I’ve often written about the divide in the military over the focus of our mission: to fight and train for the next “big war” or to prepare to fight the many “small” wars (which we currently find ourselves in.) That is a bigger question than it seems, because the type of war you plan to fight trickles down to the equipment that is purchased by the Pentagon, the training that troops receive, and the strategic focus that force employment entails.
The Marines have given the Osprey (haunted by past technical issues) a good report card from a successful tour in Iraq, and have deemed it the next primary air mover for the Corps. The Osprey is a great example of a “small war” acquisition, because it facilities a very COIN-centric task: moving a rifle platoon a large distance at high (safe) altitude very quickly.
The EFV was developed to do a more “traditional” Marine Corps task: a beach assault under fire. However, that task is very “big war,” and may have security repercussions with the proliferation of anti armor weapons and anti ship missiles. Also, it has had massive cost overruns:
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform found that major development flaws have pushed up the cost of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program by 168 percent per tank and pushed the production deadline back by eight years.
The Defense Department says it will acquire 593 of the amphibious assault vehicles from General Dynamics at a total cost of $13.2 billion, compared with an earlier projection of 1,025 tanks for $8.4 billion, according to a House Oversight Committee report released on Tuesday.
So if you are the Marines (imagine that) what do you buy? Ospreys or EFVs? This is akin to the Army’s continuing issues with FCS, and how it is relevant to the COIN fight. One simple question (big or small) drives this entire process.