Marine Corps leaders have complained about contending with a shortage of certain missiles, rockets and artillery rounds for years. But with new funding allotted in the president's fiscal 2018 budget request, they may be close to fixing the problem.
In 2015, then-Commandant Gen. Joe Dunford told lawmakers the service was running short on its Javelin and BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile systems, as well as its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a truck-launched artillery system.
"It's been a decision that we've made as we try to balance risk," Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the time.
On Tuesday, the commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command said the service is in the midst of an effort to restore depleted weapons caches.
"During the last year and into this budget year, we are plus-ing up all three of the Javelin, the TOW and the HIMARS, to include the new HIMARS [Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System-Alternative Warhead] round," Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh said. "And I think with the additional money that Congress has been giving us, the secretary of defense has had us focused on near-term readiness, along with filling holes, as we've called it, in '18."
According to budget request documents released in late May, the Corps wants $41 million for Javelin missiles in 2018, compared with just $1 million in fiscal 2017. For other guided missile systems, $86 million in funding is requested, compared with $49 million the previous year. And $60 million is requested for HIMARS systems, double the enacted funding in 2017.
"We're looking at more modernization growth into '19, and [that includes] filling holes in our ammunition accounts," Walsh said. He added that the demands of ongoing combat operations against ISIS have caused other weapons stores to be depleted, necessitating additional funding to replenish them.
"As you've probably read in the paper, we've been firing a lot of 155mm [high-explosive] rounds in Syria and Iraq," he said, referring to the ammunition fired from M777 howitzers. "So that's an area that we're funding and plus-ing up as well."
Last March, a small contingent of Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit entered Iraq to set up a fire base near Mosul, where they could support the coalition fight against the ISIS stronghold with artillery fire. That position was eventually taken over by Army troops.
In March of this year, Marines with the 11th MEU were sent into Syria to man an artillery position near Raqqa to support an assault on ISIS' self-declared capital city. That position remains active.
The 2018 budget request asked for $20 million for Marine Corps 155mm howitzer systems, double the funding enacted in the previous two years combined.