Our nation is in the midst of a challenging economic environment that has forced the Marine Corps to make tough fiscal choices with respect to manpower, procurement, operations and maintenance. Though the fiscal choices made over the past year were difficult, we are confident that we managed risk by shifting capacity in a post-Afghanistan environment towards balanced capabilities across our Corps, while maintaining the high levels of readiness the nation has come to expect of its Marines.
In the fall of 2010, the Marine Corps initiated a force structure review whose mission was to re- shape the Marine Corps while responsibly meeting our national security challenges. Our goal in this effort was to provide the American people with the most ready, capable, and cost-effective crisis response force our nation can afford. For 8.2 percent of the Department of Defense’s budget, the Marine Corps provides our nation 31 percent of its ground forces, 12 percent of its fighter attack aircraft, 19 percent of its attack helicopters and the ability to respond to unexpected crises, from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts, to full scale combat.
Our force structure review resulted in a “purpose-built” Marine Corps that is smaller, but in many ways more capable than the force we had at the onset of the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We have acknowledged the changing nature of the battlefield by increasing our contribution to special operations and cyber warfare, and have lightened the Marine air-ground-logistics task forces by reducing the number of heavy armor and artillery units, and through streamlining our organizational hierarchy.
With a force structure of 182,100, our re-shaped Marine Corps is able to accomplish the missions of the new Defense Strategic Guidance while keeping faith with our Marines, sailors and their families. I am confident that we will be able to maintain our legendary high standards of training, education, leadership and discipline while supporting joint force capabilities across the full spectrum of operations.
As our nation turns its attention to the Pacific, the Marine Corps looks forward to reorienting our focus west to this historic area of operations; in doing so, we will continue to respond to crises and contingencies throughout the world as the President may direct. In line with the strategic guidance, we will recommit ourselves to our long-standing forward-deployed and forward- engaged partnership with the Navy, while returning to our fundamental role as America’s expeditionary force in readiness.