General Dynamics Makes Final Argument for Keeping EFV Alive
The Marine Corps recently decided to terminate the estimated $12 billion program because it had become "unaffordable," according toCommandant Gen. James Amos. Officials from EFV prime contractor General Dynamics contend that relatively minor design changes could make the vehicle less expensive and allow the Marine Corps to keep it alive. The cost-cutting measures could include making a lower-speed version of the amphibious tank.
The EFV was conceived in the 1980s as a tank that could swim up to 25 nautical miles from ship to shore and function as a high-speed troop carrier once on land, providing Marines a more lethal way to storm beaches. The program has been wracked bydelays and cost overruns. Early on, it was estimated that it would cost $9 billion for 1,000 vehicles. The latest numbers have it costing $14.4 billion for about half as many vehicles.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates earlier this month called for the cancellation of the program. But before it receives a stop-work order from the government, General Dynamics is pitching alternatives to keep the EFV alive.
“It’s much easier to detune current capabilities than to start over,” said Michael Bolon, senior vice president of Navy and Marine Corps programs at General Dynamics Land Systems.
The company has asked the Marine Corps to give the program another chance and procure just 200 of the tanks, enough for two expeditionary brigades, and use leftover money to upgrade hundreds of current assault amphibious vehicles. Under this proposal, the EFV could enter production within two years and the government could avoid $184 million in cancellation costs, Bolon told reporters on Jan. 25.
The Defense Department already has spent more than $3 billion on the program, which recently saw the testing of four prototypes off the coast of California. The success of these experiments has General Dynamics saying it could shave millions from the unit cost of the EFV if the government were to keep the program.
Without changes, one EFV would cost the Marine Corps $17 million. Bolon said that General Dynamics has provided the Pentagon with modifications that could bring that per-unit cost down to less than $10 million. These savings would result from reducing speed and weapon capabilities and equipping the EFV with a simplified hydraulic system, Bolon said.
General Dynamics submitted a number of these cost-cutting proposals to the Pentagon last summer and “got a wave of the hand,” said Pete Keating, vice president of communications for the company’s land systems division.
Workers have already built seven prototypes of the EFV in Lima, Ohio, where the cancellation of the program would have an impact on 200 jobs, Keating said.
Bolon said that the Marine Corps ultimately could save $1.5 billion by sticking with EFV rather than starting a new program with the same concept.
“Starting from scratch is not the most efficient alternative to the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle,” Bolon said. “It is just delaying the process of giving the Marines an amphibious vehicle that is essential to their mission.”