Lawmakers Ready To Dole Out Unrequested Funds To Vehicle Makers | InsideDefense.com

By Sebastian Sprenger

Guard humvee work funded

House lawmakers last week approved a spending a bill giving generous plus-ups to Army vehicle manufacturers, including $160 million for humvee modifications in the Army National Guard.

The list of add-ons in the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations bill mirrors some similar moves taken recently by defense authorizers. Among them is a $50 million addition for equipping Stryker vehicles with improved underbody blast protection, a $29 million boost above the budget request for the Bradley, a $72 million increase for the Hercules recovery vehicle, and the creation of a $120 million “Abrams Upgrade Program” budget line.

The Stryker and Abrams are made by General Dynamics Land Systems; BAE Systems makes the Bradley.

At press time (December 12), the Senate still had to take up the spending package. It narrowly passed the House late on December 11.

An extra sum of $100 million goes to the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles. The Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicles is in line to receive an extra $50 million. Oshkosh makes trucks for both programs.

The $160 million plus-up for humvee modifications in the Army National Guard are split in two: $100 million is simply described as a “program increase” in a joint explanatory statement issued along with the bill, and $60 million will go toward a humvee ambulance replacement.

The Army touted the program in a November 19 press release. Built at Rock Island Arsenal Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center, 200 of the ambulances had already been delivered to Guard units in 16 states, the statement said.

An Army-wide shortfall of ambulances was diagnosed as early as 2009, according to the service. The new vehicles would “help augment civil authorities and save lives because they can go that last mile and push through areas where civilian ambulances just can’t go,” the statement quotes Rickey Yates, chief of the National Guard Combat Service Support Branch, as saying.

Lawmakers separately set funding for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment account at $1.2 billion. Of that amount, $415 million is for the Army National Guard and $185 million for the Army Reserve, according to the joint explanatory statement. The legislation specifically says that the funding must be “executed” by the chiefs of the Guard and Reserve. A long list of projects to be financed is included, suggesting that lawmakers either had their own pet projects in mind or that they were familiar with specific shortfall complaints by reserve officials.

The administration has previously objected to the annual pot of reserve funding, criticizing it as unnecessarily supporting projects that Pentagon leaders have deemed to be of low priority. The fund would divert scarce resources from more important defense programs, according to a June statement of administration policy issued by the White House.

The active Army is in charge of equipping its reserve components. Reserve leaders have long complained about getting short shrift in that process, and their powerful lobby on Capitol Hill has made it relatively easy to get extra cash outside regular Army coffers.

Lawmakers Ready To Dole Out Unrequested Funds To Vehicle Makers | InsideDefense.com