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Congress could limit funding for Marine Corps’ M27 rifle purchases

U.S. Marines assigned to Lima Company, Battalion Landing Team 3/2, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct live fire drills with M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles during Exercise Eager Lion 13. (Lance Cpl. Juanenrique Owings/Marine Corps)

Congress has taken another step to follow through on a threat to limit money for the Marine Corps to keep buying the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

Back in April, draft language for the then-proposed National Defense Authorization Act out of the House of Representatives subcommittee on Tactical Air Land in the House Armed Services Committee looked to limit the funding.

Subcommittee members wanted to “withhold” 20 percent of funding for new M27 purchases until they get more information from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller on the service’s small arms programs.

Well, it’s in the version of the $716 billion defense policy bill that is expected to be voted on by the House this week and by the Senate in August.

Congress members want Neller to lay out the Corps’ “near-term and long-term modernization strategies for small arms weapon systems of the Marine Corps.”

They especially want the four-star to detail how the small arms plan will align with the Small Arms Ammunition Configuration Study that the Army completed last year.

The SAAC study was a servicewide, multiyear study led by the Army to analyze the use and needs of near-term and long-term small arms and ammo needs.

Though the study has not been publicly released sources indicate that it calls for an intermediate caliber ammunition for carbines and machine guns.

That caliber will likely fall in the 6 mm range. Current work on the Army’s Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle program to replace the existing 5.56 mm light machine gun Squad Automatic Weapon has included requirements that use the Army-created 6.8 mm round.

Special operations programs have also begun a program to replace certain 7.62 mm sniper support rifles with a 6.5 mm variant.

The M27 is a 5.56 mm rifle.

Rather than wait for the new machine gun and follow on carbine and rifle, which may not be fielded for at least another two to four years, Neller began fielding of the M27 to Marine infantry units in 2017, after initial equipping began in 2008.

The Marines have fielded 6,500 M27s as of March, with plans to procure nearly 15,000 of the Heckler & Koch rifles.

Marine commanders took some heat at a March hearing when members of Congress questioned why they decided to go with a sole source contract. The cost, according to an April Marine Corps press release, came in at $1,300 per weapon system and support equipment.

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