Rumsfeld wages Capitol Hill battle over outdated arms

Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2002

Donald Rumsfeld is hot under the collar

-- and it will take more than a visit to his Taos-area summer home to cool him off.

What our nation's defense secretary needs is an end, or at least reduction to a low roar, of the eternal pork-barrel politicking over weapons contracts.

Rumsfeld finds himself fighting 21st-century conflicts with weaponry thought up while the Cold War was going on: stuff that's not only expensive, but of little use today at any price.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the secretary said he wants to scrap the Crusader artillery system, a cumbersome $11 billion set of self-propelled cannons designed to stop the Soviet Union if it tried to cross the Fulda Gap and capture West Germany, as many strategists feared in the waning years of communist totalitarianism. ...

Our nation's military faces irregular combat against an assortment of enemies in far-flung countries. Rumsfeld wants forces armed to meet modern threats.

But when it comes to the Crusader, he's attracting ''friendly'' fire: the congressional delegation from Oklahoma, where the Crusader would be built, has been sniping at Rumsfeld.

And, it turns out, his fellow Republicans from the Sooner state, Rep. J.C. Watts and Sens. Jim Inhofe and Don Nickles, have allies:

Top-ranking Pentagon brass, including Army Secretary Thomas White, have been reported lobbying congressmen from all over the country to save the Crusader.

Bad enough that our senators and representatives continue foisting upon the military equipment it doesn't need, and often doesn't even want. ...

But Rumsfeld figures -- correctly, we think -- that collusion on the part of White and a few key officers amounts to insubordination.

He wants some heads to roll.

An official investigation has been launched into uniformed Crusader fans making unauthorized forays to House and Senate office buildings, and faxing arguments that anyone opposed to the weapon might be putting our soldiers at risk.

One Pentagon lobbyist (has) resigned. ... Other action is likely to follow.

Rumsfeld realizes that the Army needs new artillery -- but he also wonders why the Pentagon has gone on spending money on the Crusader when more mobile guns were needed.

Now he faces arguments that the nation already has invested $2 billion in research and development of the Crusader -- so if he doesn't buy it, that's $2 billion down the drain. ...

-- The Santa Fe New Mexican

May 12

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