USA — Gates Orders Marine Corps Force Structure Review

SAN FRANCISCO — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates has ordered a thor­ough force struc­ture review of the Marine Corps to deter­mine what an expe­di­tionary force in readi­ness should look like in the 21st cen­tu­ry.

Gates gave the order today in a speech here at the Marines’ Memo­r­i­al Club & Hotel as part of the George P. Shultz lec­ture series. 

The Marine Corps review is part of a much larg­er effort through­out the depart­ment to under­stand the world as it is today and what the mil­i­tary needs will be tomorrow.

“All of the mil­i­tary ser­vices have been chal­lenged to find the right bal­ance between pre­serv­ing what is unique and valu­able in their tra­di­tions, while at the same time mak­ing the changes nec­es­sary to win the wars we are in and pre­pare for the like­ly future threats in the years and decades to come,” the sec­re­tary said. 

There are ques­tions about the mis­sion of the Marine Corps, Gates said. Before World War II, the Marines very suc­cess­ful­ly con­duct­ed “small wars” in the west­ern hemi­sphere. The ser­vice also devel­oped the ratio­nale and logis­tics need­ed to con­duct amphibi­ous warfare. 

Dur­ing World War II, the Corps was whol­ly ded­i­cat­ed to land­ing on the beach­es in the South and Cen­tral Pacif­ic. America’s first offen­sive of World War II was when Marines land­ed on the beach­es of Guadal­canal and began the cam­paign against Japan in August 1942. Tarawa, Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima and Oki­nawa are just a few of the land­ings Marines made. 

Since then, Marines have fought on the beach­es, moun­tains and trench­es of Korea, the high­lands and rice pad­dies of Viet­nam, and the deserts of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. Although many of these oper­a­tions saw Marines ini­tial­ly pro­ject­ed from the sea, “they soon turned into long, grind­ing, ground engage­ments,” Gates said. 

The nation does not need a sec­ond land army, Gates said, but rather forces that can deploy quick­ly and sus­tain them­selves for a short peri­od of time. 

“Look­ing ahead, I do think it is prop­er to ask whether large-scale amphibi­ous land­ings along the lines of Inchon (Korea in 1950) are fea­si­ble,” the sec­re­tary said. Anti-access tech­nolo­gies, such as more accu­rate cruise and bal­lis­tic mis­siles, will work to dri­ve the start­ing point for amphibi­ous oper­a­tions far­ther and far­ther out to sea. 

All will gain from a seri­ous and bal­anced look at mil­i­tary mis­sions, with an empha­sis on bal­ance, Gates said. “The Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to face a diverse range of threats that will require a flex­i­ble port­fo­lio of mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties,” he said. The mil­i­tary must be equal­ly adept in coun­terin­sur­gency and full-spec­trum oper­a­tions. Any ene­my is going to con­front per­ceived Amer­i­can weak­ness­es, and how the mil­i­tary responds to asym­met­ric tac­tics must be con­sid­ered, he added. 

Gates said he is wor­ried that in a time of aus­ter­i­ty, that the Defense Depart­ment may be seen by some leg­is­la­tors as a cash cow to fix fund­ing issues in oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies. “One of my favorite lines that I have invoked time and again is that expe­ri­ence is the abil­i­ty to rec­og­nize a mis­take when you make it again,” he said. 

The Unit­ed States has uni­lat­er­al­ly dis­armed four times since World War II, and each time it was a mis­take, the sec­re­tary said. The Unit­ed States cut its mil­i­tary sig­nif­i­cant­ly after World War II, Korea, Viet­nam and the Cold War. 

“After Sep­tem­ber 11th, the Unit­ed States again rearmed and again strength­ened our intel­li­gence capa­bil­i­ties,” the sec­re­tary said. “It will be crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant to sus­tain those capa­bil­i­ties in the future – it will be impor­tant not to make the same mis­take a fifth time.” 

The spig­ot of defense spend­ing that was turned up after the ter­ror­ist attacks is clos­ing, Gates said. Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has agreed to about 1 per­cent real growth in the base bud­get, but the depart­ment needs rough­ly three per­cent growth. Gates has said he will find the sav­ings and allow the ser­vices to rein­vest the mon­ey in more crit­i­cal programs. 

Part of this effort was his announce­ment of a series of effi­cien­cies that will elim­i­nate two depart­ment agen­cies and the U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand. His ini­tia­tive calls for reduc­ing the num­ber of con­trac­tors, elim­i­nat­ing 50 general/flag offi­cers and 150 senior exec­u­tive positions. 

This is the first step in an effort to reshape the “cor­po­rate cul­ture” at the Pen­ta­gon to make every dol­lar count, the sec­re­tary said. The cul­ture must be agile and effi­cient and such that all per­son­nel look at deci­sions with an eye to invest­ing in warfight­er needs, he said. 

Gates worked with Sec­re­tary of State George Shultz dur­ing the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion. “For more than six years, (Shultz) and Ronald Rea­gan formed one of the most suc­cess­ful part­ner­ships of a pres­i­dent and his chief diplo­mat in mod­ern times, a true mod­el for how the rela­tion­ship is sup­posed to work,” he said. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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