Marines want money for more ships, missiles, sensors and a robust network to make its future far-flung war-fighting plans work.
Released Monday, the president’s proposed Pentagon budget includes the Department of the Navy’s fiscal year 2023 request, which outlines specific funding goals that will affect Marines, from current gear to new systems, training, pay and future research and development.
The big-ticket items ― ships and missiles ― are critical to the Corps’ future war-fighting vision. All see funding increases, but not exactly at the level or timing that Marine leaders have wanted.
For example, the light amphibious warship, which Marine leaders have been pushing to be procured by 2023, will have to wait until at least 2025, according to the new budget.
Despite what the president’s budget proposal says, Congress will have its say ― and its members often adjust spending both up and down.
In operations, the budget funds 40 Navy and 13 Marine Corps cyber mission force teams and a currently forward-deployed total of 29,200 Marines as of March.
The Navy’s plan for battle force ships sits at 295 in the fleet with 110 forward deployed. By fiscal year 2027 that number drops to 280 under existing funding plans.
However, Meredith Berger, who spoke with media members on Monday as she temporarily performs duties of the under secretary of the Navy, said that numbers for the future fleet range from the “mid-300s upward of 500,” depending on the varied of crewed and uncrewed vessels that make up the ultimate mix.
In recent years, Navy brass have pushed for a 355-ship fleet primarily made up of crewed vessels.
The total, Department of the Navy budget request hits $230.8 billion. More than three-quarters of that budget funds Navy priorities while slightly less than one quarter goes to Marine Corps-specific items.
Within the Marines’ $50.3 billion budget request, about one-third, or $17.29 billion, pays for personnel. That’s nearly $1 billion more than the 2022 budget. The Marine Corps personnel plan also is trimming the service’s end strength for fiscal year 2023, cutting 1,500 Marines for an end strength of 177,000.
The total budget request from the Corps comes in at nearly 2%, or under $1 billion, higher than 2022.
Another one-third, or $16.3 billion, pays for operations and maintenance, which is up by nearly $1 billion over 2022.
One quarter, or $12.23 billion, pays for procurement. That number is slightly lower, down a quarter of a billion dollars.
Research and development saw a slight uptick from just under $3 billion in the 2022 budget to $3.06 billion in the 2023 budget request.
The smallest slice of the pie goes to military construction and family housing at $1.46 billion, lower than the $2.27 billion authorized for fiscal year 2022.
The Navy wants to spend $6.4 billion toward Marine Corps Force Design 2030 initiatives.
Those categories include fires, sensors and the network.
In the fires category, the Corps is looking for $4.8 billion total spending, down slightly from the $5.2 billion received in the 2022 budget.
Most of that money, $4.3 billion, will go to the F-35 Lightning II.
The rest is split among four programs ― the Navy/Marine Corps expeditionary ship interdiction system, or NMESIS; long range fires; organic precision fires and long-range unmanned surface vessels, or LRUSVs.
The NMESIS is a key system for how the Marine Corps wants to flex its capabilities with the new expeditionary advance base operations concept, or EABO.
The ship-killing mission and its joint light tactical vehicle platform have seen testing and evaluation in the Pacific in recent years. The system is in the hands of rocket artillery Marines for further tactical refinement currently.
And the ship-killer is getting a spending boost. In 2021 spending was at $28 million, which jumped to $208 million in 2022. The Corps is asking for $345 million in 2023.
Research and development to continue integrating and improving the missile comes in at $43 million in spending for this request, down from the $103 million.
Long range fires as a whole saw a drop though, from $184 million in 2022 down to $80 million in 2023.
Organic precision fires rose slightly from $42 million in 2022 to $45 million in 2023.
The newest program that Marines hope will help fuel disparate logistics for far-flung Leathernecks on small Pacific islands is the LRUSV, a long-range unmanned surface vessel that planners want to use to sent supplies ― fuel, food, medicine and ammo ― to Marines without the need for manned ships.
That program saw a decent drop, declining from $28 million in fiscal 2022 to $18 million in fiscal 2023.
To get those fires on target, the Corps is investing in better sensors.
The total spending pitch is slightly lower than 2022, at $873 million.
The main systems in that category include the ground/air task-oriented radar, or G/ATOR, the MQ-9A Group 5 drone and the Marine Air Ground Task Force family of systems.
The G/ATOR’s funding has been ongoing since it first fielded in 2018, but with the procurement and fielding of a number of these systems in recent years spending has lowered. Marines got $431 million in the 2022 budget. For 2023 the Corps seeks $183 million.
The MQ-9A is the Corps belated step into long-range, persistent drones at scale. The Corps had a meager $12 million to work within fiscal 2021, but saw a boost to $323 million in 2022 and a request for $484 million in the proposed 2023 budget.
That funding will purchase five new drones. Marines want to buy another five in fiscal year 2024, bringing the total number of MQ-9 Reapers to 10. There are no plans in this budget to purchase more Reapers through fiscal 2027.
The MAGTF electronic warfare systems also rose substantially, from $22 million two years ago in fiscal year 2021 to $206 million for fiscal 2023.
To connect those sensors and shooters and everything in between, the Corps looks to spend a lot more on its network.
That network includes the Marine Corps Enterprise Network; Network on the Move; Secure Expeditionary Resilient Position, Navigation and Timing, or SERPENT; Wideband Satellite Communications and Integrated Broadcast Radio.
In total, network systems spending rose from $355 million in fiscal year 2021 to a proposed $683 million in funding for fiscal 2023.
The highest ticket item was the enterprise network, coming in at $525 billion in this proposal.
The Network on the Move spending dropped to $60 million, down $15 million from the 2022 budget.
SERPENT, a new program, saw its spending rise 10 times from fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2022, but remain steady at $40 million.
Wideband satellite communications more than doubled in spending from $22 million in 2022 to $50 million in this 2023 proposal.
Integrated Broadcast Radio dropped by $1 million to a $6 million request.
People and readiness
Beyond buying new items or keeping older systems running, the Navy budget request also looks to fund research and development to improve systems and add new capabilities.
The MQ-9 Reaper drone, for example, has a request of $97 million to extend its range. The Corps spent $16 million on that program in fiscal 2022.
Spending research on the large unmanned surface vessel, to tote supplies to Marines on distant, austere island outposts, rose from $103 million in fiscal 2022 to $147 million in the proposed 2023 budget.
Marine Corps readiness spending ticks up to $3.8 billion from $3.5 billion each of the past two years.
About $1.2 billion of that is focused on readiness for the Marine expeditionary forces. Some of that also is marked for updating the Corps’ personnel management processes and systems, according to official documents.
Spending to maintain ground equipment holds at $200 million annually. But that also only funds ground equipment depot maintenance at 80% of the total requirement.
Marine installations and facilities see a slight bump, with the request asking for $4 billion, up from $3.9 billion in 2022.
Personnel spending for active-duty Marines rose in this request from $15.6 million in 2022 to $16.4 million in 2023.
That’s split into the following categories: $14.9 million for pay, allowances and benefits; $419,000 for permanent change of station travel; $1 million for health care accrual.
*Correction: This article has been updated to accurately reflect the dollar amounts listed in the Marine Corps proposed budget under personnel costs.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.