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Developing the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Assault Vehicle Capability After EFV Cancellation

Managing the development of the Marine Corps' amphibious assault vehicle capability in the wake of the EFV cancellation

“It’s irresponsible and, quite honestly, junior varsity, to think you could just write off the requirement for amphibious shipping for our nation.”

–  Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps

Those words from Gen. James F. Amos have been reverberating through the Marine Corps as a whole. As warriors of the sea and America’s Expeditionary Force in Readiness, the Marine Corps is refocusing to ensure it is the nation’s response force.

It’s been more than eight months since former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced his proposed budget efficiencies plan, which included an agreement based on the recommendation of the secretary of the Navy and the commandant of the Marine Corps to cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV).

Since that time, PEO Land Systems has been aggressively engaged in researching, identifying, and developing materiel solutions that will form the core of our nation’s amphibious capabilities. Last winter, PEO Land Systems released a Special Notice to industry followed by several Requests for Information (RFIs). These notices highlighted the Marine Corps’ intention in developing both interim and long-term investment strategies for amphibious capabilities, including plans for an Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) upgrade, an AAV replacement, and a Marine Personnel Carrier.

The Marine Corps stressed in those RFIs the need to develop affordable materiel solutions that will reduce the operational and support costs over the life cycle and consider such things as commonality, modularity of proposed solutions, and interoperability in order to reduce O&S support costs.

On Feb. 8, 2011, the 35th commandant of the Marine Corps, Amos, spoke for The George P. Shultz Lecture Series at the Marines Memorial Club, San Francisco, Calif., and stated: “Last month I recommended to the Secretary of Defense that we cancel the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. I recommended this adjustment as an opportunity to cut an onerous fiscal program, thus allowing the Marine Corps the ability to recapitalize on savings from the cancellation of EFV. As the secretary affirmed last month, the cancellation of the EFV is by no means a rejection of the Marine Corps’ amphibious assault mission. I want all here tonight to know that I remain absolutely committed to develop and field a more affordable solution.

Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps

Gen. James F. Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, speaking on July 27, 2011, at the IDGA Amphibious Operations Summit, Washington, D.C. U.S. Marine Corps photo

“In the complex future security environment, the execution of amphibious operations requires the use of the sea as maneuver space. A new amphibious vehicle enables the rapid and seamless projection of ready-to-fight Marine units from sea to land in permissive, uncertain, and hostile environments. Once on land, a properly configured modern amphibious vehicle bolsters the lethality and versatility of the Marine rifle squad. As a result of the cancellation of the EFV, approximately $2.8 billion of the program’s assets will be reinvested in a comprehensive, three-pronged approach for our future ground vehicles,” he added.

“First, we will immediately begin the process to develop our new amphibious vehicle. Second, to ensure continued capability to maneuver from ship-to-shore until the next generation of systems is brought on line, we will upgrade a portion of our existing legacy amphibious vehicle fleet with new engines, electronics, and armaments,” he said. “Finally, we will accelerate the production of our wheeled Marine Personnel carrier.”

In April 2011, a daylong Industry Day was held in Fredericksburg, Va., with more than 650 industry representatives attending, followed by a weeklong one-on-one engagement with continual ongoing engagement. Concurrently, a Systems Engineering (SE) Operational Planning Team (OPT) led by Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) was stood up to review EFV requirements in order to highlight complexity drivers and therefore cost drivers and evaluate alternative technical solutions in order for the Marine Corps to optimize affordability while maintaining desired operational capability. The Systems Engineering “War Room” has been headed up by Jim Smerchansky, deputy commander for Systems Engineering, Interoperability, Architectures and Technology (SIAT), Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va.

SDD-2-EFV

EFVs from the SDD-2 batch during testing. Although these EFV prototypes seemed to have overcome the reliability and other flaws of the SDD-1 EFVs and promised a quantum leap in capability, the crashing economy made the program unaffordable. PEO Land Systems photo

On July 27, 2011, Amos addressed the IDGA Amphibious Operations Summit in Washington, D.C., and spoke of the importance of the strategic littorals in saying: “Forty-nine percent of the world’s oil travels through six choke points [the Panama Canal, the mouth of the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, the Straits of Bab-el-Mandeb out of the Red Sea, the entrance of the Persian Gulf, and the Straits of Malacca].”

He added: “Seventy-five percent of our globe is covered in water; 75 percent of the world’s population lives within 2,200 miles of the coastline, and 17 of the world’s 20 major cities have access to the oceans of the world.

“The issue for me is access – the ability to maneuver, the ability to be able to take forces and have that commerce, have that shipping to be able to move around the world and go through those checkpoints unfettered,” he added.

Amos also highlighted the role and efficacy of the AAV at the Amphibious Operations Summit, citing when he was a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) commander during Hurricane Katrina, how AAVs rescued people in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans just south of the Mississippi River when nothing else could get in.

In early August 2011, the Naval Acquisition executive (Sean Stackley) signed out an Acquisition Decision Memorandum transferring the management and oversight of the Assault Amphibious Vehicle program from Marine Corps Systems Command to PEO Land Systems to enhance the synergy and collaboration for the development of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle in order to manage all amphibious capability as a portfolio.

The next step in the development of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle is a Materiel Development Decision scheduled for this October. This will usher in the start of the Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), which is expected to be completed by summer 2012.

This article first appeared in Marine Corps Outlook: 2011-2012 Edition.

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Glenn Goodman, senior editor of the Journal of Electronic Defense, is also a frequent contributor...