RELEASE:

Wicker Reviews Marine Corps Ground Modernization Programs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Seapower, delivered the following opening statement at today’s hearing to review the state of Marine Corps ground modernization programs:

“The nation asks much of the Marine Corps. Its amphibious mission, its role as the nation’s expeditionary crisis response force, and its provision of key enablers to joint task forces from Kandahar to Anbar to northern Iraq offer a unique set of capabilities. The United States calls upon these capabilities often. The consequences of this high operational tempo and fiscal uncertainty are clear. As General Neller observed last month before the full Committee, ‘The Marine Corps is no longer in a position to simultaneously generate current readiness, reset our equipment, sustain our facilities, and modernize to ensure future readiness.’

“The modernization of the Marine Corps – particularly of its ground forces – must be even more focused and economical than usual. Fortunately, Marine ground programs are targeted, relatively small, and well-managed. Today our witnesses will update us on their work to meet the need for the nation’s global crisis response force, provide assessments of Marine Corps requirements going forward, and answer critical questions.

“First and foremost, the Subcommittee wishes to discuss the Marine Corps’s strategy for modernizing its vehicle fleet, particularly the Amphibious Combat Vehicle and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. This fleet provides maneuver from the sea, as well as protection and tactical flexibility ashore.

“The Subcommittee wishes to discuss the design suitability and acquisition strategy for the Amphibious Combat Vehicle or ACV, which are perhaps most critical to the Corps’s amphibious role. Last fall, two companies received contracts to develop prototypes of the first increment of the ACV. This vehicle will serve as a substitute for the cancelled Marine Personnel Carrier, utilizing wheels and a limited swim capability that will likely require a connector to move it ashore. A fully amphibious increment of ACV that can self-deploy is being considered for future development. I am interested in the progress of both concepts and the plan going forward.

“We are also eager to discuss the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV. I am encouraged by the progress the Army and Marine Corps have made on this multi-service program, which provides our troops with a highly mobile, protected means of transportation. The Subcommittee would benefit from hearing how the Marine Corps plans to acquire its fleet of 5,500 JLTVs, particularly in light of its decision to defer 77 vehicles in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget to provide more funding to the ACV and the Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar programs. Such shortfalls have an impact on capability, readiness, and program cost that must be addressed in order for our Humvees to be replaced as soon as possible.

“More broadly, we remain committed to maintaining a healthy industrial base through competition. With both the ACV and the JLTV, I understand that the Marine Corps relies on competition to gauge early on what is technologically feasible and affordable. Competition requires viable competitors, which we do not always have. I would like our witnesses to provide their best assessment of the state of the U.S. industrial base for ground combat and tactical vehicles. I hope they will suggest what can be done to sustain the vitality of our manufacturing base.

“In addition to its work on tactical vehicles, I’ve previously mentioned the Marine Corps’s development of the Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar, or GATOR, to replace five older radars. I believe this is a matter for discussing. Intended as an all-purpose system that can provide Marines with early warning from missiles, indirect fire, and aerial systems, GATOR will also provide air traffic control capabilities. The Subcommittee wishes to learn more about this complex program and its future role.

“We are eager to hear our witnesses discuss other equipment essential to the Marine Corps’s mission, such as small arms. Over the past year, the Marine Corps has collaborated with the Army on a joint 5.56 millimeter round. I hope our witnesses can speak to the status of this important project. We also welcome updates on the status of other critical capabilities, such as artillery and armor.

“The Marine Corps’s budget accounts for approximately six percent of the Department of Defense’s total budget. I remain concerned about the impact of budget uncertainty on modernization and readiness across the Defense Department, but especially on the Marine Corps. As such, I hope our witnesses today will elaborate on the impact that uncertainty has on our expeditionary Marines, their ability to execute our country’s national security strategy, and the vitality of our defense industrial base.”

4/13/16