The Navy's departing head of expeditionary warfare said today that the Marine's Expeditionary Fighting vehicle would be tough to kill since the Marines remain committed to some vehicle to allow them to land on beaches and roll in fighting.
At the same time, Roger Smith, who leaves the Pentagon Friday after six years in the building, conceded that the EFV requirement was "developed in a different era" before the Pentagon decided hybrid war poses one of our greatest threats.
I pressed Smith about Defense Secretary Gates' signature comment about the Marines in his Naval War College speech, when he said the country needed to "take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious action again. In the 21st century, how much amphibious capability do we need?"
Does the country need door kickers, I asked Smith. He was mild. "I personally believe we probably would need to retain that sort of capability in some capacity," he said, adding that storming the beaches would "probably be the last" type of combat the country would want to execute.
After noting that the Joint Staff validated the EFV re1quirement in 2007, he said "you probably wouldn't want to do a completely opposed landing" with EFV. After all, it will require an armor set be installed once it makes it to the beach. That will leave the EFVs vulnerable and require a pause in the action. And the armor is "going to be heavy. There's no doubt about that," he said.
Still, after all those caveats, Smith did not say the country should kill EFV when we asked him for his personal opinion. And the senior Marine leadership is certainly publicly committed to some sort of forcible entry capability. At this year's Navy League, Commandant Gen. James Conway said, "we have to admit we have lost expeditionary and amphibious skills." As he left the conference hall, I asked Conway if the Marines would stick to the EFV and to amphibious warfare. Short answer: yes. He said he wants to make sure the country does not lose the capability for forced entry.
The QDR may tell.