Rumor has it that senior political appointees in the Department of the Navy want to make a point about acquisition reform by killing the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). Apparently the fact that taking such action would also end up killing many Marines isn’t part of their thought process. It should be.
EFV is the next-generation amphibious troop vehicle being developed by the Marine Corps, a heavily armored, highly maneuverable system designed to seamlessly transition from sea mobility to land movement. With three times the water speed and twice the armor of the existing, Nixon-era amphibious assault vehicle, it will be by far the most effective troop carrier ever fielded for carrying warfighters from ship to shore; once it hits the beaches, it can match the speed of Abrams tanks in quickly penetrating deep into the enemy interior. And because the EFV has an extended range in water, U.S. ships can stay beyond the reach of enemy guns while Marines going ashore have many options for where they choose to land.
These and other features will enable the 500-plus EFVs the Marines plan to buy to provide unprecedented protection to the 17-man rifle squadron the vehicle was designed to transport. There is nothing else like it in the world, and no likelihood at all that something significantly better can be developed in the foreseeable future. Within the constraints imposed by physics and operational requirements, EFV is the gold standard of amphibious-warfare vehicles.
But in the current Washington environment, political appointees who take leadership positions for relatively brief tours are tempted to make a name for themselves by killing weapons programs deemed to be too expensive. The political process seldom takes note of the huge investment made by previous administrations that is thereby squandered, nor of the operational consequences that will follow from continuing to send warfighters into battle with outdated equipment.
Congress and the public need to do a better job of holding policymakers accountable for such irresponsible decisions. In the case of EFV, the consequences of not going forward are crystal clear. Marines who should have survived amphibious assaults to take their objectives will die in large numbers, or be precluded from going ashore at all. There is no alternative to EFV that remotely matches its performance, and all the excuses raised for why fielding the vehicle should be deferred undercut the future effectiveness of the joint force. We may not be able to know with certainty what future threats will demand of the Marine Corps, but one thing we can say for sure is that without EFV our forces are more likely to be defeated.
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