Home News Marine aviators in crisis as funds begin running dry

Marine aviators in crisis as funds begin running dry

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U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Sean McHugh, an AV-8B Harrier pilot with Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542, sits in his Harrier after arrival to Chitose Air Base, Japan, Dec. 5, 2016. Following the arrival of the squadron’s Harriers, a press conference was held to acknowledge questions pertaining to the aircraft and the Aviation Training Relocation Program. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory)
U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Sean McHugh, an AV-8B Harrier pilot with Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542, sits in his Harrier after arrival to Chitose Air Base, Japan, Dec. 5, 2016. Following the arrival of the squadron’s Harriers, a press conference was held to acknowledge questions pertaining to the aircraft and the Aviation Training Relocation Program. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory)

The Marine Corp deputy commandant for aviation said Wednesday that if his service doesn’t receive more money, it can’t continue to fund its aviation requirements.
“If I don’t get more money, I’ll stop flying in July or August,” said Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, in a story by The Marine Times.

During a Defense Writers Group breakfast, Davis said Marine aviators are flying more hours than Congress has funded with a temporary budget deal and Marine Corps leaders hope lawmakers will provide more money before the end of the fiscal year in September.

“We’re eight percent shy of what we need to fly for our flight hours,” he said. “We’re flying to our plan right now. So I would say we’re running hot on our budget for our flight hour goals.”

In an assessment of Marine Corps capability and readiness, the Marine Corps Commandant’s Posture of the United States Marine Corps President’s Budget 2017 on HQ Marine Corps Website validates Davis’ position.

The posture statement says, fiscal reductions and instability of the past few years have impacted readiness. As resources have diminished, the Marine Corps has protected the readiness of its deployed and next-to-deploy units in order to meet operational commitments. But the statement says reduced resources come at a risk.

Davis said temporary spending measures are just that … temporary.

“If lawmakers pass another temporary spending measure for the entire fiscal year 2017, which would leave funding flat at 2016 levels, the Marine Corps will run out of money for flight hours,” Davis said.

Davis said the country has more sense than to let the Marines run out of working capital.

“I’m highly confident that no one will ask the Marine Corps to stop flying.”

“We’re not seeing a materiel failure component to those aviation mishaps,” Davis said. “It’s mainly human error.”

In one incident, a “perfectly serviceable” AV-8B Harrier went into a spin and crashed in September off Okinawa while taking part in a training exercise, he said.

“That bothers me because I grew up flying Harriers,” Davis said. “We don’t know why it went into a spin. The airplane is supposed to be very spin-resistant. I’ve never spun a Harrier and I’ve got 3,300 hours or something flying a Harrier.”

As the Department of Defense and leaders on the Hill work toward implementing the new administration’s call for increased military spending, Davis said money for flight hours is not the only thing his service needs to keep America safe.

“The No. 1 thing that we can do to help improve readiness on the flightline for the Marine Corps is to fix our spare parts problem,” Davis said. “Across the Department of the Navy, we do not have the spare parts we need — it’s not just the Marine Corps; it’s the Navy as well — to sustain our airplanes and maintain our readiness goals.”

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