USMC focused on ‘overseas contingency operations’
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Pentagon’s budget priorities for the Marine Corps next year include all-terrain MRAP vehicles, V-22 Osprey helicopters, Humvees and anything else that is suited to fight in the "overseas contingency operations" in Afghanistan, the new budget euphemism for the Global War on Terrorism.
For the first time, the Department of Defense budgeted more money for the war in Afghanistan, $65 billion, than for Iraq, $61 billion. And with 21,000 additional U.S. ground troops expected in Afghanistan this year, 40 percent of the Department of the Navy’s $15.3 billion war budget is tagged for the Marines.
"What I’d like to get across is the idea that the national security team has really worked this problem hard.
"In this request is where you’re going to first see the swing of not only dollars or resources, but combat capability from the Iraqi theater into the Afghanistan theater," said Vice Adm. P. Stephen Stanley, director of force structure for the Joint Staff.
Perhaps no line item reflects that shift in "lessons learned," budget documents said, than the number of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles procured: zero. Designed specifically to defeat roadside improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in Iraq, Marine commanders have said MRAPs are "useless" in Afghanistan, which lacks adequate roads required of the heavy, cumbersome vehicles.
Instead the Pentagon is committing to a lighter, more maneuverable variant, called the MRAP-ATV, for all-terrain vehicle. The department is asking Congress for $5.5 billion to purchase the first 1,080 copies of the machines, a 25 percent increase for the MRAP budget.
"This is how we’re trying to be responsive to some of the pressure that the secretary has put on us, to try to get the combat capability into the theater that our warfighter is demanding," Stanley said.
Additionally, the budget calls for 985 Humvees for Marines, plus 85 for the Navy. And the budget would purchase 581 more Logistics Vehicle System Replacement vehicles, which are used as cargo trucks, wreckers or tractors to help distribute heavy tactical fighting vehicles. The department also asks for 18 towable LW155 Howitzer cannons.
Helicopters are a priority. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Marine Corps will seek $2.86 billion to purchase 35 copies of the V-22 Osprey, 30 toward a goal of 408 units for the Navy and Marine Corps and five "CV-22" copies toward a 50-unit fleet for special operations command.
Additionally, the budget for 30 more H-1 Huey/SuperCobras would rise 35 percent, from $640 million to $868 million, to buy 18 new and 12 remanufactured copies.
"There are some cutbacks," said Undersecretary of Defense Robert Hale, who is the Pentagon’s comptroller and chief financial officer, including "… delaying some amphibious ship production really until we have a chance for this Quadrennial Defense Review to look at amphib capability, how much we need."
Gates carried out his promise to cut the presidential helicopter program, which officials said already cost the U.S. $3.2 billion in "sunk costs."
The Pentagon said the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle remains in the development stage and the program would receive $293 million next year.
But the secretary has questioned the department’s need to arm itself for a major amphibious landing reminiscent of the 20th century.
The Marines budget also maintains a large construction fund at $1.9 billion, largely to account for the ahead-of-schedule end-strength of 202,100 personnel and moving 8,000 Marines and families from Okinawa to Guam.
It includes $378 million to build ramps, roads and wharves there.