In the latest version of the annual defense legislation Congress has gutted nearly $14 million for the Corps’ futuristic expeditionary sea drone known as the MUX.
The original funding request was $25,291,000, but the approved funds are only $11,291,000, that’s more than a 50 percent slash.
But the steep cuts pale in comparison to the $100 million Senators originally approved in their mark-up of the Senate version of the annual defense authorization bill in late June.
House members argued in a report there were a number of capabilities and platforms across the services that could “likely mitigate” the Corps’ identified shortfalls.
“The committee believes the Marine Corps underestimates the required communications, data link, launch, mission execution and recovery infrastructure, or the human capital resources required to train, operate, maintain and sustain such a system,” the House Armed Services Committee, or HASC, said in a report that followed their version of the defense bill in May.
“The Marine Corps also underestimates the necessary human capital resources required to meet current deployment-to-dwell policy and guidance issued by the Secretary of Defense," the report added.
The HASC also called for a report from chairman of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council by February 2019 on how existing capabilities across the services can plug the Corps’ perceived gaps.
“The committee also directs the Secretary of the Navy to provide a briefing to the House Committee on Armed Services, not later than February 5, 2019, that explains the acquisition and funding strategy of the Marine Corps to affordably develop and field an unmanned capability of this nature, and then personnel, funding, infrastructure, and mission-execution resources that would be needed to viably sustain and support this capability, the report reads.
The Corps is amid plans to develop a futuristic group five drone capable of landing on amphibious ships at sea. The Corps wants its high-tech platform to conduct electronic and kinetic strikes and come with an early airborne warning capability.
The airborne warning feature will afford Marine Expeditionary units the ability to operate independent of aircraft carriers. Carriers deploy the E2D Hawkeye for early airborne warning.
The MUX will also have long-range networking capabilities allowing the drone to patch into and cue weapon systems from other ships and aircraft.
The Corps held a conference with industry leaders in early June to hash out its wish list for the MUX.
Currently, the Marines do not operate a large group five drone. To make up for the lack of experience, the Corps has been sending Marines to work with the Air Force.
Marines do operate smaller tactical surveilance drones like the RQ-21 Blackjack.
The House passed the latest version of the defense bill on Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on it early next week.
Inside Defense first reported the potential cuts to the MUX.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.