Thursday, August 20, 2009

Whoopsie! (Or, EFV in peril!)

Colin Clark, who writes for the usually very good DoD Buzz, had this to say yesterday about the QDR's impact on the future of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle:
That amphibious study, which could lead to the Marines seeing their central mission stripped away, appears highly unlikely to go anywhere. Is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, himself a Marine, likely to countenance such a move? Not likely. Is the chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, likely to approve such a move when the Marines are so closely intertwined with the Navy? Well, no. If Gates didn’t kill the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle on April 6 — and it certainly would seem to have met many of the same criteria for termination as did programs such as FCS — why would he take such a drastic action now?
The piece was linked on the Early Bird, the DoD's daily news aggregator. I think this is a first for DoD Buzz, but I could be wrong; if it is, then it might've come at a bad time. To wit: today's Early Bird links another article on the same subject, "Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Sinks EFV Hopes," from Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.

The prognosis for the U.S. Marine Corps' troubled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) is not good, according to Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

After his presentation to the Space and Missile Defense Conference here Aug. 19, Cartwright said the close-to-finished Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is looking at EFV in the context of "amphibious writ large," and the high-speed combat vehicle "will have a significant challenge moving forward."

Cartwright went on to brand the EFV with the scarlet "E" for "exquisite" -- a pejorative term coined by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to refer to programs aimed at producing be-all, end-all systems.

"As we look at anti-access threats, is the exquisite nature of the vehicle appropriate? It's going to have a hard time," Cartwright said.

"Now I can't be a Marine anymore," he added.

According to other sources, the QDR may downplay the Marines' role as a forced-entry assault force versus security assistance and the Corps' currently dominant role on the ground.


The EFV's problems have been discussed extensively in the past, particularly the flat-bottomed hull and its susceptibility to IED attacks. It's interesting to see the Gen. Cartwright cite anti-access threats, too; Krepinevich talked about this extensively in his recent Foreign Affairs piece, making specific reference to the EFV's unsuitability for the likely future threat environment. Maybe the Pentagon really is listening!

Like I said before, I think that Clark and DoD Buzz generally do a great job. This just goes to show you how easy it is to look silly when doing personality-based analysis and speculating about things like procurement and budgeting decisions.


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