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Marines outraged by Navy troop carrier plans

This disagreement raises questions about what direction Pentagon leadership wants to take in building new amphibious ships to transport Marines and their equipment around the world.

It is the latest flare-up in years of debate over what kind of ships to build for the Marine Corps, and policy makers look to a future in which Beijing has quickly emerged as a military and economic rival. I am trying to map out the path of

The Navy said on Monday that blueprints for this year’s budget include funds to fund a 17th San Antonio-class amphibious ship, a $1.6 billion ship that carries Marines and launches helicopters and ships. announced that it was not included.

The reason comes down to money, Chief of Naval Operations. Mike Gilday said Wednesday.

“The issue that drove the decision had to do with cost,” Gilday said at the Macquaries Defense Planning Conference, noting that the “strategic moratorium” on amphibian purchases and construction was the decision of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. explained that it is. .

He notes that the unit price per hull has increased for the first three ships belonging to the latest version of the ship class (called Flight II). “We are going in the wrong direction,” he said.

On the same day Gilday spoke, Marine Commander General David Berger declined to discuss costs. “I’d say it’s more expensive today. Well, he’s a gallon of milk than he was last year. Okay. But in base dollars, I think the industry is pushing that price down.”

The decision to suspend funding for ships is part of a broader review of the Navy’s amphibious ship programs mandated by the Department of Defense to consider whether they are aligned with broader policy objectives. department. The Navy had just submitted his amphibious plan to Congress in December, but the Pentagon ordered a redo, and the Navy did little to refute Marine Corps complaints.

“We just did the research and came up with the numbers [of ships]I would like to know what has changed in the last few weeks,” but this requires a new perspective.

The Navy referred questions about the need for new research to the Pentagon, but Pentagon officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Course settings

The amphibious fleet issue is particularly important for the Navy as it struggles to modernize to meet China’s increasingly effective anti-ship capabilities, which put large ships such as amphibious vehicles and aircraft carriers at greater risk. is a problem.

Navy Secretary Carlos del Toro, speaking at the Macquaries conference, did not say the military was moving away from the amphibious program, but instead invested in ships and next-generation amphibious ships before Pause…they say they really need it.

Berger argued that the Navy was wasting a moment when the shipbuilding industry was ready to keep building ships. It is unacceptable that it must be greater than an inch.

This figure is the “minimum” figure required by the Corps to meet the Pentagon’s mission.

The actual number of hulls will drop to 24 over the decade if Congress allows the Navy to implement a plan it presented Monday to decommission some of its oldest ships without buying replacements. .

This problem has real-world implications. The Marine Corps said twice in the past year he was unable to deploy service to emergencies due to lack of vessels. The first was when Russia invaded Ukraine, making it impossible for Marines to reach the area, and the second was when troops were unable to provide humanitarian assistance after a devastating earthquake hit Turkey in February. It was when it was gone.

The halt in ship production this week, combined with the Pentagon’s suppression of the Navy’s plans, means that then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has publicly rejected the Navy’s 30-year annual shipbuilding plan and has personally opted for new shipbuilding. It reminds me of a similar event in 2020 when I oversaw the creation of the plan. Documents released months later during Trump’s lame duck era.

This Navy-Marine Corps split is ‘partial’ [the Pentagon’s] It failed,” says Brian Clark, a retired Navy officer now at the Hudson Institute.

Competing visions of fleet size and composition revolve around how it prepares to confront or deter China in the years to come.

“The problem is that the requirements for large amphibious vehicles are largely based on peacetime presence needs rather than combat scenarios,” Clark said. The Department of Defense “prioritizes the need to defend against an invasion of Taiwan and other combat scenarios over the need for presence, so the large amphibious ship requirement is not met.”

While the strategy remains fluid, neither the Pentagon nor the Navy have been able to provide a detailed explanation as to why the December investigation needed to be reconsidered immediately.

“If you want to kill the program, you’re going to commission research after research and study until you die,” the Senate aide said.

Leaders across the Pentagon said they were “genuinely divisive” on the amphibious issue, “combined with the strategic pause comment, to a place where they could understand that the anti-amphibious coalition was in the driver’s seat of the issue.” I will really guide you,” continued the aide.

deferred plans

The amphibious program, which the Navy, Marine Corps, and Department of Defense Cost and Program Evaluation Offices are working on, is just one of three shipbuilding programs the Navy owes to the Department of Defense and Congress this year.

The 30-year shipbuilding plan, which must be submitted together with the budget, has been delayed for the second consecutive year. However, Navy officials say it will be released within the next few weeks.

The Navy was criticized by the Capitol last year for releasing a 30-year planning document that offered three options instead of one plan. Under that guidance, the first option is that he will build a fleet of 316 ships by 2052, the second is to sketch his navy of 327 ships, and the third is that the industrial base currently supports The documentation says it can’t, but it will produce a 367. – A fleet of ships. His two options at first fell short of her congressionally mandated navy of 355 ships. The Navy had kept her on target since 2016, but had made no progress toward achieving it.

Del Toro confirmed this week it would again submit a document containing three options, and the new plan also includes a menu of possibilities for Congress and Pentagon leaders to consider.

The Republican head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Roger Wicker, said in a statement this week that “the favorites of the day were ‘sales for investment,’ ‘strategic moratoriums,’ and ‘capability over ability.’ Whatever the phrasing, the president’s defense budget is actually sinking our future.” Fleeting. Wickers has Huntington Ingalls Shipyards in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which builds San Antonio-class ships.

The new $255 billion Navy budget is the largest ever, but “we’re not swimming in money forever,” said Admiral Gilday. “We have to make some tough decisions.”

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