This letter refers to a recent George Will column in which he described a recent restructuring of the U.S. Marine Corps proposed by the current Commandant, Gen David H. Berger. Essentially, the intent is to reorient the Corps to be ready for a future war with China, which the Pentagon now sees as the most significant looming threat to U.S. military superiority.
Berger wants the Marines to return to its naval roots. His vision is a more nimble amphibious “force in readiness.” To do this he is proposing shedding quite a few of the old “legacy” weapons. Over the next 10 years he wants to jettison tank companies, towed artillery, some of the amphibious assault companies, helicopter lift and helicopter assault squadrons. He would also reduce force size by 12,000 Marines.
With fewer manned fighter jet squadrons and smaller amphibious ships, the Corps would leave land wars in North Korea, Europe and the Middle East to the Army. The Corps would be equipped for naval campaigns in the western Pacific against China. These ideas have support from Navy leadership, but not everyone is “on board.”
By configuring itself to counter China, the Marines may not be able to pivot to a more prominent yet unseen threat. The Corps has had to fight land wars in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. The Army has been too small to keep the Corps out of sustained land combat. The Marine Corps could be ill-equipped and irrelevant.
Gen. Berger is properly planning and proposing a Marine Corps for the future. In war-gaming, and making these proposed equipment and structure changes, the Corps must be more flexible to counter any threat, not just China.
That will certainly include not being a de facto second land army configured only for land warfare.