Report: Fewer than half of Marine Corps aircraft ready to fly

The deputy commandant for programs and resources of the Marine Corps, Lt. Gen. Gary Thomas, says that readiness in the aviation community is falling far short of the standards set for readiness.

The deputy commandant said less than half the Marine Corps's aircraft are ready to fly – far short of the 75% goal the Corps sets for itself. 

Washington Examiner:

The service's goal is to have 75 percent of its aircraft on the flight line ready to go, a number he called "reasonable" since routine maintenance will always take some aircraft out of commission.

But the actual number now is just 45 percent, mostly due to aircraft exceeding their planned service life, Thomas said. The statistic seemed to shock Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee.

"I'm sorry, can we go back for a second," Turner said. "That's pretty abysmal. To have that be closing the gap, we must have been in dire straits."

Thomas also said the service has identified a capability gap when it comes to keeping forces safe in vehicles.

"If you look at some of our current vehicles, they no longer are adequate for the types of threats that they face in terms of protecting our Marines," Thomas said.

Oshkosh Defense is building a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle for the Marines that Thomas said will help better protect troops from current threats.

Other capability gaps include counting an emerging threat from drones, and coping with a fleet of amphibious vehicles that is 40 years old, Thomas said.

The situation must be dire, indeed, for the deputy commandant to say anything about it.  That's because the Marines are not a branch of the service to complain about the amount of money they get from the Defense Department.  They take what the brass gives them and make do.  They are not in the habit of pointing fingers or whining about budget cuts. 

The blame for this unacceptable state of affairs rests with Republicans, who signed on to a budget deal in 2011 that included the notion of "sequestration" – a budget gimmick that cut the same amount from the Pentagon as was cut from domestic discretionary spending.  The result – as predicted at the time by defense spending hawks – has been little short of disastrous.  Readiness in all the services has been drastically affected, and some vital programs have been either canceled or cut to the bone.

President Trump wants to remedy that situation, but it will take several years of additional spending to fix it:

President Trump has proposed a $603 billion defense budget in fiscal 2018 to help fill some of these gaps and improve readiness across the military, but many lawmakers on Capitol Hill have said that number is not high enough. Instead they are pushing for the $640 billion topline championed by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

"While we cannot repair all of the damage done as a result of sequestration in a single year, we can and should do more than this level of funding will provide," Turner said. "For national security reasons, we cannot afford to wait until 2019 to begin to rebuild our military."

Some budget-cutting hawks in Congress want a dollar-for-dollar cut in discretionary spending for every dollar of additional funds for the military.  They are probably not going to get it, given the president's expansive agenda for tax cuts and infrastructure spending.  But compared to the increases in military spending in the early 1980s, the amounts being asked for by President Trump are fairly modest.  Almost all Republicans and even many Democrats support restoring the readiness of our troops if they must go into combat.

And that includes the Marines, who are the sharp end of the stick of American foreign policy and the first to be deployed where trouble rears its head.

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