Happy Memorial Day

Or really, just a vehicle to talk about inertia–the tendency of things to remain as they are–further to my theme of sunk costs.

The concept is practically archetypal to government agencies such as the US military. However, one service branch seems to be doing more than the others to acknowledge the new reality.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps has killed its Amphibious Assault Vehicle survivability upgrade program as it turns focus to the future and aligns with the new National Defense Strategy.

The service executed a stop work order Aug. 27 to SAIC, which was under contract to perform survivability upgrades to the 40-plus-year-old AAV fleet to include new tracks to enhance mobility as well as increased underbelly armor, blast-mitigating seats, a new engine and transmission along with an assortment of suspension upgrades.

The order “allows [SAIC] to finish the four production control modules that they were building,” Marine Corps spokesman Manny Pacheco said in a statement sent to Defense News. “They have delivered three and we expect the fourth soon.

“All other work will be terminated.”

SAIC has already delivered 10 AAV Engineering and Manufacturing Development versions of the vehicle to the Marines.

The Marine Corps has spent approximately $125 million to date on the AAV Survivability Upgrade, or SU, program and has now identified approximately $96 million in fiscal 2019 funding that the Defense Department and Congress will have to reprioritize, according to Pacheco.

The idea was to keep the vehicles alive into 2035 as the Marine Corps begins to bring online its new Amphibious Combat Vehicle, or ACV, that would slowly replace the AAVs over time.

But in an effort to “better align programs with the National Defense Strategy and congressional guidance to reduce investment in legacy programs and focus buying power on modernization, the Marine Corps made the decision to divest the AAV SU program,” Pacheco said.

The AAV SU program itself was commissioned in recognition of the fact that WW2-style amphibious assaults against dug-in enemies in Northern France or the Pacific archipelago are no longer possible. The Marine Corps, probably the more flexible and mission-oriented of the service branches, has jettisoned its signature battle tactic to “better align programs with the National Defense Strategy.”

marine aav
The dustbin of history

The National Defense Strategy is premised on a Great Powers’ military rivalry with Russia and China. In other words, the US military is funded for World War 3. But, as retired Army Colonel Douglas MacGregor points out, the US military has simultaneously admitted it can’t win World War 3.

As Under Secretary of the Navy, Robert Work identified the problem in the context of future amphibious operations: “The Navy-Marine team will never contemplate littoral maneuver until an enemy’s battle network, capable of firing dense salvos of guided weapons, is suppressed…Thus far we have only argued that some capability to conduct theater-entry operations and littoral maneuver must be retained. But it is fair to ask how much amphibious capacity is needed.”

In other words, the Marine Corps won’t invade China until the Navy and Air Force can establish spectrum dominance so Americans don’t have to see billion-dollar ships on fire and slipping under the waves and dead sailors and marines bobbing in the water. Same goes for that long logistical tail into flat, muddy Russia by several hundred thousand Army troops.

The US can’t win a war against either Russia or China. Even if we did, so to speak, whatever emerged at the end would no longer be the United States. But we still have the funding and structures as if we’re a coherent nation of 132 million people who can fight and win World War 2. The US military lumbers on with a budget bigger than the entire rest of the planet because what else is it going to do? We’ve even legislated ourselves out of being able to garrison the borders–there’s literally no homeland left to defend. Nowhere is home when it also belongs to all the people who haven’t got here yet.

And so with no realistic mission, no real homeland, and no tangible, existential enemy we’ll confront and fight, we wage these ridiculous non-wars against Muslim rabble thousands of miles away, allegedly to oppose Russian or Chinese proxies, or terrorists, or for that god-awful Freedom.

Thank you to all the brave, competent and patriotic men and women who serve in the US armed forces, but I’m not sure what your mission is at this point.


2 thoughts on “Happy Memorial Day

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