The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle became the focal point again for congressional unhappiness with the secrecy with which the Gates' Pentagon does business during a hearing of the House Armed Services seapower and projections forces subcommittee.
"It's a systemic problem," Rep. Todd Akin, chairman of the committee, told me after the hearing. "it's an increasingly systemic problem"
In his prepared statement, Akin said he feared “that when it is all said and done, the Marine Corps will probably only get an upgraded version of the current Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV).” However, Stackley said that would not happen. The service had concluded that upgrading the AAV would just be too expensive. Marine Lt. Gen. George Flynn told Akin the next key step would come when the Marines host an industry day at the end of the month.
Akin was not alone in expressing his unhappiness with how the Pentagon made its decision about canceling the EFV. The chairman was joined by Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, chairman of the of the HASC air and land forces subcommittee, raised the issue during the hearing, telling the Navy and Marine leaders testifying before him that he wanted to be involved in the process for determining the replacement for the EFV. A scientist by training, Bartlett noted that Akin is an engineer and they would both be capable of knowledgeably participating in the process.
Bartlett told reporters after the hearing that he would like to take part in war games involved in crafting the new amphibious requirements and to be regularly briefed on important program decisions before they are made. He said he'd been invited to two or three war games in his 17 years in the House. It was unclear whether he had participated or attended those to which he had been invited.
As part of that effort to open up the Gates Pentagon, Akin pressed Sean Stackley, head of Navy acquisition, to brief his subcommittee on the EFV's possible replacements. They tentatively set a date of April 7. Akin's ultimate criteria for an EFV replacement? "What's the best deal" that also gets Marines in relatively safety and comfort from ships at sea 12 miles out into the shore with enough speed.
Flynn told the panel that the Marines have modified the requirement from 10-22 miles to 12 miles.