Pentagon Starts Study of Post-Afghan Marine Corps

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Neil, Aug 4, 2010.

  1. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

    Jun 23, 2010
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    Even as combat operations are causing the highest casualty rates of the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. Marine Corps has begun to examine the size and shape of a post-war force, a top service official said Aug. 3.

    "We're turning our thinking to resetting the Corps - that's the code word - and it has to do with what do we want the Marine Corps to look like once we're out of Afghanistan and assuming there are no infantry battalions in sustained combat operations anywhere in the world," Navy Undersecretary Bob Work told a lunchtime audience in Washington.

    "The basis for this thinking is going to be a Force Structure Review Group (FSRG)," Work said. "It's going to be done primarily at MCCDC [Marine Corps Combat Development Command] and the Marine Corps staffs. It will have input from the outgoing and the incoming Marine Corps commandants."

    Gen. James Amos, the current assistant commandant of the Corps, has been nominated to relieve outgoing commandant Gen. James Conway later this summer.

    The study, Work added, will consider the requirements of major defense planning documents including the Quadrennial Defense Review, completed earlier this year, as well as incorporating "lessons the Marine Corps has learned over the last seven years of war."

    "The FSRG is going to outline the size and organization of the post-Afghanistan Marine Corps," Work explained. "We expect those results sometime in November or December so that they can be thoroughly vetted first, within the Department of the Navy, then within the Department of Defense. So the earliest you might see concrete change in the structure, organization and size of the Marine Corps is in POM 13."

    The Program Objective Memorandum for 2013 is a Pentagon budget planning document that will be done next year.

    "All of the changes are going to be conditions based on what happens in Afghanistan," Work said. "If we're still hard in the fight then the Marine Corps will stay focused on that fight. But we'll at least be thinking about what the Marine Corps might look like."

    Work, who served as a Marine artillery colonel, spoke at a military strategy forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He listed six items "certain to define the character of the future Marine Corps."

    â–  The Marine Corps will "more reflect its naval character." The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have forced the Corps to focus on sustained land combat, Work said, but he noted that the last three commandants have said in their guidance that "we want to get back to our naval roots." The result, he said, would be a "tighter linkage with the United States Navy."

    Marines will begin operating from a variety of new platforms like the Littoral Combat Ship and Joint High Speed Vessel, and "should come up with new and innovative ways to deploy Marines - in smaller packages, with distributed capabilities." The Corps will also review its tactical aviation plans to make sure the Navy and Marine Corps "are in complete sync" and can afford what they want.

    â–  "The Equipment Density List will be higher than the pre-war EDL." Even small Marine units, Work said, have become so spread out in combat that they need more equipment, including additional weapons and communications gear.

    â–  Increased reliance on unmanned systems. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Work said, will soon be unveiling a new vision of unmanned systems in the Navy and Marine Corps.

    â–  The future force will be more energy-efficient than today, Work declared, including more reliance on solar power. The Marine Corps is in the forefront of establishing tactical energy savings, Work said, with new systems that can have a major impact on the battlefield of the future. Less reliance on gas or oil fuel, he noted, would mean fewer logistics convoys, freeing vehicles and Marines for other duties.

    â–  Marine gear and vehicles will need to be lighter, he said, noting that "Marines have become heavier across the board." The Corps is producing, Work added, a ground vehicle strategy to address the issue.

    â–  The Corps, Work stressed, "will be capable of conducting amphibious assaults and joint forcible entry operations."

    Work noted that the Corps and the Navy have settled on a fleet of 33 amphibious ships, having deemed the "high-end requirement" of 38 ships unaffordable. Those 33 ships, he said, could carry two Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEBs), but not all their support equipment. "But it would accomplish the mission," he said.

    In reviewing amphibious ship needs, the Navy Department - which includes the Navy and Marine Corps - "was not moved by arguments that amphibious assault is obsolete," he observed, and is working to adapt amphibious tactics to a world where potential enemies have greater access to precision weapons.

    "We acknowledge the bad guys are getting guided weapons," he said, and that "we will be pushed out and we will have to operate differently."

    Major questions, Work admitted, remain to be answered about the timing and sequence of amphibious assaults. "This will depend a lot on the U.S. Air Force," he said, noting the current effort to create a new concept of joint operations called Air Sea Battle. "The Air Force will be central, as will the Army with follow-on forces," he added.

    Another major issue to be decided is how far from shore to launch an assault once local superiority has been achieved. "We haven't answered that since 1986," Work declared, even though many Marine Corps and Navy planners assume the distance to be 25 nautical miles. "It may turn out to be 25 nautical miles, it may be greater, it may be less. But we will make the case based on analysis."

    The nature of an enemy's counter-attack also is being examined, he said, but he ended on an upbeat note.

    "This is a time for a lot of innovation," Work said, "and I'm very bullish on the Marines and their future."

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