John Young, undersecretary of Defense for acquisition technology and logistics, has approved the newest Nunn-McCurdy review, signing a June 18 acquisition decision memorandum that allows the Marines' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle to proceed at all-slow.
Young is allowing the Marines to build seven prototypes of the EFV over the next four years. This is the second time that the program is enduring the System Development and Demonstration acquisition phase. The wonderful word from the Pentagon is that this is being done to "to improve system reliability."
That reliability will be hard fought for. The EFV was the poster child for botched Pentagon buying during an April 30 hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The $13.2 billion Marine Corps program -- meant to produce an updated AAV -- started in 1996 when the Marines issued a contract to General Dynamics. Initially, the program won plaudits for its innovative management and it passed through the program definition and risk reduction phase in mid-2001. Then things began to fall apart. The Marines issued a contract for the next phase of the program which was supposed to cost $712 million but quickly rose by the end of 2006 to an estimated $1.2 billion.
But, as the hearing highlighted, the EFV weighs too much to carry combat-ready Marines and still go as fast as it should. It operated only four-and-half hours before requiring major maintenance instead of the planned 47 hours. It is so loud that Marines cannot speak to each other and have to wear ear plugs.
Originally, the Pentagon planned to buy 1,025 Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles for $8.4 billion. Now the military plans to buy 593 for $13.2 billion. Costs per vehicle, according to the House committee, have increased 168 percent and production has slipped eight years.
Not exactly what one expects from gung ho Marines.