Rumsfeld defends decision to dump Crusader weapon

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told lawmakers Thursday he had consulted with military leaders and adequately weighed the risks before deciding to scrap the Army's $11 billion Crusader artillery system.

"The senior leaders of the department-military and civilian-service chiefs, service secretaries, the chairman, the vice chairman, the undersecretaries-and I, spent countless hours discussing strategies, capabilities, threats and risks," Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The Pentagon drew the ire of some lawmakers earlier this month when it announced that it no longer would buy the Army's next-generation cannon. The decision caught Capitol Hill off guard because the Defense Department's fiscal 2002 budget called for spending nearly $500 million on Crusader and the president's proposed 2003 Defense budget included funding for the weapon.

Rumsfeld said there is "no question" that Crusader is a "fine piece of artillery." But, he argued, it is not a weapons system that would truly transform military capabilities. The money could be better spent, he said, on developing more advanced weapons, such as precision-guided munitions.

"Our recommendation is not to abandon the technologies that have been developed by the Crusader program," said Rumsfeld. Those advances, he said, would likely be used in the Future Combat System, the Army's next-generation combat vehicle, and, perhaps in gun systems on future Navy ships.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., sharply questioned Rumsfeld about how he had made the Crusader decision, suggesting the Defense secretary hadn't properly weighed the risks of cancellation because he has been busy overseeing the war in Afghanistan. Inhofe said he called a host of senior uniformed military personnel-including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Army chief of staff-and none had been consulted about canceling the Crusader program. "No one was aware of the decision that was to be made," Inhofe said.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., meanwhile, lauded Rumsfeld's decision. Lieberman noted that more than five years ago, an independent review had found that Crusader would not provide key transformational technology and recommended that the weapon be scrapped.