WASHINGTON — The head of U.S. Marine Corps budgets said he’s more confident the Corps’ needs will be addressed in the upcoming fiscal 2024 budget than he was at this time last year about the FY23 budget.
In the last two budget cycles, several of the Marines’ needs have been pushed out of the budget, as the Navy — which funds the construction and maintenance of the amphibious ships the Marines use — grapples with more needs than it can afford.
In FY22, the Marines wanted to start buying their light amphibious warship, but it didn’t make the cut for the budget request. In FY23, the Navy announced it would decommission four Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ships early, buy one last San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock before ending the production line and postpone the construction of the next America-class amphibious assault ship to 2031.
The Marines rely on these larger ships to haul Marine Expeditionary Units, and they want the new light amphibious warship to move around smaller formations as part of emerging operational concepts.
Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, speaking Thursday at a Marine Corps Association event, referred to Marine items cut in the FY23 budget-making process as ones “we were trying to defend, that we were trying to appeal, that we were trying to recover and get those resources back.”
The Marines appeared to be facing a similar challenge earlier this fall, as the Navy and Marine Corps worked to craft a 2024 budget request for the Pentagon’s review. Defense News previously reported the Navy was considering decommissioning another four amphibious ships ahead of their planned retirement.
As the mid-October deadline to finalize the Department of Navy request grew closer, however, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith told Defense News top Navy and Marine Corps leadership were “making genuine progress to ensure that operational commanders have the amphibious ships they need to execute the missions they have been assigned.”
Neither the Navy nor the Marine Corps has disclosed the details of a potential compromise.
“We’ll see what happens in the budget, but as I stand here right now, going into the … post-program review for ‘24, I feel a lot better,” Mahoney said. “Whether it’s wholeness of the program costs, scheduled performance of each of our [major acquisition programs] or other items, I feel better.”
He noted Congress still hadn’t passed a defense authorization bill or a defense spending bill for the current year — the government is operating under a continuing resolution — and that creates some uncertainty. But he insisted he’s in a much improved position.
Mahoney, who spoke at length about the Marines’ vision for its future under its Force Design 2030 modernization effort, said early talks about the FY25 submission are already taking place, and the clarity of the requirement for Marine spending in outyears makes him “feel very, very good about how we entered into the planning and then the programming phase of ‘25.”
Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.