Crusader XM2001 Self-Propelled Howitzer: Background and Issues for Congress
CRS Report for Congress
Crusader XM2001 Self-Propelled Howitzer:
Background and Issues for Congress
Edward F. Bruner
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
The Army has been seeking to enhance its self-propelled 155mm artillery
capabilities since the late 1970's. In addition to several programs to modify the M109
artillery system, culminating in the current M109A6 Paladin, since 1987 these efforts
have focused on what is now called the XM2001 Crusader. Initially begun in order to
match the mobility and firepower of Soviet artillery, the Crusader program is now the
center of a controversy over whether it is an appropriate investment given the Army’s
on-going transformation to a lighter, more mobile force. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld
has announced his intent to terminate the program, however the Crusader’s supporters
in the House and Senate Armed Services Committees are seeking legislative provisions
to maintain the program until at least May 2003 while an assessment of alternatives is
conducted. This report will be updated as further events occur.
The Army has been seeking to enhance its self-propelled 155mm artillery capabilities
since the late 1970's. Among other tasks, artillery systems provide direct-fire maneuver
forces, such as tanks and infantry, with immediate, heavy, indirect fires from a distance.
In addition to several programs to modify the existing M109 artillery system, culminating
in the current M109A6 Paladin, these efforts have focused since 1987 on what is now
called the XM2001 Crusader. Initially begun in order to match the mobility and firepower
of Soviet artillery, the Crusader program is now the center of a controversy over whether
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it is an appropriate investment given the Army’s on-going transformation to a lighter,
more mobile force.1
The Crusader program is still in research and development, and was scheduled to
undergo a “Milestone B” evaluation in April 2003, which would have decided whether
the program would move into the “system development and demonstration” R&D phase.
A prototype howitzer was delivered in early 2000 and has demonstrated the Crusader’s
firing capabilities. The plan has been to begin equipping units in FY2008.
Approximately $2 billion has been spent on the Crusader through FY2002, with the total
program estimated to cost at least $11 billion. This reflects a 1999 reduction in the
procurement objective from 1,138 to 480 vehicles. The FY2003 Crusader budget request,
as originally submitted, was $475 million. The Crusader has been frequently mentioned
over the last few years as a program that could be cut or terminated because it did not fit
– by some analysts’ definitions – the Army’s transformation goals; and, its termination
could free up funds for more technologically advanced systems. Its supporters, however,
have maintained that a re-designed, lighter Crusader could play a vital role in both
expeditionary and traditional heavy units.
The controversy intensified on May 3rd when Undersecretary of Defense for
Acquisition Pete Aldridge directed the Army to prepare an “assessment of alternatives”
to the Crusader by June 10, 2002. On May 8th, however, it was announced that Secretary
Rumsfeld, with the concurrence of President Bush, was recommending an amendment to
the FY2003 DOD budget request terminating the Crusader program. Deputy Secretary
Paul Wolfowitz explained that the decision to terminate the Crusader without the review
of alternatives was determined by the congressional schedule for consideration of the
DOD FY2003 authorization legislation.2 Press reports indicate that within the
Department of the Army there was considerable opposition to the Crusader’s cancellation,
which led to a controversy over whether inappropriate steps were taken to provide
congressional supporters with “talking points” in favor of the program after Secretary
Rumsfeld had made his decision.3 The Crusader would be built by United Defense, LP
in a new plant in Oklahoma. The United Defense headquarters is in Minnesota and major
subcontractors are in California, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and
Almost simultaneously, proponents of the Crusader program gained the support of
the House Committee on Armed Services, which included language in its May 3rd report
on the DOD FY2003 authorization legislation (H.R. 4546/H.Rept. 107-436) directing
1 For a discussion of the U.S. Army’s efforts to transform, see CRS Report RS20787, Army
Transformation and Modernization: Overview and Issues for Congress,, by Edward F. Bruner.
For discussions of transformation efforts in the other Services, see CRS Report RS20859, Air
Force Transformation: Background and Issues for Congress, by Christopher Bolkcom; and CRS
Report RS20851, Naval Transformation: Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald
2 Department of Defense News Briefing, May 8, 2002.
3 Ibid. The DOD IG conducted an investigation into the allegation, which resulted in the
resignation of a mid-level appointee in the Army legislative liaison office.
that there be no change to the Crusader development schedule, funding or
procurement requirements, to include termination, until the completion of the Army's
Milestone B Analysis of Alternatives. The Secretary of the Army shall present a
report of the completed analysis to the congressional defense committees by March
1, 2003. The committees will respond to that analysis within 30 days so that the
scheduled Milestone B review can be completed in April 2003.
On May 14, an amendment to the FY2002 Supplemental Appropriation was introduced
in the House that was characterized as stopping “the Pentagon from killing the Crusader
artillery program before it justifies its decision to Congress and recommends an
alternative.”4 On June 24, the House Appropriations Committee reluctantly agreed to the
termination of Crusader but added $173 million to the Administration’s proposal for the
purpose of incorporating Crusader technologies into a Future Combat System artillery5
successor by 2008.
As the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) considered its FY2003 DOD
authorization legislation (S. 2514), Crusader supporters there sought to obtain a similar
provisions, although in statutory rather than report language. The SASC invited the
Secretary of Defense and the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army to testify about this matter on May6
16, 2002. One unresolved issue at that time was what it would cost to terminate the
Crusader program; proposed estimates varied from $136.3 to $500 million.7 On June 13,
the SASC approved an amendment to S. 2514 that would prevent the Administration from
disbursing any Crusader funds for alternative systems until the Army presents Congress8
a study on alternatives 30 days after enactment of the bill.
Issues for Consideration
Congress has become actively involved in deciding the fate of the Crusader, whether
that be to endorse the DOD cancellation decision, continue the current development
schedule, or to choose another option. There are many factors to weigh in considering
this issue, including: DOD arguments, Army arguments, industrial base implications,
affordability issues, and comparing shorter-term versus longer-term security interests. In
the past, Congress has forced reversal of previous Administration decisions to cancel
major weapons programs; witness the continued existence of the V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor
4 Lisa Caruso. Congress Daily, “Controversial Votes on Supplemental Will Be Delayed,” May
5 Frank Wolfe. Defense Daily, “HAC-D Adds $173 Million For Technology Integration of
Crusader Successor,” June 25, 2002, p.1.
6 SASC held hearings on Thursday, May 16 with Panel 1 consisting of SECDEF Donald Rusfeld,
DEPSECDEF Paul D. Wolfowitz, and USD for Aquisition, Technology and Logisitics Edward
C. Aldridge. Panel 2 consisted of General Eric K. Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.
Transcripts provided by Federal News Service.
7 Erin Q. Winograd. Inside the Army, “Amended Budget Request Shifts Crusader Money To
Other Army Efforts,” May 20, 2002, p. 10.
8 Winograd. Op. cit., “Senate Committee Rejects Bush Administration’s Crusader Amendment,
June 17, 2002, p.1.
Aircraft.9 Compiled below are the major arguments made by advocates for canceling and
for continuing the Crusader program.
Arguments for Canceling the Crusader Program
In seeking to cancel the Crusader program, DOD officials maintain that it is “a
system originally designed for a different strategic context, i.e. high intensity warfare
against Soviet forces in Europe, than currently exists.” They also assert that it is
important, wherever possible, to invest in truly transformational rather than legacy-type
systems. While acknowledging that the requirement for long-range all-weather fire
support remains, Crusader opponents suggest that there are alternatives more in keeping
with the Army’s transformation to a more mobile and deployable force, and that these
could be available in approximately the same time-frame as the Crusader.
On May 13, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics
Pete Aldridge banned the Army from spending more money on Crusader and ordered a
separate review of which Crusader technologies the Army wishes to carry forward into
the Future Combat System (FCS) program, due by June 30, 2002.10 Deputy Secretary of
Defense Paul Wolfowitz has suggested that funds allocated to the Crusader in the
FY2004-2009 Defense Planning Guidance could be applied to a variety of new long-range
fire support technology programs, including:
!Excaliber Guided Artillery Munition (Raytheon)
!Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (Lockheed-Martin)
!High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Lockheed-Martin)
!Non-Line-of-Sight Future Combat System (Boeing/SAIC)
The weight and timing of the Crusader are seen as key disadvantages. Its weight,
about 40 tons, is twice the target weight of all other transformational weapons systems
planned for the Army. It is designed to fight with the 70-ton Abrams tank, which will be
phased out within 30 years. The General Accounting Office has noted that the Crusader
will first be deployed in 2008, and this is the same year that the Army plans to begin
deployment of the FCS, which would eventually replace the Crusader.11 In his SASC
testimony, Secretary Rumsfeld emphasized that Crusader was not designed to deliver
precision fires and he favored transformational investments in precision fires.
Finally, cancellation of the Crusader is the kind of bold step forward that President
Bush proposed during his election campaign with the concept of “skipping a generation”
in weapons deployments. To illustrate the importance attached to this principle, the
Office of Management and Budget stated that “The President’s senior advisors would
9 See CRS Report RL31384, V-22 Osprey Tilt-Rotor Aircraft, by Christopher Bolkcom.
10 Erin Q. Winograd. Inside Defense.com, “OSD Bans Army From Spending Money On Crusader
Development,” May 13, 2002.
11 Defense Acquisition: Army Transformation Faces Weapon Systems Challenges (21-May-01,
recommend that he veto any bill which included statutory restrictions limiting his ability
to cancel this program.”12
Arguments for Continuing the Crusader Program
Many artillerymen believe that the howitzer will continue to occupy an important
niche on the future battlefield.13 U.S. infantrymen fighting recently in the Afghan
mountains during Operation Anaconda had only man-packed mortars for fire support
when combat aircraft were not available. The Excaliber round touted by the
Administration would still require a 155 mm howitzer to fire it; and according to Crusader
supporters, the advanced computers and battlefield networking capabilities of the
Crusader would use Excaliber to better advantage than any other howitzers proposed.
Supporters of the Crusader emphasize that it has performed well in its live-firing
tests, is on schedule, and believe that, with the weight reduction efforts the contractor has
undertaken, has improved its deployability. The Program Manager Col. Russell Hrdy has
also noted that with the Crusader’s increased rate of fire, deploying 3 units would be the
equivalent of deploying 6 M-109A5/6 Paladins, the Army’s current self-propelled 155mm
artillery system. In other words, the 40 tons and 3-man crew of one Crusader would
require less lift than the equivalent 60 tons and 8 crewmen of two Paladins. In regards
to substituting the two advanced multiple launch rocket systems (GMLRS and HIMARS),
it should be noted that one MLRS rocket weighs about 650 pounds, compared to about
The Army believes that Crusaders would remain in service until at least 2032, when
the transformation to the Army’s new Objective Force and full deployment of the Future
Combat Systems would be complete.14 During that time, supporters have said the
Crusader could provide excellent fire support to the Army’s Interim Force in a variety of
scenarios and invaluable support to the Legacy Force of Abrams tanks – particularly
should it face major combat against enemies equipped with Soviet-style artillery, e.g.
North Korea, Iraq, China, and Russia.15 In his SASC testimony, General Shenseki
pointed out that precision weapons do not fulfill one important Crusader requirement, the
ability to deliver, cost effectively, massed suppressive fires against close-in and
imprecisely located enemy forces. Also, most proposed alternative fire support systems
do not provide armored protection for their crews, as does Crusader.
Crusader supporters believe that the program should definitely not be terminated
until a thorough review of alternatives for long-range fire support is completed. They
point out that most of the alternatives suggested by DOD leadership are all in R&D (in
the case of the FCS indirect fire variant, the technology has not even been decided), and
12 Jon M. Donnelly. Defense Week Daily Update, “White House Threatens to Veto Defense Bill
Over Crusader,” May 9, 2002.
13 For a more extensive list of these arguments, see Ann Roosevelt. Defense Daily, “Army
Weighs Options Beyond Howitzers,” May 13, 2002.
14 Pat Towell. CQ Weekly, “Army’s Three-Part Plan Causes Budget, Hill Disharmony,” April 27,
15 Ann Roosevelt, op. cit.
have not clearly demonstrated that they could fulfill the long-range fire support
requirement in a timely fashion. The Army appears to be fully committed to
transformation and has cancelled many programs on its own to free up funds for the
FCS.16 The full support the Crusader program received from the Army leadership
(including Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki), up to the cancellation decision, may
be taken as an indication of the program’s importance to current Army war-fighting
16 Frank Tiboni. Defense News, “U.S. Army Targets 18 Programs for Cancellation,” February 18-
24, 2002. Included examples are: Armored Combat Earthmover, Follow-on TOW ATGM, M113
A3, Wolverine Assault Bridge, and the Armored Security Vehicle.