I commend the Secretary’s effort to increase efficiency and streamline the Department of Defense, but those efforts should not come at the expense of the safety of our men and women in uniform or our national security. As Chairman of the House Armed Services’ Strategic Forces Subcommittee I have the obligation to ensure that does not happen.
On January 6th, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced more than $150 billion in department-wide cuts and efficiencies to be made over the next five years. The Secretary made the decision to launch a comprehensive review effort last May in anticipation of an era of tightened budgets.
While I agree with Secretary Gates’ effort, I found his decision to cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) to be short sighted. The EFV, produced in Lima, Ohio, is designed to replace the aging Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV), which entered service in 1972.
Secretary Gates has decided to use the remaining money in the EFV program to shut the program down by this coming fall. However, the EFV is in the midst of its testing phase. This decision essentially throws to the wayside billions of taxpayer dollars invested in this vital program for our U.S. Marines. We will lose every cent spent in developing this piece of equipment, without even seeing if it meets all of the mission requirements. Completion of this critical testing phase will show whether the EFV has met all operational requirements and is ready for full scale production.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, James Amos, along with many Commandants before him, had defended the amphibious assault capability as an “absolutely enduring requirement.” Maintaining the ability to achieve forcible entry from the sea serves as a credible deterrent to our nation’s adversaries and is a critical component of the Marines’ operational requirements. This is a requirement which will not fade away.
In his announcement, Secretary Gates proposed what amounts to a Band-Aid on an antiquated piece of equipment. The AAV does not meet the needs of our modern warfighter. Prior to starting an entirely new program similar to the EFV, the current AAV will receive millions of dollars in upgrades. The coupling of retooling the AAV with a new program could cost as much, if not more than the current costs of the EFV program. It only makes sense to see the testing results of the EFV program before deciding to eliminate it. In an attempt to save spent dollars, the Secretary is proposing that we spend untold millions more.
The day of the Secretary’s announcement I took immediate action and spoke with the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. and met with Commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command Lieutenant General George J. Flynn. The next day, I penned a letter to Secretary Gates urging him to reconsider this decision. In my letter I told him that “I firmly believe that the most appropriate action is to allow the program to finish testing, to allow the DoD to either: (1) avoid the alternate possibility of using old vehicles and starting from scratch, or (2) move forward with its decision to cancel the program, knowing for certain that the EFV program failed.”
I commend the Secretary’s effort to increase efficiency and streamline the Department of Defense, but those efforts should not come at the expense of the safety of our men and women in uniform or our national security. As Chairman of the House Armed Services’ Strategic Forces Subcommittee I have the obligation to ensure that does not happen. Ultimately, the decision on the fate of these programs lie with Congress, and in the coming months we will have the opportunity to review these decisions.