Monday, July 29, 2019

The internal debate within the USMC misses the point. It's not about amphibs, being aviation centric, Marine Special Operations etc...its about the role of Marines into the future.

I've been chewing on the latest and greatest from our New Commandant and I think while he's heading down the right track, he's still missing the bigger picture.

We're all missing that bigger picture.

We've seen lurches from Ship To Objective Maneuver, being Aviation Centric, to needing a minimum of 38 amphibs, to NOT needing 38 amphibs,  must being able to deploy two Marine Expeditionary Brigades simultaneously, to NOT needing to deploy two Marine Expeditionary Brigades and so on.

That's cute.

That's nice.

The real question is what is the role of the USMC in a major conflict. 

Some want to revitalize the idea of Marines storming beaches in WW2.  Others want to see the Marine Corps acting as outer perimeter security for SOCOM while hoping to encroach on 160th territory by providing rides.  Others want to go a step further than even that and to turn over our MEUs not to Combatant Commanders but to SOCOM entirely with our air wing acting as their support and leaving our Ground Combat Element on the pier to be replaced by SOCOM shooters.

Some think that the future is to disband...disaggregate the MEU and use our LHDs as light carriers to fight the naval conflict and then to somehow get the fast movers back for support to the GCE once they land.

A few (very few) think that we should become small wars specialist.  Size and shape the USMC to fight our nation's small wars and then support major conflicts by operating on the periphery.  Sort of a return to the Cold War with the USMC supporting the Northern Flank of NATO while the US Army did the heavy lifting in the Fulda Gap.

The answer to the future lies with the vision laid out by General Conway in "Vision & Strategy 2025".
Our Nation faces challenges that are global in reach
and scope. While today’s Marines are performing
superbly in every clime and place, our institution must
also devote attention to tomorrow’s threats and
It is our obligation to subsequent generations of
Marines, and to our Nation, to always have an eye to the
future — to prepare for tomorrow’s challenges today.
This Vision and Strategy document confirms who we are,
what we believe, and what we do. It establishes the
foundation for our operational concepts and identifies the
critical steps needed to shape our Corps for an
increasingly volatile and uncertain future. It is grounded
firmly in our legislated role as the Nation’s “force in
readiness,” and it will guide our Service so that we are
properly organized, trained, equipped, and prepared for tomorrow’s challenges.
With little warning, our Nation calls its Corps of Marines front and center during its
most challenging times. Responding rapidly to crisis and strategic surprise is an integral
part of our history as a Corps.
In the South Pacific after Pearl Harbor, in Korea after the
communist invasion in 1950, in the jungle outposts of Viet Nam, in the deserts of
Southwest Asia, and in the mountains of Afghanistan — Marines have distinguished
themselves as an expeditionary, multicapable force able to respond and win battles for
our Nation.
We have been prepared in the past because we understood that a force in readiness
must be well-trained, broadly educated, and properly equipped for employment across all
forms of warfare. We believe the individual Marine is the most formidable weapon on
today’s battlefield and will remain so tomorrow.
Whatever the future holds, our emphasis
on making Marines will not change.
Expeditionary excellence requires Marines who are morally, physically, and mentally
tough. Marines must be agile, capable of transitioning seamlessly between fighting,
training, advising, and assisting — or performing all of these tasks simultaneously.
Though our Corps has recently proven itself in “sustained operations ashore,” future
operational environments will place a premium on agile expeditionary forces, able to act
with unprecedented speed and versatility in austere conditions against a wide range of
adversaries. We must be a two fisted fighter — able to destroy enemy formations with
our scalable air-ground-logistics teams in major contingencies, but equally able to employ
our hard earned irregular warfare skills honed over decades of conflict. Our Corps must
serve credibly as a persistently engaged and multicapable force, able to draw upon
contributions from our Total Force, in order to address the full range of contingencies the
future will undoubtedly present. In short, we must be prepared to move with speed, “live
hard,” and accomplish any mission.
Read the blast from the past here. 

My point?

We've seen recent Commandants reinventing the wheel.  We've seen tilts and turns that are not part of the traditional Marine Corps practice.

Our charge is constant and unchanging.

The United States Marine Corps will be most ready when the nation is least ready.

The Marine Corps is identified by the individual Marine and our ethos.  We will be honorable.  We will live hard if necessary.  We will move with speed and a sense of purpose.

We will fight and win our nation's battles.

Where have we gone wrong?  We lost sight of those simple tropes.  We began focusing on hardware and not on the basics.

We've become wedded to technology and eschewed the power of the individual Marine.

Since when has any weapon system (as a former Commandant stated) been worth dying in a ditch over?  Historically the Marine Corps has operated older equipment than the US Army, Air Force and Navy and made it work with outstanding results.

Once we even took pride in it!

State of the Art facilities was once never seen on a Marine Corps installation. You would go to an Army, Air Force or Navy base to see such marvels.

Is this a cry to defund the Marines and to live hard for the sake of living hard?

Hell no!

But it is a call to return to the thinking that made the Marine Corps formidable.  A return to the challenges of peer competition is an opportunity for the USMC to reorient itself for the future thru a return to the past.

Size the force based on the needs of the nation.  Whether that's over 200K or we can shrink to 150K is irrelevant.  What the nation needs we should provide.

Ditch concepts that some believe will make life easier but will have no reality in a future conflict.  If our shipping can be threatened from far out at sea then so will our rotary aviation!  Unless our defense budget becomes sizable beyond recognition then the constraints brought by enemy preparation should be accounted and planned for, not wished away by fanciful planning to conduct 1000 mile raids to knock out anti-air facilities with helo-borne raids via MV-22s.

Does an all stealth force actually make sense in current and projected budgets?  Does it make sense to buy F/A-18E/F/Gs to conduct our carrier mission?  Will it make more sense to fill our super carriers to full capability rather than attempt to disperse firepower to LHDs first?

The list goes on.

First we need to relearn who we are as Marines.  Then we can plan for the future.

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