Marines with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response conduct helicopter rope suspension training aboard Moron air base, Spain, on March 27. The Marine Corps has submitted an unfunded budget priorities list to Congress that seeks funding for more crisis response units. (Lance Cpl. Alexander Hill / Marine Corps)
The Marine Corps has submitted an unfunded priorities list to Congress that includes funding to stand up two new crisis response units, and more than $1 billion to replace aircraft destroyed in an attack on Camp Bastion.
The “wish list” totals $2.5 billion, according to Marine spokesman Capt. Ty Balzer, and would represent an increase of more than 10 percent over the Marines’ $22.8 billion budget request.
At the top of the list is a $1.01 billion request for six F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, which would fill a gap in the Marines’ fleet of fixed-wing aircraft that was created in Sept. 2012, when insurgents raided Camp Bastion, a British military base in Afghanistan, killing two Marines and damaging or destroying eight AV-8B Harriers.
The unfunded priorities list also seeks nearly $47 million to stand up two new crisis response units in addition to the existing 800-strong Special-Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Crisis Response, which is forward-based at Morón, Spain. The new units would be stationed in U.S. Southern Command, which includes all of South America, and U.S. Central Command, which encompasses the Middle East.
Marine officials have discussed plans to stand up the new crisis response units, but officials indicated that finding funds to resource the units would be a challenge, particularly with regard to the SOUTHCOM unit.
Other major line items include $83 million to extend the life of four Landing Craft Air Cushioned vehicles, the ship-to-shore hovercraft the Marines use to move gear and people to and from the well decks of Navy amphibious ships, and $65.4 million to fund new bachelor enlisted quarters at Marine Corps Base Hawaii as the installation prepares to accommodate thousands of new Marines.
The Marine Corps is planning to move 2,700 Marines to Hawaii from Okinawa, Japan, though that shift may take more than a decade to complete.
In total, the service’s unfunded priorities list requests the following totals, according to Balzer:
■ $111.5 million for readiness
■ $587.4 million for infrastructure sustainment
■ $74.6 million for equipment modernization
■ $294.3 million for aviation readiness
■ $1.39 billion for aviation modernization
All the services have submitted unfunded priorities lists this year, a tradition that was all but discontinued by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in 2009, but brought back for this year at the behest of the House Armed Services Committee. Congress must approve the final defense budget, and may opt to budget for projects outside of the original Pentagon request.