Marines’ $22.2 Billion Mistake?

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The Marines' CH-53K (in case you were wondering, the "CH" doesn't stand for "cheap").

It used to be the Marines were the most penurious of the military services:

— The Army replaced its AH-1 Cobras with AH-64 Apaches, but the Marines kept flying Cobras.

— The Army replaced its UH-1 Hueys with UH-60 Black Hawks, but the Marines kept flying Hueys (and buying them, as we noted last week).

— The Navy replaced its F-18C/D jets with F-18E/F models, while the Marines kept flying F-18C/Ds.

Heck, Battleland can recall writing a story – probably shortly after vulcanization was perfected — quoting Marines boasting that their service was the only one that used retreaded tires on their vehicles.

But things changed a generation or so back. Doing things cheaply no longer seemed a part of the Marine ethos:

— First came the V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor troop carrier that costs about $120 million a copy.

— Then came the F-35B, the costliest version of the costliest airplane in history, starting at $160 million a pop.

The Marines wanted both of these – capable of taking off and landing from their cramped amphibious ships – because without them they’d have to rely on the Navy, or, even worse, the Air Force, for air support (so much for the joint operations mandated under Goldplated-Plugged-Nickels).

But that “requirement” doesn’t explain the Defense Department inspector general’s report released Monday into the Marines’ CH-53K Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopter.

The report is labeled “For Official Use Only” – screw you, taxpayers – but the IG did generously provide the folks who pay for it a synopsis of what it believes is wrong with the program (Battleland took note of its cost last Friday).

The Marines, you see, recently boosted the number of CH-53Ks it wants to buy from 156 to 200.

In the IG’s first look at the Sikorsky CH-53K, it concluded:

The Marine Corps procurement quantity for CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopters in the DoD FY 2013 President’s Budget was overstated by up to 44 aircraft.

The Marine Corps could not support the need to procure a total of 200 aircraft because Headquarters Marine Corps Department of Aviation officials:

— did not follow the Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System Instruction and obtain Joint Requirements Oversight Council approval for the increase;

— did not have requirement studies prepared to determine a procurement quantity in consideration of program affordability;

— incorrectly relied on a 2008 memorandum from the Deputy Commandant for Aviation directing the increase of the procurement quantity to 200 aircraft, without support;

— incorrectly used the 2010-2011 Force Structure Review’s war-gaming scenarios as justification for the quantity increase; and

— did not justify or appropriately consider the impact of the Marine Corps personnel reductions effect on Heavy Lift quantity requirements.

As a result, the Marine Corps risks spending $22.2 billion in procurement and operating and support funding for 44 additional aircraft that have not been justified and may not be needed to support future Marine Corps mission requirements.

The Pentagon‘s most recent price list for its weapons estimates the Marines will spend $28.5 billion on the 200 CH-53Ks, or about $140 million apiece; the IG’s total of $22.2 billion for 44 (not price-)choppers — about $500 million each– includes lifetime operating costs, as well.

Twenty-two billion dollars?

Can’t anybody here play this game?