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Marine Corps restructuring not an easy subject, with no easy answer

By Sgt. Justin M. Boling | | September 18, 2013

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Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, testified to and answered questions from the House Armed Service Committee during a hearing on Sequestration planning for fiscal year 2014 in Washington, Sept. 18.

Amos and the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made their cases to the committee and reported their planning and the effects of projected austerity fiscal policy on their forces.

“Our internal review re-designed the Marine Corps to a force that I could simply afford under sequestration,” Amos said. “This was not a strategy driven effort. It was a budget driven effort.

 “Our exhaustive research, backed by independent analysis determined that a force of 174,000 Marines is the smallest force that can meet mission requirements.”

Amos also stressed an operational environment with a rise in man-hours and cost to maintain aging equipment and ensuring operational readiness by ending infrastructure sustainment and modernization.

“I am particularly concerned about the long-lasting and devastating impacts of sequestration,” Amos said. “Scheduled tiered readiness is not an option for the Marine Corps— We must be prepared when crises erupt. “ 

Maj. Gen. Frank Mackenzie, the Marine Corps representative to the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, worked to look beyond strategical needs and develop a Corps, which meets the nation’s sequestration budget.

“The force structure of a 174,000 is designed to posture the Marine Corps for the future in a resource constrained environment,” Mackenzie said. “It is not an ideal number, but it forces us to look at other perspectives besides the simple strategic requirements.”

The Marine Corps delivered a strategic drawdown number of 186,000 to the President of the United States in 2011, which would allow Marines to be ready and to support operations meeting the needs of the Nation. 

“We are going to have fewer Marines, and we are not completely sure what are future responsibilities are going to be,” Mackenzie said. “We are bringing in new equipment, which is going to help us, but at the same time our basic product is the U.S. Marine and they are going to be fewer.”

With less troops, the nation’s use of the Corps may also shift. Mackenzie stated the goal is to provide the best Marine Corps the American people can afford.

“We will emphasize crisis response and forward deployed operations,” Mackenzie said. “These abilities are really where we offer the best bargain for the nation.”

The Marines under the budget-constrained environment will see the dissolution of commands and many operational units. 

“This is a force with levels of risk that are minimally acceptable,” Amos said. “The [174,000 Marine] force accepts risk when our nation commits itself to its next major theater war. In plain terms, we will have 11 fewer combat arms battalions, and 14 fewer aircraft squadrons to swiftly defeat our adversary.  

The remaining units will then pick up the slack by supporting a 1 to 2-dwell scenario. They will deploy six month be home for 12 months and begin the cycle again. Large force engagements, like performed in Afghanistan, would require forces to stay till completion of the campaign, because there are no replacement troops.

The current Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force operating throughout the Mediterranean is the answer to maintaining global operations and the shift into the Pacific.

“The new normal has forced us to answer needs with the use of a Special Purpose MAGTF response,” Mackenzie said. 

These forward based task forces consist of ground, air and support elements and can respond to a range of operational needs quickly, Mackenzie said.

Marines under future budget constraints will do the same mission with less this time, Amos said.

“Sequestration, by its scale and inflexibility will significantly stress our force, degrade readiness and creates a significant risk to our national security — All at a time of strategic rebalancing, all done on a world stage that is chaotic and volatile,” Amos said.   “America will begin to see shortfalls in the military’s ability to accomplish the national strategy. 

“In order to be effective in this new environment, we must maintain our forward influence, strategic mobility, power projection, and rapid response capabilities that Marines are known for today.”



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