Army Equipment After Iraq

Read the full report (PDF)

Operations in Iraq have placed the heaviest burden on the active and reserve components of the U.S. Army. While most attention has rightly focused on the war’s impact on our men and women in uniform, this report examines another, more hidden impact that the war in Iraq has had on the U.S. Army — the stress placed on Army equipment and its implications for U.S. military performance and readiness.

Three years after the invasion of Iraq, strains are beginning to appear in the U.S. Army’s equipment arsenal, reducing its capacity to supply its troops with the best warfighting tools available. While the Army has managed to sustain a high level of readiness in Iraq despite equipment strains, readiness for non-deployed units and units outside of Iraq has already been reduced.

In order to sustain the current pace of military operations in Iraq without leaving the nation vulnerable to aggression in other places, the Department of Defense (DoD) must continuously repair, rebuild and replace equipment worn out or destroyed by the war effort, a process known as “reset.” However, normal sustainment patterns have been threatened by the war in Iraq due to the high utilization rates and harsh conditions of the Iraqi environment. The Abrams tank, for example, is operating at six times its rate during peacetime, while medium and heavy trucks are operating at 10 times the typical peacetime rate. These equipment strains currently undermine the Army’s ability to confront new challenges overseas or cope with disasters at home and threaten to impede operations in Iraq over the long term.

Near-term Needs & Recommendations: In order to assure that Army equipment readiness fully recovers from operations in Iraq, six near-term steps are necessary.

  • Congress should fully fund the service’s $9 billion request for reset funding in fiscal 2006, and a similar level of reset funding should be sustained in subsequent years as long as the Army maintains a major presence in Iraq.
  • Congress should provide additional resources to cover most of the procurement and depot maintenance items contained in the Army’s $7 billion unfunded requirements list for fiscal 2007.
  • Once the deployed force departs Iraq, Congress should continue funding reset for at least two years to assure full resolution of all war-related equipment problems.
  • The Army should cease deferring recapitalization of aging equipment and request a level of reset funding consistent with fully revitalizing the force for future challenges.
  • DoD should conduct and submit to Congress a comprehensive review of new equipment that will be required for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve to recover fully from Iraq deployments and enable the reserve component to meet future commitments.
  • The U.S. Army should fund its reset program through the normal budget process and not through supplementals, as has been the case since the beginning of operations in Iraq.

Long-term Plans & Recommendations: The war in Iraq has taught the U.S. Army invaluable lessons about which capacities it must bolster over the long term. In order to assure that the Army is ready to cope with the diverse challenges it will face in the years after U.S. forces depart Iraq, five long-term steps are essential.

  • The Army should continue efforts to reorganize its warfighting capabilities around modular, networked brigade combat teams.
  • The Army should accelerate the fielding of new situational awareness and communications systems, including the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical that will provide a foundation for the overarching Future Combat System, the Blue Force Tracker and brigade-level unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • The Army should produce and fund a comprehensive plan for the continuous enhancement of heavy armored vehicles, such as the Abrams main battle tank and Bradley infantry fighting vehicle.
  • The Army should complete replacement of its Cold War truck fleet while beginning development of a successor to the versatile High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee).
  • The Army should work hard to keep all elements of its aviation modernization program on track, recognizing that timely fielding of new or improved attack, utility, cargo and reconnaissance helicopters are critical to future conventional and counter-insurgency operations.

Read the full report (PDF)

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Lawrence J. Korb

Former Senior Fellow

Caroline Wadhams

Senior Fellow