Rumsfeld dumps Crusader, defends decision
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other military officials Wednesday defended his decision to cancel the Army's plans for an $11 billion Crusader artillery system in favor of developing more flexible, mobile weaponry.
"Even as we continue to prosecute the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, we are learning lessons that are important," Rumsfeld said in announcing his decision, which he said he made Tuesday.
"One lesson, of course, is that we must be prepared to adapt to an ever-evolving set of challenges and circumstances," he said.
"We want Army weapons systems that are more mobile, lethal and deployable," said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who appeared with Rumsfeld and Army Secretary Tom White at a Pentagon news briefing.
The Crusader was scheduled to go into service in 2008 as the Army's next generation of mobile artillery to replace the aging Paladin system.
The self-propelled, 155 mm howitzer had a computer-automated loading system that allowed it to fire up to 10 rounds per minute as far as 25 miles. The weapon was expected to weigh about 50 tons.
Some $2 billion already has been spent on its development. How the remaining $9 billion would be spent has not been determined.
White said he learned of Rumsfeld's decision early Tuesday afternoon. "Now the decision has been made, and the Army is moving to execute that decision," White said.
White angered Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz last week when he delivered a paper of "talking points" to Capitol Hill detailing reasons the Crusader program should be kept alive.
The talking points were delivered within hours of a meeting in which Wolfowitz told White he had 30 days to come up with a plan to cancel the Crusader and put the money saved into advanced technology programs.
Army officials said privately the timing was just a coincidence and insisted the Army's Office of Legislative Affairs was simply responding to requests for information from Congress.
Wolfowitz said President Bush supported Rumsfeld's recommendation that Congress transfer the money for the Crusader's development to other programs.
The president agrees with the recommendation, "to make room for more promising technologies that offer greater payoffs," Wolfowitz said.
In explaining his decision, Rumsfeld said, "We need joint integrated approaches to battlefield challenges. We need weapon systems capable of producing the precise and timely destruction of enemy targets."
He said the effectiveness of the Crusader, which has no prototype, is a topic that has been under study for five or six years. "It's not something that is a new debate."
"This decision is not about any one weapon system, but merely about a strategy of warfare, a strategy that drives the choices that we must make about how best to prepare our total forces for the future," Rumsfeld said.
"It is necessary to make choices, and in doing so, to try to balance among the various near-term, medium-term and longer-term risks," he said. "Needless to say, these choices aren't easy."
On the topic of Afghanistan, Rumsfeld was asked whether the United States had an end date in mind for pulling its military out of that country.
"There are still al Qaeda and Taliban in the country and neighboring countries. They still are doing what they can to destabilize the [Hamid] Karzai interim authority," Rumsfeld said. "We have no intention of announcing an end date.
"We are at some distance from effectively finishing the task."
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