Well, we've got to get used to this sort of thing here in Austerity America: Senate defense appropriators recommended canceling the Army and Marines' Joint Light Tactical Vehicle in their budget markup on Tuesday, citing the program's shifting requirements and uncertain costs. This doesn't mean JLTV is totally dead, but it's a major black mark against the program, which has struggled to meet officials' original targets for weight and cost.
DoD's plans call for building a JLTV; the new Ground Combat Vehicle for the Army; a new amphibious personnel carrier for the Marine Corps; and "recapitalizing" some 60,000 of its existing Humvees so they're survivable in the context of today's IED dangers. These billions of dollars' worth of ground vehicle programs would only be part of the overall costs to "reset" the Army and Marine Corps, and would be an addition to the tens of thousands of heavy Mine-Resistant, Ambush-Protected vehicles bought for Iraq and Afghanistan. It may only be a matter of time before one or more of those elements in this mix begin to fall away, and Tuesday's announcement about JLTV could be the first step.
In the DoD budgets of yesteryear, Congress might not have batted an eye at funding both a completely new vehicle such as JLTV and upgraded Humvees with similar characteristics, but that ship has sailed. Senate defense appropriators announced Tuesday they were cutting some $26 billion from the Pentagon's fiscal 2012 budget request, though they endorsed the $118 billion the administration requested for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The subcommittee chairman, Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, scolded DoD and anticipated criticism that he was short-changing America's defenses: "While some have publicly stated that we could not meet our allocation without sacrificing military readiness, I can assure you that the vice chairman and I have taken extra caution to protect readiness funding in the bill," he said. "Reductions recommended in our operation and maintenance funds come almost exclusively because of lax budgeting practices by the military departments."
Continued Inouye: "The bill terminates the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program due to excessive cost growth and constantly changing requirements. The committee believes that alternatives exist today to meet the Army and Marine Corps' requirements to recapitalize and competitively upgrade the Humvee fleet, and supports funding for those programs."
But it might not be curtains just yet for JLTV: Other lawmakers could still fight to try to keep it. The defense firms in the running to build the vehicle -- including BAE Systems and Navistar; Lockheed Martin; and General Tactical Vehicles, a venture of General Dynamics Land Systems and Humvee-builder AM General -- know their way around the Hill, and they also may have something to say about whether the program should go forward.