The Abrams tank sounded pretty remarkable in reports chronicling its arrival in Afghanistan more than two years ago: The 68-ton machine is propelled by jet engines and has a main gun that can destroy a house from more than a mile away. But since its debut, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have been pushing to upgrade the tank, devoting $436 million to the cause. Except as the AP explains, senior Army officials keep telling Congress they're not interested. "If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way," says the Army's chief of staff.
The Army says it doesn't need to buy more tanks until 2017; Congress wants the Army to buy earlier models that have been upgraded with things like better microprocessors and color flat panel displays, at a cost of about $7.5 million each. "The Army is on record saying we do not require any additional M1A2s," said the deputy director of the Army budget office this month. And while tank-proponents Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio insist our safety is at the root of it all—"we are supposed to spend taxpayer money in defense of the country," says Jordan—the AP notes the country's only tank plant happens to be located in Lima, Ohio. Such a pet project is nothing new, but the Abrams example is notable due to the certainty of the Army's position. "When an institution as risk-averse as the Defense Department says they have enough tanks, we can probably believe them," says a director with Citizens Against Government Waste.