U.S. Marine Corps expects budget squeeze to fund fleet modernization

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 04, 2016 6:44 PM

By Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States Marine Corps will try to maintain funding for its plans to modernize its fleet of aging aircraft and ships in the fiscal 2017 defense budget, the commandant of the Marine Corps said on Thursday.

General Robert Neller told Reuters on the sidelines of an event in Washington that there was a difference between the budget expected on Feb. 9 and what the Marines wanted.

"We're going to do everything to protect our modernization," said Neller, who took command of the Marine Corps last year. He did not name any programs in particular that would face cuts, but said everybody had to “pay a little bit to make the numbers.”

Neller said that budgets required a compromise, including how many Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, made by Oshkosh Corp, would be purchased.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday the Pentagon would seek a $582.7 billion defense budget next year and reshape spending priorities to reflect a new strategic environment marked by Russian assertiveness and the rise of Islamic State militants.

Neller said the budget would see money for training and upkeep of facilities.

“The downside of having great facilities is now you've got to maintain them and then we've got old facilities that we want to get rid of," Neller said.

In a speech in California on Wednesday, Carter also said readiness and training for the Marines would be addressed in the budget. Carter said that after years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which required counter terrorism training, the Marine Corps would train for a wider range of needs.

The issue was highlighted on Thursday by Lieutenant General Jon Davis, the top Marine in charge of aviation, who told a U.S. House of Representatives armed services committee hearing that pilots were not receiving enough flying time.

"They're not as good as they should be," Davis said.

(Reporting by Idrees Ali; editing by Grant McCool)