Marine Corps 2016 Budget Request Holds Steady to Procurement, End Strength Goals (UPDATED)
In the Marine Corps' proposed fiscal year 2016 budget, the service held steady to much of its previous plans in weapons procurement and end strength propositions.
In one of the service's largest procurement efforts — the F-35B joint strike fighter — the Marine Corps requested nine F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variants in the president’s fiscal year 2016 budget request to Congress, released on Feb. 2. The service also requested 14 of the aircraft for fiscal year 2017 and 20 each for 2018, 2019 and 2020. That was identical to the number of aircraft requested in last year’s budget.
The program is meant to replace the Marine Corps' fleet of McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II aircraft and the F/A-18 Hornet A/B/C/D variants with the Lockheed Martin-built fifth generation fighter jet.
End strength held steady with only a small drop of 100 Marines, bringing the total to 184,000 Marines for fiscal year 16. A drop to 182,000 Marines is expected by 2017. For the service’s reserve component, it decreased nominally to 38,900 Marines from 39,200.
The Marine Corps’ fiscal year 2016 budget request asks for more than $1.5 billion over last year’s. The request brings funding for the service to $24 billion. That will fund an increase in military personnel, operations and maintenance and procurement costs.
“The FY 2016 budget … continues our aggressive efforts to reduce acquisition cost. It balances a build capability that supports our industrial base with a capacity we can afford. This budget provides the required level to maintain our advantage in advanced technologies and weapons, allowing us to operate in every region across the full spectrum of conflict,” the budget report said.
The proposal continues funding for areas such as Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa as well as efforts to stymie the growth of the Islamic State (ISIL), the report said.
Procurement funding went from a $935 million in fiscal year 2015 to more than $1.1 billion in the 2016 request. Funding is set to increase every year, until a small decrease in 2020, the report said.
For military personnel, funding went up marginally from $12.8 billion in 2015 to $13.1 billion in 2016. For operations and maintenance, it went from $5.6 billion to $6.2 billion. Research, development, test and evaluation funding for the Marine Corps increased by $53 million in 2016 for a total of $835 million.
Overseas contingency operations funding for the Department of the Navy as a whole dropped from $9.6 billion in fiscal year 2015 to a little more than $7 billion in 2016, largely due to the wind down of combat forces in Afghanistan, said Rear Adm. William Lescher, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget.
“The Navy-Marine Corps FY 16 OCO request is $7 billion. [It] is $2.6 billion less than the 15 request, reflecting reduced operations in Afghanistan, the end of OCO funding for Marine Corps over strength, the added incremental cost for ongoing counter-ISIL and in-theatre operations and maintenance reset,” Lescher said.
The Marine Corps is allotted $1.3 billion of that pie, with $956 million going toward operations and maintenance funding, $135 million to procurement and $174 million to military personnel.
The budget funded many pieces of equipment for expeditionary warfare missions, which will be critical as the Marines and Navy refocus to the Asia-Pacific region.
The budget request includes $668.7 million to complete funding for the proposed 12th ship of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ships (LPD 17). That is in addition to the $1 billion Congress enacted in 2015. The ship is to be built by Huntington Ingalls Industries.
“The LPD 17 class provides the Navy and Marine Corps with modern sea-based platforms that are networked, survivable and operate with modern weapon systems,” the report said. “The extensive communications, command, control and intelligence systems will support the current and projected expeditionary warfare missions [of the future].”
Additionally, five ship-to-shore connectors have been requested for 2016 at a cost of $256 million and an additional $7.7 million in RDT&E funding. The connectors are meant to replace aging landing craft air cushions.
The budget also included details on the important amphibious combat vehicle (ACV) program. The vehicle, which is an armored personnel carrier, has been in the works for decades and is meant to replace the amphibious assault vehicle. The budget set aside $219.1 million in RDT&E funds for the program.
“Continued investment in FY 16 will support a first award of competitive engineering, manufacturing and development contracts to two vendors to build 16 test vehicles each (32 total). The FY 16 budget also supports continued engineering and program management support [for the ACV],” the report said.
The program is a top research and develop priority, Lescher said.
“The Marine Corps major R&D initiative continues to be the amphibious combat vehicle. Budget R&D supports a first quarter FY16 award of engineering, manufacturing and development contract to two vendors," he said.
The Marine Corps has previously said it intends to purchase 200 of the vehicles.
For aircraft, the budget included $673.4 million in funding for the engineering and manufacturing development phase and advanced procurement of the Sikorsky Aircraft-built CH-53K King Stallion program. The heavy-lift helicopter is slated to replace the aging CH-53E Super Stallion, which was first introduced into service in 1980. The first two low-rate initial production aircraft are slated for fiscal year 2017. Four more helicopters will be procured in 2018, seven in 2019 and 13 in 2020.
For the joint light tactical vehicle program — one of the few remaining new-build combat vehicle acquisitions — the service allocated $79.4 million in procurement funding and $36.7 million in RDT&E money for fiscal year 2016.
“Funding for major activities in this budget includes procurement of seven LRIP [low-rate initial production] assets, kit procurement, test and evaluation associated with LRIP, publications and technical data and fielding [for the JLTV],” the report said.
Marine Corps procurement spending is increasing overall to reflect the start of low-rate initial production of the JLTV, Lescher said.
The service, which teamed up with the Army for the Humvee replacement program, has previously said it intends to purchase 5,500 JLTVs. The Army is slated to procure more than 49,000 vehicles.
Three companies are jockeying for the contract: Oshkosh Defense, AM General and Lockheed Martin. Final requests for proposals for the full-rate production phase are due this month.
Overall, the budget called for $534 billion for the Defense Department in 2016, with an additional $51 billion in OCO funds. However, caps under the Budget Control Act are set at $499 billion, which means Congress will have to make a deal or trim back the budget. OCO funding is not subject to sequestration.