How Politics Fails to Provide: Marine Sniper Rifle

The marine sniper rifle is an example of how the government fails in providing goods and services.

What happens when the people who chose the tools are different from the people who use the tools? The tool users find that they are not equipped the way they ought to be.

The Washington Post published a story yesterday about how, despite prodigious military spending, Marine snipers are outgunned by the Taliban and many other armies.

The Marine Corps is known for fielding older equipment. In the 1991 Gulf War, when the Army was driving the brand-new M1A1 Abrams battle tanks, the Marines crossed into Kuwait with the aging Pattons — tanks that rolled through the streets of Saigon in the ’60s. In 2003, when they entered Iraq again, Marine snipers carried the M40A1 sniper rifles, many of which began their careers shortly after the end of the Vietnam War.

Today, the Marines’ primary sniper rifle, a newer variant of the M40, still shoots roughly the same distance: 1,000 yards.

Current and former Marine Corps snipers say their hardware doesn’t match the capabilities of the other services, not to mention what is in the hands of enemies such as the Taliban and the Islamic State.

“It doesn’t matter if we have the best training,” said one reconnaissance sniper who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to talk to the media. “If we get picked off at a thousand yards before we can shoot, then what’s the point?”

McCullar, who was also an instructor at the Marine Corps’ main sniper school in Quantico, Va., until this month, when he left the service, voiced similar sentiments.

“With an average engagement of 800 yards, you’re already ruling out a lot of our weapons,” McCullar said.

The article lists weapons that fire 1,600 yards. Obviously, the Marines should not have a second-rate weapon that leaves them vulnerable to others when they are still too far away to use their rifle.

They also need a heavier round like what is used by many other armed forces. Marine snipers report having to worry about weather conditions making it harder to hit their target, because they still use .308 rather than .338.

So why don’t the marines have an optimum rifle? Because politics gets in the way.

They trace the problem to the relatively small Marine sniper community that doesn’t advocate effectively for itself because it is made up of junior service members and has a high turnover rate. Additionally, snipers say that the Marine Corps’ weapons procurement process is part of an entrenched bureaucracy resistant to change.

I’m sure many other military organizations also have problems with “an entrenched bureaucracy.” But the high turnover rate means that there are not many people willing to fight the bureaucracy and insist on a proper weapon.

This is probably not as bad a problem as dealing with a secret list that keeps veterans waiting for needed medical care. But it does show you how easily the government messes up the job of distributing needed resources. This would be another example of why increasing the role of government in supplying our needs is a really bad idea. In other words, everyone should have known Obamacare would never deliver on its promises.