Plus Up in Marine Corps’ Procurement Budget Funds More F-35Bs, JLTVs
The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget request for the Marine Corps calls for more fighter jets and ground vehicles.
The request asked for $27.6 billion for the Marine Corps overall budget in fiscal year 2019, according to documents released by the Pentagon on Feb. 12. That is $1.3 billion more than was requested in the president’s fiscal year 2018 budget. Of that, it requests $2.9 billion in procurement, over the $2.1 billion that was requested in 2018.
“All major acquisition programs remain consistent or increase with a few exceptions,” said Rear Adm. Brian E. Luther, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget during a briefing at the Pentagon.
That includes the procurement of 1,642 joint light tactical vehicles, 20 F-35B joint strike fighters, the initial procurement of 30 amphibious combat vehicles and six ground/air task oriented radar systems, among other big-ticket items.
Procuring large numbers of the JLTV will be advantageous for the Marine Corps and could help the service drive down costs, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow who focuses on naval issues at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
The JLTV is a good news story obviously,” he said. Right now “their vehicle choices are very limited.”
The Marine Corps’ inventory of ground vehicles is largely made up of aging uparmored Humvees, light armored vehicles and hulking mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles, he noted. “So they really need the JLTV,” he added.
The JLTV is being developed alongside the Army, who is leading the development effort. Collectively, the two services plan to buy thousands of the Oshkosh-built vehicles.
“The program objectives are to restore the mobility and payload of the original high mobility multi-wheeled vehicle to the future light tactical vehicle fleet while providing increased modular protection within the weight constraints of the expeditionary force,” budget documents said. There are two variants, the combat tactical vehicle and the combat support vehicle.
However, while the Marine Corps may be quickly procuring hundreds of JLTVs, it still must figure out how it will transport them effectively, he noted.
“If you’re really an expeditionary force like the Marine Corps is supposed to be, the JTLV has to get their somehow and the JTLVs don’t fit on MV-22,” he said. “So you’ve got to come up with some” other solution.
The Marine Corps also wants to invest in new F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing fighter aircraft. The service requested purchasing 20 of the Lockheed Martin-build platforms each year from fiscal year 2019 through 2022, budget documents show.
“The Marine Corps is trying to get out of the [AV-8B] Harrier business,” Clark said. The platform is aging and needs to be replaced, along with the service’s F/A-18 A/B/C/D aircraft, documents show.
Increasingly, the service is looking toward its big deck amphibious assault ships as carriers for the service’s fleet of F-35 aircraft, Clark noted.
The Marine Corps is also working to replace its legacy assault amphibious vehicles with the amphibious combat vehicle. Within the budget request is funding for a first lot of 30 vehicles, Luther said.
“The ACV, an advanced generation, eight-wheeled armored personnel carrier, will mitigate current and projected capability gaps by providing improved lethality against dismounted enemy troops, more effective land and water tactical mobility, and increased force protection and survivability from blasts, fragmentation, and kinetic energy threats,” budget documents said.
There will be multiple phases of the program, it noted.
The service is also looking to purchase more ground/air task oriented radar, or G/ATOR, systems. The radar is a “an expeditionary, three-dimensional, short/medium range multi-role radar designed to detect cruise missiles, air-breathing targets, rockets, mortars, and artillery,” budget documents said.
The platform can support air defense, air surveillance, counter-battery/target acquisition and aviation radar tactical enhancements. Full-rate production of the platform begins in fiscal year 2019 with the procurement of six systems.
“They might be able to use it for electronic warfare as well,” Clark said. “G/ATOR is a really good investment.”
Besides procurement, the Marine Corps is also increasing its force size, going from 185,000 to 186,100 Marines, documents show.
“That is something the Marine Corps … [has] argued for,” Clark said. It is particularly important because the service is currently operating at a high tempo, where Marines in the operating force are working a 2:1 rotation ratio. That means that an individual Marine will be home for about a year before they deploy for six months, and then the cycle starts again, he added.
“It’s a pretty high up tempo in the Marine Corps, ... so that’s a big deal to continue growing the end strength like that,” he said.
Overall, the Defense Department request includes $617 billion in base budget funding and $69 billion in overseas contingency operations funding, for a total of $686 billion.
Within the Department of the Navy budget, the Navy and Marine Corps requested $15 billion in overseas contingency operations funding but they did not divide its figure by service.
The budget focuses on three priorities: modernization, readiness and manpower.
“This year’s budget request marks the beginning of our investment in growing the readiness, capability and capacity of the Navy and Marine Corps,” which are both under the same department.