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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV): Background and Issues for Congress

Andrew Feickert
Specialist in Military Ground Forces

The Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) is an armored amphibious vehicle program that originated two decades ago to replace the 1970s-era Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV). Like current AAVs, the EFV is designed to roll off a Navy amphibious assault ship, move under its own power to the beach, and cross the beach and operate inland. The EFV has experienced a variety of developmental difficulties, resulting in significant program delays and cost growth. The EFV is currently in its second systems design and development (SDD) phase attempting to improve the EFV’s overall poor reliability and performance that it demonstrated during its 2006 operational assessment. If the EFV passes the current SDD in early 2011, it is expected to begin initial production if DOD has not cancelled the program and if it is fully funded.

The improvised explosive device (IED) threat that has plagued operations in Iraq and Afghanistan was not envisioned in 1988 when the EFV program was initiated. The EFV’s low ground clearance and flat bottom make it particularly vulnerable to IEDs; this has raised congressional concern that the EFV, as currently designed, would provide inadequate protection to transported Marines. Another change to the battlefield is the proliferation of longer-ranged, shore-based, antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs) which put the Navy’s amphibious ships disembarking EFVs at their 25-mile operating limit vulnerable to attack.

These battlefield evolutions, as well as the EFV’s program delays and rising costs, and the decision to acquire only 573 vehicles (the original requirement was 1,025) have resulted in many defense experts and officials questioning the need for the EFV. Although some question the EFV’s relevance, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the EFV passed its December 2008 Critical Design Review (CDR) and, with 94% of the system’s design models releasable, that EFV’s critical technologies were mature and its design is stable. The EFV is currently undergoing operational testing, and the Marines should receive the final two prototypes by October 2010 with testing scheduled to run through late January 2011. If the EFV is cancelled, there are possible alternative solutions, including upgrading current AAVs as well as exploring the adaptability of candidate vehicles being considered under the Marine Personnel Carrier (MPC) program for amphibious assault operations. The DOD, the Navy, and the Marines are currently conducting separate studies examining Marine Corps roles and missions, force structure, and equipment, and the results could have a significant impact on the future of the EFV.

Congress has expressed its concern over the EFV’s vulnerability to IEDs during a number of hearings. The House and Senate Armed Services Committees have recommended fully funding the President’s FY2011 EFV budget request of $242.8 million for Research, Technology, Development, and Evaluation (RDT&E) funds. The Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee has recommended providing funding to cancel the EFV program. The subcommittee recommended cutting $204 million from the FY2011 $243 million budget request and added $185 million to cancel the program. If the EFV program is continued, it will require $866.7 million in research and development and $10.226 billion in procurement funding for a total of $11.163 billion to complete the program and field 573 EFVs. Each EFV is expected to cost about $24 million apiece.

Potential issues for congressional consideration include the vulnerability of the Navy’s amphibious fleet and EFVs, the potential ramifications if the EFV fails its second round of operational testing, and what role to take in ongoing Marine Corps studies that could be used to determine the fate of the EFV program.

Date of Report: November 9, 2010
Number of Pages: 14
Order Number: RS22947
Price: $29.95

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