UPDATE: Defense Chief Gates proposes weapons cuts, Inhofe vows to fight for NLOS cannon

Washington_Press Release_Secretary Defense Robert Gates announced today that he plans to cancel the U.S. Army cannon that was pushed into production by Sen. Jim Inhofe more than six years ago.

The cannon - which was to be partially assembled in Elgin, a town near Fort Sill in the southwestern part of the state - is one of the elements Gates wants to drop from the Army's $160 billion modernization project called Future Combat Systems.

Gates made the announcement at a news conference in which he listed a number of weapons systems changes that he said were driven by the Pentagon's needs in a world of changing conflicts. He said he would have made the changes regardless of budget concerns.

The secretary said he was going to cancel all eight manned ground vehicles that were to be part of the Future Combat Systems and reassess what the Army needs before launching a new competition.

Gates said the proposed vehicles didn't adequately reflect lessons learned fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Inhofe, R-Tulsa, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, blamed the cuts on President Barack Obama.

In a statement from Afghanistan, where Inhofe traveled over the weekend, Inhofe said, "Never before has a president so ravaged the military at a time of war."

Inhofe said Congress "cannot and must not simply go along" and vowed to work against the cuts.

Inhofe has secured funding for the cannon and influenced the decision to assemble it in Elgin. Inhofe's efforts - which were helped by Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore - began in 2002, after former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cancelled another manned cannon called the Crusader; the Crusader was also supposed to have some assembly done in Elgin.

Between 12 to 18 cannons were to be produced over the next three years, at a cost of $500 million, and Elgin officials were hoping to employ up to 100 people to work on them.

Inhofe's drive to secure a new cannon was driven in part by his concerns that the Army is still using a self-propelled howitzer designed decades ago, though it has been upgraded several times.

Though Inhofe had been hoping the new cannon would be used for training at Fort Sill, home to the Army's field artillery school, there were no such plans in the near future; the prototypes, as well as the first cannons that had been planned for production, were to be tested and used for training by infantry units at Fort Hood, in Texas.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates Monday recommended deep spending cuts that include eliminating a mobile cannon that was to be partially assembled in Elgin near Fort Sill.

Copyright 2009 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.