bought so far.”
The majority of current Humvees will not be replaced but remanufactured. Those that will be returning from war zones will be refurbished at Army depots, said Col. David Bassett, Army project manager fortactical vehicles. His office also is considering seeking industry bids for a much larger Humvee recapitalization program. The timeline for that project still is under evaluation, he said.
As is the case with all hardware programs in the Defense Department today, ultimately it all depends on having enough money. The Army’s vehicle blueprint points out that a “significant risk to this strategy is the availability of procurement funds for the tactical wheeled vehicle fleet.”
Topics: Land Forces