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Old 06-10-2009, 03:19 PM
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Gates Spares the Marines in His Defense Budget | Newsweek Periscope | Newsweek.com

In his farewell address in January 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex, the cozy relationship between the Pentagon, Congress and defense contractors. In April 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposes to do something significant about it. He wants Congress to cut big-ticket items from all the major services: the Air Force's F-22 fighter, the Army's family of Future Combat Systems and the Navy's DDG 1000 destroyer.

One service was notably spared the budget ax. The how and why suggests that Gates can be politically cagey as well as bold. The Marines are the smallest, cheapest and, arguably, the bravest of them all —"The Few, the Proud, the Marines" is not just a recruiting gimmick. The Marines were quicker than the Army to think about how to fight nasty, small wars—and do it without spending vast sums of money. But the Marines are a proud service, and they worry about becoming too much like the Army. They want to preserve their historic mission of landing on foreign shores in small boats.

The Marines last major amphibious operation was in 1950, a highly successful maneuver at Inchon in Korea. Since then, landing troops by sea (which, historically, has been an often-bloody gambit—think of Gallipoli and Tarawa) has become an increasingly dodgy proposition. Today, all but the poorest countries are likely to possess radar, mines and ship-killing missiles. Even the take-that-hill ethos of the Marines recoils at sailing into slaughter.

For almost 40 years, the Marines' landing craft has been the AAV, the Amphibious Assault Vehicle. Carrying 25 men and three crew, it's meant to be launched two miles off shore and it pokes along at 8mph—a sitting duck at sea. It can move on land, but the old, thinly armored vehicles were taken out of combat in Iraq when IEDs turned them into death traps.

The Marines are working on a new landing craft called the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. It would launch from 25 miles out ("over the horizon") and move at 25mph. Heavily armored (38 tons versus the AAV's 23 tons) it requires a turbojet engine, which makes it look like "a tank on water skis," according to its critics. And there are many critics. The EFV has been in development for 14 years and its cost has tripled to $23 million each. With ship-killing missiles getting ever deadlier, the EFV would seem to be a candidate for cancellation by a pennywise SecDef.

But Gates kept it in the budget he proposed last week. Politics had nothing to do with it, insists spokesman Geoff Morrell. Rather, as Gates explained, he wants to take up the whole issue of the amphibious mission in the coming year when the Pentagon engages in a long-term review of defense priorities.

There is another good reason to kick the issue down the road. The Marines are famous for their political savvy. The Army wheezily jokes that while an Army squad commonly has 12 men, a Marine squad has 13—the extra is a PR officer. Trying to kill a favorite Marine Corps weapons system can be an exercise in futility. During the Bush 41 administration, then–Defense secretary Dick Cheney tried no less than four times to eliminate funding for the V-22 Osprey, which flies today. The Marines have close ties on Capitol Hill—none better than Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, the powerful chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense and a combat-decorated 37-year veteran of the U.S. Marines. Last week, Murtha praised Gates's budget. As they say in the Corps, Semper Fi.
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Old 06-12-2009, 10:36 PM
Location: vagabond
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i think that it is mostly out of the fact that the marines have so few toys to play with at all that they have to let us keep a few. heck, the ordenance alone on some of the air force planes is worth more than the efv.
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Old 06-14-2009, 10:40 PM
Location: Greenville, SC
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I served 4 years honorably in the 90's, in the Marines. Yes, HQMC does a lot of PR, as the Marines are the smallest and they need advocates in Congress and amongst the public. As one famous Marine famously stated, the American people don't need a Marine Corps, they want the Marine Corps to be that light infantry fighting force which goes places and gets the job done. The other services have their roles, too, and I'm in no way bashing the fine job they do.

As far as amphibious warfare is concerned, yes, it's true they have not fought from the sea in a while, but the world's population continues to drift closer to cities on coastlines, meaning many conflicts of this century will be urban and near to the sea. The Marines are unique with respect to their relationship with the Navy, and the Navy/Marine team has done a bang up job, in the last 15 years, in just about every imaginable mission where their skills are best put to use. Marines from a MEU launched into landlocked Kandahar, and there have been many coastal conflicts where the Marines have plied their trade (Liberia sticks out in my mind).

I agree with this article, too, with respect to weapons systems and procurement. I'm a firm believer in our forces having the best equipment money can buy, however, as Eisenhower warned us bad examples of the "military industrial complex" have reared their ugly heads many times. I question the V-22 Osprey, as well as this EFV, both of which have had major cost overruns. Many career officers have retired and then gone on to lobby Congress on behalf of contractors within the last 15 years, and there seems to be a lot of favoritism on the part of Congresscritters and some in the Pentagon. This is a dangerous mix. It appears there's a lot of fluff being designed into a lot of these newer weapons systems, which, of course, results in more money being made by contractors, and more votes for whatever Congresscritter greased the rails (Murtha is famous for this).

I'm a firm believer in Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS), and the Marines have been famous for this since their inception. Often times they'll buy the stripped-down version of stuff the Army gets (for better or for worse), and at the end of the day some stuff is better when it's designed simple. The V-22 and the EFV are examples of the Corps straying from this core principle.

I'm not a big TIME fan, but a decent article appeared in that magazine regarding the Osprey:

http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1665835,00.html (http://http//www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1665835,00.html - broken link)

From what I remember the article stated there are no Ospreys currently in a forward operating role, despite the fact it's considered by the Corps to be fully operational and fit for combat. Senior officers were caught cooking the maintenance and repair books at New River, back when they were doing initial testing several years ago, and it appeared the system might be permanently grounded because of this and a few crashes in the late-90's.

I guess it's just another system which just won't die, because Congress will not allow it to.
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Old 06-14-2009, 11:57 PM
Location: New Mexico U.S.A.
24,138 posts, read 38,895,616 times
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Originally Posted by HowardRoarke View Post
I'm not a big TIME fan, but a decent article appeared in that magazine regarding the Osprey:

http://www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1665835,00.html (http://http//www.time.com/time/politics/article/0,8599,1665835,00.html - broken link)
You URL appears bad, this should work.
V-22 Osprey: A Flying Shame - TIME

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Old 06-15-2009, 10:01 AM
6,351 posts, read 18,886,806 times
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True story: I was stationed at Langley AFB, VA in the early 1980's. My fighter squadron was preparing to participate in an excercise at MCAS Yuma, AZ. As we checked into billeting/dining arrangements, the folks at Yuma told us we had to provide 1 person for every 5 enlisted folks that would eat in their dining facility. We were only bringing 38 enlisted folks, so we told them "No thanks" and billeted all of us in a hotel downtown. Our pilots and support officers billeted on base. Probably the only time in U.S. military history where that has ever happened.
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