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Broken Gear, Piling Up

The Washington Post has a fascinating report from the Anniston Army Depot, where "sprawling lots of tanks and other armored vehicles are just the start of a huge backlog" of gear broken by Iraq and Afghanistan.061204_anniston_depot_hmed_10p.hmedium.jpg

"There's stuff, stuff everywhere," Joan Gustafson, a depot official, said as she wheeled her brown Chevrolet van through a landscape of rolling hills lined with armadas of mobile guns."There's another field of M1s," she said, motioning toward a swath of M1A1 Abrams tanks next to the winding road. "We're just waiting for someone to tell us what to do with them..."Equipment shipped back from Iraq is stacking up at all the Army depots: More than 530 M1 tanks, 220 M88 wreckers and 160 M113 armored personnel carriers are sitting at Anniston. The Red River Army Depot in Texas has 700 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 450 heavy and medium-weight trucks, while more than 1,000 Humvees are awaiting repair at the Letterkenny Army Depot in Pennsylvania.Despite the work piling up, the Army's depots have been operating at about half their capacity because of a lack of funding for repairs. In the spring, a funding gap caused Anniston and other depots to lose about a month's worth of work...Responding to urgent requests from the Army and Marine Corps, Congress approved an extra $23.8 billion in October to replace worn-out equipment in fiscal 2007. With the money, the Army plans to double the workload at its depots, which will repair and upgrade 130,000 pieces in 2007, up from 63,000 last year. This will include a quadrupling of the number of tanks, Bradleys and other tracked vehicles overhauled, from 1,000 to 4,000.At Anniston, which will handle 1,800 combat vehicles in fiscal 2007, a cavernous 250,000-square-foot repair shop is humming as damaged tanks are rolled in one by one and disassembled with the help of giant cranes. Removing an M1 tank's turret alone takes a day and a half, and the entire overhaul requires 54 days and costs about $1 million, said Ted A. Law, the depot's vehicle manager.Earnest Linn, 58, a heavy-mobile-equipment mechanic who as of January will have worked at Anniston for 30 years, said that "it's never been like this" since the end of the Vietnam War.
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