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03 Nov 15. GAO: US Marine Corps should not rush ACV development. The Marine Corps’ plan to fast track the development of its next-generation amphibious vehicle could mean some design and mechanical problems might not emerge until after the first systems hit the fleet, according to a government watchdog agency. As the US Marine Corps prepares this month to select two competitors to produce prototypes of its Amphibious Combat Vehicle 1.1, the Government Accountability Office commended the service for following best practices tied to major acquisition programs. But the GAO is also warning Marine officials to keep an eye on two key points.
Developing the first round of ACVs before the preliminary design review is complete “poses risk,” the Oct. 28 report states. That could result in costly modifications down the road. The service’s plan to combine preliminary and critical design reviews into one event — just 90 days after development begins — leaves too little time to address issues, the report states. GAO officials cited the canceled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program as an example of what the Marine Corps should not repeat. The EFV’s critical design review was conducted at a similar stage, but prototype testing continued for three years — long after the findings could inform the design. After 15 years, the $3.7bn program was deemed too expensive to maintain.
“If the ACV 1.1 does not demonstrate the expected amphibious capabilities, then more development than currently anticipated may be required for ACV 1.2 to achieve ship-to-shore amphibious capability and greater effort may be needed to retrofit ACV 1.1 vehicles to achieve the same capabilities,” the report said.
Lockheed displayed its Amphibious Combat Vehicle prototype at the Modern Day Marine expo in Quantico, Va., in September. A new report from the Government Accountability Office warns the Marine Corps against developing the first round of the next-generation amphibious before completing preliminary design reviews. (Photo: Mike Morones/Staff)
Second is the Corps’ plan to conduct development testing and production at the same time. Because a production decision is expected in fiscal 2018, Congress would likely have to approve initial production funds in February 2017 — about the same time that ACV prototypes are delivered.
Lawmakers have shown increasing frustration with military leaders who ask for program funding while providing little to no testing data. Such an approach wasted $14bn on the Army’s failed Future Combat System, which was laden with new technologies that never worked. And the Navy’s new Ford-class carriers are estimated to be more than $6bn over budget. Delivery of the first ship will be at least eight months late.
Marine officials with the Corps’ Program Executive Office Land Systems expressed appreciation for the rigor the GAO put into reviewing the program. Manny Pacheco, a spokesman for the Marine Corps’ PEO Land Systems, said many of GAO’s findings validate the service’s acquisition strategy.
“We also respect the concerns that GAO expressed in some of their findings and are confident that we have processes in place to address those concerns if they become an issue,” he said.
Pentagon officials said GAO’s report “appears to underestimate ACV 1.1’s planned technical maturity and associated risks” and argued that the ACV is beyond traditional preliminary and critical design reviews. Unlike new systems that can be delayed as technologies are developed, this is a modified design of proven systems, and that will reduce fiscal and developmental risk.
“It is important to note that this is not a developmental program but rather the acquisition of a modified system that has been fielded by other countries, and the Marine Corps conducted extensive testing and demonstrations during t