Marines' worn-out equipment is not being replaced quickly enough, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said Monday, calling the Pentagon's process for fielding new gear "too slow."
New technology takes so long to test and evaluate that it can be obsolete by the time it actually hits the fleet, Neller said at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space exposition outside Washington, D.C.
"As a customer, it just seems to be too slow," Neller said. "There may be good reasons for that, but we've got to go faster because we're behind in many areas and we've got to get this new stuff in the hands of those that we have an obligation to support and make sure that they're successful in whatever mission we give them."
The Defense Department's acquisition system is governed by rules that are a major obstacle to getting the latest and best weaponry into Marines' hands quickly, he said. He acknowledged that fair competition and the ability for companies to protest decisions is important, but he said the process must ensure Marines and other service members have what they need when they need it.
"We've got an obligation to those men and women in our service to give them new gear as soon as we can because the gear that we have has been run really hard for the last 15 years," he said.
Neller's comments were part of a panel discussion he attended Monday along with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft and Paul Jaenichen, administrator of the U.S. Maritime Administration.
One member of the audience suggested that the DoD could simplify its requests for new technology, which can include hundreds of pages worth of requirements.
"Fair enough," Neller responded. "[But] once we agree on what we're going to do and we receive the product, it's got to work," he said to a rousing applause from the audience.
Military equipment is expensive and spending is not increasing, so while the DoD can streamline its acquisition process, Neller said the industry needs to deliver working equipment on time.
"We'll have a conversation about that," he said. "If we're not happy, don't worry about it, I'll tell you."
The Marine Corps is training for the current fight and preparing for future wars, Neller said, so he's urging the defense industry to build better simulators to train ground pounders, much like the holodeck, a virtual reality facility on the television show "Star Trek: The Next Generation."
"That's really what I'm looking for," he said. "How do we do that? Aviation has done a great job: You've got an individual pilot or aircrew in a simulator and they fly their mission. What's the equivalent of that for a rifle company commander or an artillery battalion commander?"