Congress could pull back funding for the Marine Corps to continue buying its newest weapon, the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.

Members of the subcommittee on Tactical Air Land for the House Armed Services Committees said Wednesday in their proposed language for the National Defense Authorization Act that they will withhold funding for new M27s by 20 percent until they get more information from Marine Corps’ Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller.

Subcommittee members wants Neller to provide them an assessment on the Marine Corps’ views of last year’s Small Arms Ammunition Configuration Study, or SAAC.

They want Neller’s assessment to include a near- and long-term small arms modernization strategy for the Corps.

The subcommitee’s proposal would still have to pass the full committee, match what the Senate wants to then reach the final bill, which will be voted on later this year. Unlike other directives and proposals in the subcommittee’s text, the push for more info from Neller does not have a date attached.

The SAAC study was a servicewide, multiyear study led by the Army to analyze the use and needs of near-term and long-term small arms and ammo needs. It has informed the ongoing development of the Next Generation Squad Weapon, an overarching program that will result in a new squad automatic weapon and rifle or carbine expected to replace the half-century old M16/M4 platform.

But rather than wait for new developments, Neller began wide fielding of the M27 to Marine infantry units last year after initial equipping began in 2008.

The Corps has fielded 6,500 M27s as of March, with plans to procure nearly 15,000 of the Heckler & Koch rifles.

Marine commanders took some flak at a March hearing when members of Congress questioned why they decided to go with a sole source contract at $3,000 per rifle from a German company.

“Do you believe that it is the best option to not compete a contract that could be as many as 50,814 rifles?” asked Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

But any delays could result in higher costs, as much as $24 million and a two-year delay, responded Lt. Gen. Brian D. Beaudreault, deputy commandant of Plans, Policies and Operations.

The M27 has shown greater lethality and increased range over the M4, striking targets at 600m or farther. An accurized version known as the M38 was selected as the new Squad Designated Marksman Rifle for infantry squads recently.

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.

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