President Obama’s 2017 budget request for the Marine Corps released Feb. 9 includes a small increase over last year’s funding, while continuing to procure expensive F-35B joint strike fighters.
The Marine Corps is requesting a total of $23.4 billion base funding, only about $200 million more than was enacted in 2016. The base budget includes $12.8 billion for military personnel, $6 billion for operations and maintenance and $1.4 billion for procurement. The Marine Corps’ request is a small piece of the Navy’s total fiscal year 2017 base funding of $155.4 billion.
The Corps has requested $1.6 billion in overseas contingency operations (OCO) funding, which is about $100 million less than the service received in fiscal year 2016. Of that total about $1.2 billion will go toward operations and maintenance, $124 million to procurement and $183 million to military personnel.
The Marine Corps’ largest procurement effort continues to be the F-35B joint strike fighter program. In fiscal year 2016 the service received funding for 15 short takeoff and vertical landing variants. For 2017, the Marine Corps is asking for 16 F-35Bs. The multi-role strike fighter will replace the Marine Corps’ aging fleet of McDonnell Douglas AV-8B Harrier II aircraft and the F/A-18 Hornet A/B/C/D variants.
The rotary wing aircraft request saw some reductions over 2016 levels. “FY17 reflects small decreases in AH-1Z and MV-22B aircraft for fiscal balancing,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. William Lescher during a budget briefing Feb. 9.
The Marine Corps requested 16 MV-22B Ospreys, three fewer than it received in 2016. The fiscal year 2017 base budget supports the procurement of 24 AH-1Z attack and UH-1Y utility helicopters, five fewer than the service received in last year’s budget.
However, the Marines will begin procuring the new CH-53K King Stallion in 2017. The heavy-lift cargo helicopter will replace the Marine Corps’ CH-53E Super Stallion, which first entered the fleet in 1980. The first two low-rate initial production aircraft are slated for fiscal year 2017, which is consistent with the previous budget. The service still plans to procure four of the helicopters in fiscal year 2018, seven in 2019, 13 in 2020 and 14 in 2021.
As for shipbuilding, the proposed budget includes $1.6 billion for the procurement of one amphibious warfare assault ship in fiscal year 2017. Additionally, two ship-to-shore connectors have been requested in 2017 at cost of $128 million. The connector serves as a replacement for the landing craft air cushion, which is reaching the end of its service life and provides Marines with the capability to move assault forces from amphibious ships to the beach.
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