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USMC budget request emphasizes Pacific shift, largely disregards sequestration

Apr. 10, 2013 - 09:14PM   |  
A Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, prepares to land on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in December.
A Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, prepares to land on Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, in December. (Senior Airman Benjamin Wiseman / Air Force)
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The Marine Corps’ proposed budget for 2014 prioritizes the service’s shift to the Asia-Pacific region while scaling back on plans to upgrade equipment and facilities.

Unveiled Wednesday, the Corps’ overall request is likely to top $30 billion once the Defense Department finalizes its needs for overseas contingencies, said Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon. That includes a base budget of $24.2 billion, according to budget documents.

Specifically, $4.6 billion would cover the rebalancing associated with future unit rotations to Japan, Australia and Guam, plus the relocation of two helicopter squadrons from the continental U.S. to Hawaii. Another $843 million would be spent on related training.

To help offset those costs, nearly $2 billion would be cut from equipment-modernization and infrastructure-sustainment accounts compared with the Corps’ budget request for fiscal 2013. That will entail delaying planned upgrades for its fleet of Humvees and Light Armored Vehicles while cutting funds for development of a next generation troop transport known as the Marine Personnel Carrier.

However, the budget request preserves funding plans for development of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, two major acquisition projects. The ACV is intended to replace the Corps’ aging Amphibious Assault Vehicles, which carry combat Marines ashore from Navy ships afloat at sea. The JLTV is expected to replace Humvees throughout the military’s fleet.

Additionally, the Corps intends to allocate several billion dollars for continued procurement of new aircraft, including its variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, plus MV-22 Ospreys, AH-1Z and UH-1Y helicopters, and KC-130J aerial refueling tankers.

Military construction at Marine Corps bases and air stations is scheduled to fall by $323 million compared to fiscal 2013, according to budget documents. Dozens of programs would be affected, including some planned modernization and maintenance not directly associated with operational readiness.

Defense Department officials described the Pentagon’s overall spending plan as “flat” compared with 2013. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said President Obama’s 2014 proposal affords the military time to deal with the sweeping spending cuts set in motion by sequestration by “back-loading” them for a few years.

But the military has already experienced significant cuts this year, and the full impact those have had on readiness remain to be seen, said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Speaking Wednesday at the Air-Sea-Space Expo outside Washington, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant, Gen. John “Jay” Paxton, said the services were told not to budget for sequestration in fiscal 2014. However, he added that it’d be foolish to think the services weren’t planning for it in some fashion.

“The spirit of the guidance was ‘Do not self-sequester,’” he said, a nod toward what it would have taken to budget for the fiscal cuts. “There’s a big difference.”

Paxton said Marine officials believe they have enough money for two more deployment cycles, but that sequestration would begin having more serious operational impact sometime between next fall and this time next year.

As an example, he noted that the Corps currently has 12 F-18/A Hornet squadrons, including five that are deployed. The other seven squadrons each have about eight or nine aircraft that are in flying condition, with the others in maintenance. That number could drop to five or six per squadron as a result of sequestration.

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