Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle by General Dynamics Illustrate Budget Fights Ahead

by: Matthew Potter
January 11, 2011

Category: Business Line, Companies, Congress, Contract Additions, Contract Awards, Department of Defense, development program, Events, Federal Budget Process, General Dynamics, production program, Proposal, Restructuring, Services, U.S. Marine Corps | RSS 2.0

Within days after announcing that the the Defense Department would like to terminate the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) development and production contract lawmakers in the areas affected are already fighting back. The EFV program for the U.S. Marine Corps is to make a new vehicle to transport troops from ship-to-shore. The lead contractor is General Dynamics (GD). Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced terminating the program as part of his latest budget efficiencies last week.

Every time a program like this ends there is a severely negative economic effect to some part of the U.S. where the work is being done. Local Senators and Congressman want to support them to keep jobs in their state and districts and minimize the economic disruption. The EFV is no different in this case from many other defense programs.

The program has been in the works for several years and will replace the Vietnam era LVTP=7 vehicles. These are fully tracked and optimized for moving across the water. On land they are used as armored personnel carriers and support vehicles but that is not their primary mission. The EFV will build a new system with higher speed both in the water and on land as well as better protection. The IED and mine threat in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated a need for better protection for the troops in the vehicle.

Unlike some of the easy decisions made two years ago such as ending the C-17 strategic transport aircraft made by Boeing (BA) where total numbers had been reached the EFV will be a tougher nut to crack. The Marines do have a requirement to move troops from Navy ships to the shore in a hostile environment. They need an advanced system to do this. If the EFV is canceled a new program will have to be started unless the U.S. wants to eliminate that strategic mission. One the Marines have had for most of their history and certainly since World War II. It might make more sense and certainly does to GD and its supporters to complete the existing program despite the cost and schedule growth as in the long run it might be cheaper then starting over.

As the Army faces with the cancellation of the Future Combat System (FCS) of ground vehicles they need a replacement for the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) and Stryker Interim Combat Vehicle. So as FCS died they started the new Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program. This has already been restructured once as the first set of requirements proved hard to meet with associated weight and cost issues.

Congress ultimately controls the defense budget and if the supporters of the EFV can convince a majority of the House and Senate to keep funding for the system then it will continue. If not it will end and in a few years a new set of requirements will be drafted and a new program started. One the Marine Corps hopes will be cheaper and on track with the initial schedule. History shows though that this will be hard to do and rare if it happens. Defense acquisition and development are complicated processes.

Photo from DVIDSHUB’s flickr photostream.

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