WASHINGTON – The Marine Corps could end its years-long drawdown based on the proposed Defense Department budget for 2017.
The Marines’ budget request of $23.4 billion released Tuesday shows the service remaining steady at 182,000 active-duty Marines, a force size it expects to reach in the fall. It marks the first time in years that the Corps’ spending request did not include cutting the active-duty force, downsizing from a wartime high of about 202,000 troops in 2009.
In addition to its base budget, a slight increase from its 2016 funding of $23.3 billion, the Ma-rines are seeking $1.6 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, to pay personnel and operations expenses for Marines in areas including Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, the Horn of Africa and Europe.
The “budget provides a ready and capable Marine Corps that is forward postured, capable across the range of military operations and promotes regionally based rapid crisis response, theatre secu-rity cooperation, and humanitarian assistance,” the budget proposal read.
The 2017 budget also includes $6.2 billion for operations and maintenance, and prioritizing train-ing for forward deployed and soon-to-deploy Marine units, said Navy Rear Adm. William Lescher, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget. That would strain the Marines to respond to a major combat operation and other missions that they have been tasked to fill as the military’s expeditionary response force, he said.
Those missions include security cooperation missions across the Pacific, as well as pre-positioning Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces in areas, including Africa, Kuwait and Central America.
About $1.3 billion of the Marine Corps’ budget would be used for procurement, a slight uptick from last year.
The budget request lists more than $400 million for weapons systems and combat and support vehicles, which includes 192 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, intended to replace the Army and Ma-rine Corps workhorse Humvee.
The Marines also propose purchasing several airframes, including the first two CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopter, intended to replace the aging fleet of CH-53D and CH-53E models that in recent years have been involved in several deadly crashes.
Additionally, the Marine budget proposes buying 16 F-35B Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing Joint Strike Fighters, the Marine Corps’ variant of the fifth-generation fighter, and 16 MV-22B troop transport aircraft.
The Marine Corps Reserve would see a slight decline in size from 38,900 to 38,500.
The proposed budget also includes a 1.6 percent increase to military basic pay and civilian pay in fiscal year 2017.