If sequestration’s annual spending cuts continue past this year, the Marine Corps will lose 8,000 in troop strength, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos said today.
“I don’t want this to happen,” the nation’s senior Marine told the Defense Writers Group here. Ongoing sequester cuts will lead to readiness risks, he said, but Corps leaders are working to ensure America will have “the best Marine Corps it can afford.”
Amos said he’s already done the unpleasant work of planning for sequester-related spending cuts beyond fiscal year 2013. Before this fiscal year’s sequester cuts took effect March 1, he said, a “very, very small group” of Marine Corps leaders took a look at what would happen to the force if that provision of the 2011 Budget Control Act did become law.
Amos said the Marines’ active-duty force is now at about 194,000, and originally was planned to decrease to 184,000 by the end of fiscal 2017. Sequester dropped that to 182,000, he said, and future across-the-board sequestration spending cuts of $500 billion over 10 years ultimately would lead to an active-duty end strength of 176,000 Marines. The current 27 Marine Corps active-duty infantry battalions are set now to reduce to 23, but would drop further with more troop cuts, Amos said.
“I know exactly how many battalion that’ll be, but I’m not going to reveal it this morning, because the secretary of defense hasn’t made his decisions on any of this yet. … There will be battalions in there, and there will be squadrons, there will be logistics battalions, and there’ll be some headquarters,” Amos said.
As budget pressures continue, the general said, cost will drive whether Marine Corps plans for new amphibious and ground tactical vehicles go forward. The commandant said he’s looking for practicality in an amphibious combat vehicle designed to get Marines from ship to shore.
“What I really need is a Ford F-150,” he added. “I don’t need a Cadillac Escalade.” Of the joint light tactical vehicle, he added similarly that developers must get the cost down, “or I’m not going to buy it.”
Amos noted Pentagon leaders have spent recent weeks studying the strategic choices and management review Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered earlier this year. Amos said while no decisions have been made yet, the review tees up a range of strategic choices the department will have to make based on a $500 billion “bill” levied over the next decade.
The Marine Corps will spend its dollars to preserve its quick-reaction capability and support national strategic priorities such as the Asia-Pacific region, Amos said, but priorities come with a price. If Marine Corps strength drops to 176,000, he said, the force will lose its rotational combat capability.
“If we go to war, some major war somewhere, we’re going to go and we’re going to come home when it’s over. … There’s no elasticity to rotate forces if we go below 182,000,” he said.