Wicker Statement on Marine Corps Ground Modernization

March 11, 2015

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Seapower, delivered the following remarks at today’s “Marine Corps Ground Modernization” hearing:

As prepared for delivery:=

“This is the Seapower Subcommittee’s first hearing for the 114th Congress.  I welcome my friend and colleague from Hawaii, Senator Hirono, who serves as Ranking Member of this Subcommittee.  I look forward to working with Ranking Member Hirono to ensure that our Sailors and Marines remain the best-trained, best-equipped, and most professional maritime fighting force in the world.

“This morning we welcome Mr. Thomas P. Dee, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Expeditionary Programs and Logistics Management, and Lieutenant General Kenneth J. Glueck, who serves as Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration.  General Glueck is also the Commanding General of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.  Our Subcommittee thanks you, and the nearly 185,000 Marines who are operating in over 40 countries around the world, for your service to our nation. 

“Over the past several years, the Marine Corps has been in a transition period, moving from counterinsurgency and stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Marine Corps’ more traditional role as a ready and capable rapid response force.   This transition has been and will continue to be complicated by fiscal uncertainty, the prospect of sequestration, reductions in end strength and force structure, and challenges with combat vehicle modernization.

“Today our witnesses will update us on their efforts to build a global crisis response force of amphibious, combat, and tactical ground vehicles.  This force should meet the Nation’s requirements for maneuver from the sea that is technologically achievable and affordable.  I would like our witnesses to elaborate on the Marine Corps’ strategy for modernizing its vehicle fleet, including the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV).

“I am interested to learn how the Marine Corps plans to meet its ground vehicle requirements within current and projected budget constraints, while still maintaining high operational capability and readiness.

“I understand that the Marine Corps has restructured the Amphibious Combat Vehicle and will release a request for proposals this year.  I remain concerned that substituting wheeled armored personnel carriers for amphibious track vehicles could erode the Marine Corps’ amphibious assault capability – the capability that separates the Marine Corps from the Army.  I look forward to hearing how the Marine Corps ACV acquisition strategy will reduce fielding time and deliver vehicles incrementally.

“On the issue of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), I am encouraged by the progress that the Marine Corps and the Army have made on this multi-service program.  The JLTV Program Office is scheduled for Milestone C and the low-rate production contract award in this fiscal year.  The Marine Corps budget request supports the achievement of initial operational capability in fiscal year 2018.  I trust that our witnesses will reassure this committee that the Marine Corps’ JLTV design and requirements are stable.  Such stability would ensure that the Marine Corps will be able to field this important replacement for our Humvees as soon as possible.

“With regard to acquisition of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, 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 at the contractor and supply chain levels.

“The Marine Corps faces significant budget challenges, as do all of our services.  Unless Congress acts, sequestration will return in October of this year.  As a member of both the Armed Services Committee and the Budget Committee, I know that tough decisions must be made across the federal government.  However, I would remind everyone that national defense is solely a federal responsibility.  Defense spending is also known as a ‘twofer,’ supporting both our national security and our high-tech manufacturing workforce.

“The Marine Corps’ budget accounts for approximately six percent of the Department of Defense’s total budget.  I am gravely concerned that sequestration could disproportionately impact the Marine Corps, on everything from modernization to readiness.  As such, I hope our witnesses today will elaborate on the impact that sequestration will have on our expeditionary Marines, their ability to execute our country’s national security strategy, and the vitality of our defense industrial base.”