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Amos counters experts' critique of Corps' direction

Jun. 23, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Gen. Jim Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, is defending the service's plan to develop a wheeled amphibious vehicle, as two armor experts who served as career infantrymen lobby to scrap the service's current procurement plans.
Gen. Jim Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, is defending the service's plan to develop a wheeled amphibious vehicle, as two armor experts who served as career infantrymen lobby to scrap the service's current procurement plans. (Staff)
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Gen. Jim Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, is vigorously defending the service’s plan to develop a wheeled amphibious vehicle, as two armor experts who served as career infantrymen lobby to scrap the service’s current procurement plans.

Col. James G. Magee and Maj. Richard G. DuVall laid out their argument for a new procurement strategy — focusing on light vehicles that can be lifted ashore by helicopter — in a white paper published June 17 by Marine Corps Times. Although they withheld permission to share the paper with Marine officials pending its publication, reporters forwarded a bulleted summary of the paper that emphasized its critique of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle and the Marine Corps’ over-reliance on Navy ship-to-shore connectors.

The Marine Corps almost concurrently blasted out an email to general officers, retired and active. The email, which Marine Corps Times obtained, had two attachments: a letter from the commandant and procurement talking points.

“Because I know that you may be asked to comment or discuss your thoughts on this decision,” reads the letter, “I have included some talking points that serve to help explain how we came to this decision.”

The letter, which can be read in full on marinecorpstimes.com, defends the CMC’s current strategy.

In it, Amos says “increasing threats demanding greater standoff and survivability ashore, coupled with declining fiscal resources, have led us to make some significant decisions regarding our overarching vehicle strategy.” A 25 nautical mile standoff was the service’s original requirement, but the proliferation of more dangerous missile technology has pushed that distance farther out.

“Neither industry nor our development teams could ultimately achieve an affordable vehicle that met our requirements,” Amos writes, alluding to the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle that was canceled after decades of development and significant cost overruns.

Amos acknowledges “differing opinions of the correct replacement vehicle” for the Amphibious Assault Vehicle, but says he has leaned heavily on working groups, and active duty, civilian and industry advisers to develop requirements for the next vehicle, the ACV 1.1, which moves away from high water speed and tracked capability in favor of a wheeled vehicle that depends on connectors to take it ashore.

The move is driven by “a combination of tactical, technical and budgetary components,” he writes. “Our decision to change how we approach this transition was not taken lightly. ... We can’t afford to get this wrong.”

Magee and DuVall aren’t the only Marines with concerns over the direction of the service’s amphibious procurement strategy. Marine Corps Times has confirmed that Amos received questions about his procurement priorities during the annual General Officer’s Symposium at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., in September and again at a meeting with retired three- and four-star generals.

Magee told Marine Corps Times that the generals’ discontent with Amos’ answers to those tough questions prompted Gen. Al Gray, the former commandant and a long-time friend, to encourage him not only to write the position paper but also to reach out to prospective commandants and other generals to lobby for a change in direction. Gen. Joseph Dunford was nominated to become the next Marine Corps commandant at about the time this effort was getting underway.

Gray refused to confirm Magee’s story, even off the record, but Marine Corps Times has confirmed that he’s been conducting speaking engagements recently around the Washington, D.C., area, and gave a closed-door procurement talk to active-duty officers at Quantico.

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