A Republican lawmaker and former Marine has heard from a number of Navy SEALs reporting a shortage in combat rifles.
The complaints have led Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., Calif.), who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, to question how the Naval Special Warfare Command is spending its budget and whether "wasteful spending" has produced the problem.
The Associated Press reported:
One of the SEALs who contacted Hunter blamed a slow, penny-pinching bureaucracy that rarely seeks input from the service members who use the gear, according to a brief excerpt of his comments that the congressman’s office provided to The Associated Press. Delays of as long as three to four years paralyze the acquisition system, the SEAL said. Once an item has finally been approved for purchase, new and better gear may be available, triggering the same lengthy screening process to see if it’s worth getting instead. Ammunition also is in short supply for training, the SEAL said, because the bulk of it is being used for combat missions.
Hunter, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, wrote a letter to Rear Adm. Brian Losey, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, regarding the issue. Specifically, Hunter asked Losey to provide full details on how the command’s budget was spent in 2015. Losey indicated that he would respond to Hunter’s letter by Wednesday.
According to Hunter, the alleged combat rifle shortage should not be attributed to a lack of funds. In the letter, he wrote that the command’s operation and maintenance budget was boosted almost $11 million between 2014 and 2015. However, Hunter wrote that it is "suffering from budgetary constraints and lack of funding impacting the ability to equip, train, and support the SEALs’ critical needs."
Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told Hunter and his colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee last week that part of the reason for the perceived shortages could be the maintenance that highly-used rifles need before being used again.
Votel said that he was looking into the issue and that "immediate action" would be taken if combat readiness of the Navy SEALs is being adversely affected.