U.S. Marine Corps Begins EFV Replacement Process – Updated

Update – Clarified to correct that the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) is the EFV replacement vice the MPC. The MPC is to be used on land to move infantry around.

In its 2012 budget request the Obama Administration continued its plan to overhaul defense acquisition by proposing the cancellation of the new amphibious assault vehicle for the U.S.M.C. The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program led by General Dynamics (GD) was over budget and behind schedule.

Part of the problems the program faced was that the requirements were for a well armored vehicle that could move fast in water and on land. The EFV was really a modern Infantry Fighting Vehicle (IFV) that also had to travel across several miles of ocean under fire at high speed. These kind of requirements often cause issues with development and the EFV was a fairly aggressive program to begin with.

Congress has not necessarily been receptive to the idea of ending the program as it would represent yet another big ticket item ended with resulting job losses and millions of dollars seemingly not invested well. They are the final decision makers and it will be interesting to see how the final budget falls out next year with the pressures of trying to reduce spending but also to keep programs going.

Of course the Marines still need a replacement for their Seventies vintage AAV-7 they are currently using which is optimized for delivery of troops to shore but not for use as an armored transport on a battlefield threatened by the IED and mine such as the Marines faced in Iraq and continue to do so in Afghanistan. Because of this need in mid-February the government released a series of Request for Information (RFI) to begin the process again of rebuilding their vehicle fleet.

The RFI cover the gamut of upgrading the existing AAV with more power, armor and weapons to replacing the wheeled LAV used for reconnaissance and troop transport to the new version of the EFV. This is currently called the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and mirrors many of the requirements that the EFV was trying to meet although the Marine Corps now says that the ability to move quickly across the water may be too expensive to pursue.

Hopefully some of the money spent on developing the EFV may also have bought things that can be used by the ACV program to expedite its development and delivery while lowering its costs. The situation is similar to the Army and the end of their Future Combat Systems (FCS) vehicle program. There remains a need and the Army had to start the Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV) program to get replacement for the M2 Bradley IFV.

Unless the U.S. is willing to forgo a large portion of the U.S.M.C.’s mission a modern amphibious assault vehicle is going to need to be developed and built. Let’s hope the ACV has a better result then the EFV did.

Photo from RDECOM flickr photostream.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

2012 Budget Due Today to Congress

Even though the Congress failed to pass a 2011 budget the Obama Administration will submit its 2012 spending plan today. Even that is late as it is supposed to be sent up to the Hill the first Tuesday in February. The President’s plan reportedly includes some budget cuts with a goal of reducing the total deficit by up to $1.1 trillion over ten years. Of course for the first three years of this Administration the annual deficit has been over $1 trillion so this plan barely puts a dent in spending.

Congress generally adopts the President’s plan overall but because the House really is in control of Federal spending it normally makes changes that track more to its priorities then necessarily the executive branch. This year will be Obama’s first with a hostile House and there may be significant changes to his proposed spending. It is expected that the new Republican leadership will cut much more from total annual spending then the President is proposing.

The Defense Budget will actually be larger then last year but the rate of growth will almost be flat. This reflects the winding down of operations in Iraq as well as the new budget realities the U.S. must face. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had already announced $100 billion in reinvestment opportunities as well as cuts of up to $78 billion.

Part of this was generated by Defense recommending cancellation of the U.S. Marines new amphibious assault vehicle, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). This program to replace the existing LVTP-7 vehicles used to move troops from ship to shore and then support their operations inland is being managed by General Dynamics (GD) and has had budget and schedule issues. Of course there has already been push back from Congress especially from those states who will lose significant jobs and business when the program ends.

This reduction of one program illustrates the problems both the Administration and Congress will have as they try to balance the Federal budget. Every program that is facing cuts will have some sort of advocate in Congress who will attempt to keep it funded. That is why the President is freezing most spending but that will not be enough to bring the budget back from multi-billion dollar deficits.

The defense budget is the largest part of the discretionary spending and as long as the U.S. is fighting overseas there will be a lot of pressure to keep its size up. At the same time money must be invested into new weapons as well as replacing and recapitalizing those damaged or lost in the last ten years of combat.

There will be no easy choices with the total budget.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle by General Dynamics Illustrate Budget Fights Ahead

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.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Gates Announces Cuts and Reinvestments

The Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in what some are considering an attempt to get ahead of Congress announced that the Pentagon will be voluntarily reducing spending. Some of the money is part of the efficiencies he ordered last year while some of it is new reductions to programs and other parts of the military budget.

The goal is not to only cut the total defense budget as part of an attempt to reduce the deficit but also to free up money for higher priorities.

Much of what Gates’ is claiming as savings are those items related to the reductions from last year. Cuts to the contractor workforce and elimination of some DoD offices and personnel are one part as well as the closing of the Joint Forces Command in southern Virginia.

Other new reductions were the elimination of the Marine’s new amphibious transport the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). This General Dynamics (GD) led program was to replace the LVTP-7 currently used to move Marines from ship-to-shore as well as support operations on land. The EFV would have been faster and more capable as well as having a higher protection level. The program suffered from cost and schedule growth making it an easy target.

The Army also saw the end of the SLAMRAAM air defense program which put a Raytheon (RTN) AMRAAM missile on a HUMVEE teamed with fire control and battle management systems. Lockheed Martin’s (LMT) Non Line of Site- Launch Systems was also canceled. This was a rather unique system of remote missile launchers used to provide fire support for ground troops.

One aspect of his announcement that is sure to cause concern is an increase in TRICARE co-pays for some military members and retirees. The idea is to begin trying to reduce total healthcare spending by the Defense Department. TRICARE is the HMO type program that covers most active duty members, their dependents and retirees. The co-pays have seen little increase since start of the program. At a time though when the Veterans Administration and Defense Department have been criticized for not adequately treating the current Iraq and Afghanistan military the increase may prove politically risky.

Another move to save money that also might raise hackles is a decision to begin reducing the size of the Active duty Army and Marine Corps. This comes after several years of growth due to the large commitment to Iraq and Afghanistan. Personnel costs make up a large portion of the budget and this is the most direct way to reduce them. Of course having less troops means that if there is a need for a major operation over the next several years there will be greater pressure on the smaller force as well as Reserves and National Guard. The reason they were growing the current force was to minimize deployments.

Gates is hoping that his ideas will be considered by the new Congress who are looking to reduce spending. That doesn’t mean all of his proposals will be accepted as Congress has the power to restructure defense spending to reflect their views. They might want to keep some of the programs that Gates doesn’t and cancel other ones.

This move is the start of the FY12 and out budget development and many changes and ideas will be presented over the next several months as the process goes on.

Photo from RDECOM’s flickr photostream.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Navy Moving Forward with New Landing Craft

In the 1980’s as part of the Reagan build up and modernization of the U.S. military the Navy developed and placed into service amphibious assault landing craft based on hovercraft. These Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) have been in service now for almost thirty years and provide the ability to move vehicles and troops at high speed from Naval ships to the shoreline. The Soviets also had introduced hovercraft landing craft but the U.S. with their large amphibious Navy and the Marine Corps operated the most of these systems.

Now the Navy is moving to begin the process of replacing the LCAC. Textron Marine and Land Systems, part of Textron Inc (TXT), announced that they are forming a team including U.S. defense contractor L-3 Communications (LLL) as well as Alcoa Defense, part of Alcoa (AA). The system when it is finally developed and placed into production will be mainly made out of aluminum so the inclusion of Alcoa helps lay the foundation for that process.

The new SSC program is being managed by the NAVSEA command. A presentation about the program from a workshop may be found here.

Another team vying for the contract will be made up of Boeing (BA) and Marinette Marine Corporation (MMC). More information about their team and proposal is here at their website.

The SSC is one of two major programs that are being developed to aid the insertion of Marine and other forces onto a hostile shore. The Marine Corps has been working on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) for several years. That program is being led by General Dynamics (GD). The program has suffered delays and cost increases and has been criticized but so far has been spared cancellation with the new Obama Administration when they canceled programs like the VH-71 Presidential Helicopter.

These two programs when complete will represent a significant modernization of the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to project power ashore at high speed. The SSC will be able to move heavy equipment such as tanks ashore while the EFV will carry the infantry needed to conduct battles. The EFV is also designed to fight ashore and act as an armored carrier.

Both of these efforts represent significant work for GD and the winners of the SSC competition.

Photo from UNC-CFC-USFK flickr photostream.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter