Friday, June 11, 2021

Marine Corps Force Design 2030. When it comes to missions, “in” is integrated deterrence. “Out” is seizing and holding terrain.


A Narrow Focus on Success in the Indo-Pacific

When it comes to missions, “in” is integrated deterrence. “Out” is seizing and holding terrain. Yet in Europe and elsewhere right now, the nation is watching Russia seize and hold terrain on a regular basis. In Asia, if the United States were to not able to stop a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, then those forces would ultimately need to be evicted from the land by ground forces.

As China and the Indo-Pacific region replaces the Middle East as the center of American strategic attention, Marine Commandant General David Berger seeks to return to the sea and position the Corps as the premier littoral combat force in the region. The central question Berger seeks to answer is, as noted in Force Design 2030, “what does the Navy need from the Marine Corps?” for the joint force to succeed.

The Pentagon’s 2022 budget request offers a reimagined Marine Corps: shrinking its infantry battalions, exchanging cannon artillery for longer ranged rockets and missiles, and, significantly, removing tanks from the Corps completely. The redesigned force will be tailored to projecting force from ship to shore in small, dispersed units, before turning its firepower back to sea to threaten opposing ships. However, as a result of focusing on the need to make naval power more effective in a conflict with China, the new structure potentially creates dependencies on the other services and in some scenarios transfers some responsibilities to the Army.  These are important areas for Congress to explore.


 The Price of Specialization

While the Marine Corps is redesigning itself for the Indo-Pacific, China has chosen a different path for its marine forces, the People’s Liberation Army Navy Marine Corps continues to employ its own tanks and a variety of other armored vehicles, which given their likely focus on an invasion of Taiwan, makes sense. Not oblivious to the possible need for armor, the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 observes, “[h]eavy ground armor capability will continue to be provided by the U.S. Army. Pressured by downward pressure in the defense budget and feeling the necessity to make these changes to the Marine Corps, Gen. Berger has been forced to trade capabilities and end strength within his own service in order to pay for adaptation. Given more funding, he probably would not have made the choices he did. Nevertheless, the resulting new structure constitutes a potential new claimant for Army combat power.

Should unanticipated conditions require armor, artillery and more rotorcraft, the Marine Corps’ need for Army support could cause the mission to stall until additional forces can be deployed.

Some have criticized the Marine Corps’ efforts as too narrowly focused on one enemy—one area.  Former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb notes, these changes “undo the value of the Marine Corps as the one-stop guarantor of a homogeneous tactical readiness that can “go anywhere, fight anybody, and win.”’ Worse, at least today, the Army is likely not prepared nor resourced to fulfill such new requirements.

CSIS’ Mark Cancian observes, “Army support for the Marine Corps, if provided at all, will likely come from the later deploying elements of the Army’s reserve components after the Army’s own needs have been met.” Certainly, theater commanders, if they anticipate the need for armor or artillery, could plan ahead to make Army support available at the point of need, but given unexpected situations, it’s possible the dependence created on Army support could threaten the very flexibility and responsiveness Force Design 2030 is designed to create.

Force Design 2030 is not the first time one of the uniformed services has prematurely reduced its armor capabilities to achieve a promised benefit of transformation. As the Iraq war ended, the Army restructured its last armored cavalry regiment into a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. With the earlier decision to strip divisions of their cavalry squadrons to build organic but less capable reconnaissance units for now-interchangeable brigades supporting the war on terror, the Army’s reconnaissance formations were left without organic tank support. By 2016, however, tanks had been returned back in armored reconnaissance formations, a clear acknowledgment of the value of tanks in near-peer competition.

Story here 



No comments :

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.