Marine Corps:

Improving Amphibious Capability Would Require Larger Share of Budget Than Previously Provided

NSIAD-96-47: Published: Feb 13, 1996. Publicly Released: Feb 13, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Marine Corps' and Navy's capability to conduct amphibious assaults, focusing on the: (1) status of the amphibious fleet; (2) Marine Corps' and Navy's plans to better conduct amphibious operations; and (3) cost of planned changes and how they will affect future defense budgets.

GAO found that: (1) the Marine Corps and the Navy currently have the capability to conduct amphibious operations, but the current amphibious fleet has reduced vehicle lift capability and other equipment have operational limitations that limit their effectiveness; (2) to modernize their capability and allow them to effectively implement the new warfighting concept, the Marine Corps and the Navy plan to buy new amphibious ships, aircraft, and other systems; (3) however, this modernization has been delayed and costs have increased; (4) the Marine Corps and the Navy estimate that it will cost about $58 billion to modernize the amphibious force over the next 25 years; (5) GAO's analysis of the Department of Defense's (DOD) fiscal years (FY) 1996-2001 Future Years Defense Program showed that the Navy and the Marine Corps plan to spend a much larger share of their procurement funds to buy upgraded equipment for amphibious operations than has been the case for most of the past 40 years; (6) beyond FY 2001, the Navy and the Marine Corps will need to continue allocating a large share of available procurement funds for amphibious equipment to avoid delays; (7) this could be a major challenge for the Navy because between FY 2002 and 2005 there is more than a $16-billion gap between the projected shipbuilding budget and the cost estimate to build all the ships planned for these years; (8) amphibious programs are competing for funding with other major planned procurements, such as the Navy's F/A-18E/F combat aircraft, DDG-51 destroyer, additional surface combatants, and a new attack submarine, the Air Force's F-22 tactical aircraft, and the Army's Apache helicopter; (9) if the Congress determines the amphibious capability requirements to be valid and wishes to support the planned amphibious programs, three options seem plausible: (a) increase Navy and Marine Corps procurement funding; (b) spend less on other Navy or other services' planned procurements or other parts of the defense budget; or (c) implement some combination of the first two options; and (10) these are the trade-offs that the Congress and the senior DOD leadership will have to decide.

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