The U.S. Army and Marine Corps still plan to buy a total of almost 55,000 light-duty trucks known as the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle despite the prospect of continued budget cuts, officials said.
The Army aims to purchase about 49,000 of the vehicles, designed to replace about a third of the Cold War-era Humvee fleet, while the Marine Corps plans to acquire about 5,500 of them, officials from both services said at the second day of the Association of the United States Army conference.
"JLTV is a priority," Kevin Fahey, the Army's program executive officer for combat support and combat service support, said during a briefing with reporters. He appeared alongside Col. John Cavedo, the Army's project manager for joint light tactical vehicles, and Lt. Col. Michael Burks, the Marine Corps' deputy to the Joint Program Office for Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.
"We still have a train on the tracks," Cavedo said.
"We are in," Burks said.
The comments added context to statements yesterday from top Army officials that major acquisition programs, including the Ground Combat Vehicle, were in jeopardy because of the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. That may mean the Army will seek to replace Humvees before Bradleys.
Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Md.; Oshkosh Corp., based in Oshkosh, Wis.; and AM General LLC, based in South Bend, Ind., are developing JLTV prototypes.
The Army is still trying determine how many trucks it needs as it downsizes, Fahey said. It plans to submit a report on the subject to Congress sometime next year, he said.
The service already plans to shrink from about 520,000 active-duty soldiers today to about 490,000 around 2017. That figure, however, may drop to 380,000 if sequestration remains in effect, Pentagon officials have said.
The Pentagon faces about $500 billion in automatic cuts through 2021. That’s in addition to almost $500 billion in reductions already included in 2011 deficit-reduction legislation. The first installment totaled about $37 billion and began March 1 after lawmakers were unable to reach an alternative agreement on taxes and spending. The second installment totals about $52 billion and is set to take effect Jan. 1.
If and when the cuts slice into the Army's light tactical wheeled vehicle fleet, officials will try to steer them toward the existing inventory of Humvees rather than the Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, or JLTVs, Cavedo said.
The JLTV quantity for the Army and Marine Corps "remains the target that we're shooting for and reductions to match force structure may come at reduced numbers of 30-year-old Humvees," he said.
The recent government shutdown and short-term funding measure known as a continuing resolution have disrupted prototype testing, Cavedo said. Sometime after Jan. 1, the program office will decide whether to slow spending on the program, he said. The congressional deal that reopened the government will fund agencies through Jan. 15 and raise the federal debt limit through Feb. 6.
The services requested a total of about $135 million for the program in fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1, including $84 million for the Army and $50 million for the Marine Corps, according to budget documents. But that funding -- which is about $50 million more than last year -- is at risk under the continuing resolution, which only provides funding at levels similar to last year, Fahey said.