Magazine article National Defense

Marines Struggle to Begin Rebuilding Force in '07

Magazine article National Defense

Marines Struggle to Begin Rebuilding Force in '07

Article excerpt

THE MARINE CORPS IS requesting a budget of $18.2 billion for 2007, but only a fraction of that will go to buy new equipment, said Lt. Gen. Emerson N. Gardner, deputy commandant for programs and resources. The Corps will need nearly $10 billion in additional funds from two separate 2006 supplemental appropriations--driving the total figure to almost $28 billion--to help the service begin to recover from the Iraq war and reorganize for an extended campaign against terrorism, Gardner told National Defense.

"We're sustaining a force at war," he said. "We're recruiting, training and equipping Marines for the battlefield. That's job one. We've got to have the supplementals to get that done."

The Marines already have received one bridge supplemental appropriation of $4.1 billion, part of a larger measure that President Bush signed into law in December. A second supplemental request, sent to Capitol Hill in February, contains another $5.7 billion for the Corps.

Both of those supplements are necessary for the Marines to continue operating with the current level of troops and equipment in the coming year, Gardner asserted. The 2007 budget request, by itself, is not sufficient, he added.

Although the $18.2 billion is up slightly from the $17.5 billion the Corps sought in 2006, only $1.4 billion--less than 10 percent--will go to procure new equipment, Gardner explained. Of the total request, 62 percent will be earmarked for uniformed personnel, 22 percent for operations and maintenance, and 4 percent for military construction and family housing.

For this reason, the supplements are essential in paying for repairing and replacing lost or damaged equipment, Gardner said. The February request, for example, seeks $2.9 billion to procure new gear, including $431 million for a variety of radio systems for use in combat operations and $302 million to add armor to ground vehicles in Iraq.

Altogether, this process will cost about $12 billion, and it will take years, Marine Commandant Gen. Michael W. Hagee told reporters. The Corps has asked for $6 billion to get started in 2007.

"That's about all we can handle during this fiscal year," Hagee said.

Resetting has become critical because of the wear and tear that Marine equipment is getting in the war, Gardner said. "We're using equipment at four and five times the rate we had planned on."

For example, he said, the Corps had expected humvees to last 15 to 20 years. "In Iraq, they have a lifespan of more like four years. Right away, this means we have to buy more vehicles than we expected." In 2007, the Marines plan to buy 851 humvees at a cost of $72 million.

Also in 2007, the Corps intends to purchase the first 15 expeditionary fighting vehicles at a cost of $188 million, Gardner said. The EFV is the successor to the assault amphibious vehicle, the 30-year-old platform that the Marines use to move troops and equipment from ship to shore while under hostile fire.

Designed primarily to operate close to the sea, the AAVs are being used heavily as armored personnel carriers during combat far inland in Iraq.

The Corps plans to acquire 1,013 EFVs over three decades, he said. Full-rate production, however, has been set back by budget cutbacks. Originally set for 2005, it now is scheduled for 2010.

In addition, the Marines plan use the December supplement to buy 392 seven-ton trucks, called medium tactical vehicle replacements, or MTVRs, at a cost of $87.5 million.

The MTVRs, made by the Oshkosh Truck Corp., are replacing the Corps' aging fleet of M809 and M939 five-ton trucks. To date, the Marines have fielded 6,393 MTVRs. They have a requirement for another 726 at a cost of $163 million, said Capt. Jay Delarosa, a spokesman for Marine headquarters.

Currently, the Marines have deployed 900 MTVRs to Iraq and Kuwait, Landis said. By May, they plan to have equipped each of them with an MTVR armor system. …

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