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US Army unable to afford translators, bomb-proof trucks

Plenty of cash for big tanks though

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The US Army's planned budget for the 2008 financial year is in excess of $130bn – more than double the budget of all three UK armed services combined – but even so the American soldiers believe they are short of what they need.

General Peter Schoomaker outlined an unfunded $10bn additional "wish list" in a memo to the congressional military committee, the Army Times reports.

It includes a number of items which could be highly important for ongoing counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. Examples include $2.2bn worth of mine-resistant vehicles to replace lightly-protected Humvees, $152m for "counter improvised explosive device systems", and $13.3m for foreign languages translation.

Curiously, the core $130bn funded budget (pdf) includes items which could appear less immediately critical, such as $400m worth of enhanced MLRS bombardment missiles. These heavy rockets are principally useful in high-intensity land combat against a powerful conventional army. They are also often fitted with controversial cluster-bomb warheads which scatter deadly unexploded submunitions across wide areas, effectively creating fields of landmines when used.

Similarly, funding is expected to be readily available for other traditional warfare systems. The US Army plans to spend more than $1.5bn over fiscal years 2008 and 2009 on upgrading its Abrams main battle tanks, and another $200m on heavy artillery.

It appears that the US Army, in common with other armed forces around the world, isn't going to let a little thing like a war (or even several simultaneous wars) interfere with its plans. ®

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