Gen. James T. Conway signed the Service Vision and Strategy document June 18 to guide the Marine Corps into an era beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.
The document, which has been in the works since late fall 2007, reinforces the Corps’ role as the nation’s expeditionary force-in-readiness and defines objectives for continued success.
“We brought in 25 lieutenant colonels and colonels from all of the operational commands and Headquarters Marine Corps to study past trends and patterns relevant to conflict in combat and make an assessment of what the world will look like in 2025,” said Col. Steven Zotti, director, Strategic Vision Group. “This document reflects our findings, subsequent work, and will put us in a better position to deal with emerging challenges in the future.”
Zotti also said every Marine should know that the service-level strategy plans to maintain a persistent Corps presence in volatile areas of the world. The Strategic Vision Group hopes this regional focus will better Marine Corps relationships with partners and minimize the learning curve for crises.
Marine units currently conduct two or three weeks of episodic training in foreign countries before deploying to another region.
“We’ve learned that’s not as useful,” Zotti said. “We need to be around to help other countries build their military forces and keep their problems below the combat level. This doesn’t mean the Marine Corps won’t still be globally capable, it just means we’re going to prioritize our efforts to meet the combatant commander’s demands.”
Another highlighted item in the document involves capitalizing on successes in Iraq’s Al Anbar province and acquiring specialized culture and language training for Marines.
“Operations in Basra showed us that Iraqi units trained by Marines did better than others,” Zotti said. “That’s because our Marines are very capable in taking their skills and teaching others. We just need more trained advisers. That’s something we’re going to work on in cooperation with the Army and Special Operations Command.”
Expanding the Marine Corps’ naval relationships and getting back to its expeditionary roots in terms of leaner and lighter equipment is another top priority for the Strategic Vision Group.
“We’re getting way too heavy as a Corps and we know that,” Zotti said. “But we have to stay lethal on future battlefields, so there’s a balance there. We’re not going back to the ways of light naval infantry, but we can’t continue with some of the heavier programs that we’re currently invested in unless we have some other compensation for those investments.”
Zotti also said bringing both services together should increase the number of Marines on ships, but only in a 21st-century point of reference.
“We’re not going to be out there just guarding the ship’s captain and being shipboard bellhops,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to that.”
The document breaks down several aiming points for the next few years, but it’s not a detailed operations order. However, Zotti said the Marine Corps must modify its battlefield approach and allocate resources in different areas to meet these objectives.
“We understand that future threats aren’t going to be either irregular or conventional,” he said. “We’re going to be fighting in complex environments against hybrid threats, so the Marine Corps has to adapt and become more flexible in dealing with those complicated scenarios and situations. For example, we think in 2025 Pacific Command will have a higher priority than Central Command does today because of the shift in global competition and resources.”
An electronic version of the document will be available on www.marines.mil next week. The commandant will also address it in a video posted to his Web page. Commands and retired general officers will receive hard copies this summer.
“We need to get on it and get about the business of making it a reality,” Zotti said. “At the end of the day, we’re still going to have multi-capable (Marine air-ground task forces) fighting and winning wars.”