House Urges Common 5.56mm Round for Army and Marine Corps

M4 Carbine

The House Armed Services Committee called on the Pentagon Wednesday to explain why the Army and the Marine Corps use different types of 5.56mm ammunition for the M16A4 rifle and the M4 carbine, and to develop a plan for a common round.

The Committee also proposed an increase in the Obama administration's request of $1.4 million for upgrades to the M240 medium machine gun to improve the longevity of the weapon and also give a boost to the U.S. small arms industrial base.

The recommendations came from HASC's Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces in deliberations this week on 2016 defense budget.

The subcommittee called on Defense Secretary Ashton Carter for an "explanation" for the difference in ammunition by March 2016.

Carter's report should detail why the Army uses the M855A1 round for the M16 while the Marine Corps stayed with the older M855 round and also used the newer Mk318 Mod 0 round.

The subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, also asked for an accounting of additional costs incurred by the use of the different rounds and called for planning "to eventually transition back to using one standard 5.56 mm combat ammunition round."

The Army adopted the M855A1 in 2010 after years of struggling to find a lead-free replacement for the Cold War era M855.

The Marine Corps had planned to field the Army's M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that some of the bullets did not follow their trajectory or intended flight path.

At a hearing last month, Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, said: "Maintaining two inventories of the same size combat ammunition is probably not the most efficient way to go."

"I just think it looks bad. It makes us all look bad. It appears very wasteful from the outside to have the Marines and the Army not buying the same bullet," Sanchez said.

In its "markup" deliberations on the NDAA, the subcommittee said that "there may be additional costs to the Department of Defense in procuring two types of ammunition rather than just one, which it had been doing before 2009."

The intent of the members was "to encourage the Department to develop a plan to get back to one standard 5.56mm combat round."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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