Marine Corps Needs To Be A Lighter, Faster, Force, Commandant Says

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Defense Daily
October 18, 2007 By Geoff Fein
The Marine Corps will have to go through an "expeditionary filter" to return to being a lighter, hard-hitting force, according to the Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Addressing attendees at the 18th International Seapower Symposium at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., Gen. James Conway said the service is closer to the Army today than it has been in quite a while.
"We have been operating along side them, intertwined with them, really over the last four, arguably, the last five years. That is a good thing, but in some regards it also has its negatives because we have grown heavier than ever before," he said.
Conway delivered his remarks during the roll-out of the much anticipated maritime strategy, the Navy, Marine Corps' and Coast Guard's vision for how the three services will operate in the changing global environment, interact with each other and with allies.
"We are an expeditionary force by our nature. We go down to the sea in ships. But right now we are very much taking on the profile of a second land Army," Conway said. "We have to go through what I call an expeditionary filter, when we come out of there, to get back to a lighter, faster more hard-hitting kind of capability that is deployable aboard our nation's ships. That is a necessary filter I think we will have to endure."
Although the Marine Corps is closer to the Army, Conway said he recognized, and his guidance clearly says, that the Marine Corps' ties are with the Navy. "We are indeed a naval force and there will come a day, not far I hope, where we are back with the Navy in ways we simply cannot manage now because of this significant commitment in this global war on terror (GWOT)."
Conway had asked his staff to examine what the future might look like in the 2020 to 2025 time frame. He said that was a good period to look at because trying to examine the future out beyond 2025 is just "crystal-balling it."
"If you look shorter than that period of time, at least in our country, you are not able to influence those weapon programs that will carry on for some time," Conway said.
But there is jeopardy even in trying to look that far ahead, he added.
What the Marine Corps assessed is that there are six or seven characteristics of that environment out there that will probably have an impact on U.S. as well as international services, Conway said.
Conway's staff noted that the world's demographics are going to change very dramatically. What they saw, he added, is that developed nations will gradually grow older and under developed nations will have their population actually be younger, and many of those young men will not have jobs. "And that folks, I don't need to tell you, is a dangerous climate," Conway noted.
Conway's staff also said that by 2025, 75 percent to 80 percent of the world's population will be living in areas referred to as "urban sprawl," and those areas are going to be adjacent to the coasts.
Additionally, oil will continue to be a principle driver for both developed and under developed nations, Conway said.
"They also highlight, at that time...2020 to 2025...water will be as important as oil. Fresh water supply, and the ability of nations to provide simple clean drinking water to their citizens will increasingly become a challenge," he added. "And, by that time they predict there will be as many deaths to a lack of fresh drinking water as there will [be to] AIDS, just as a means of comparison."
Warfare will also change, moving from state-on-state conflicts to more regional conflicts, what Conway said his staff called hybrid war or complex irregular conflicts, similar to what is occurring right now in Afghanistan and Iraq. "You will have combinations of maybe hot skirmishes between conventional forces, but more likely guerilla activity in some of these larger areas of urban sprawl.
"And lastly, they point out to us that although by 2025 the U.S. will still be influential in terms of its diplomacy, its business, its military...we will be much less so because the world will increasingly become multi-polar in terms of its influence and the impact other nations have on all of us again as a global society," he said.
What is recommended then for the Marine Corps is to simply be balanced, Conway added.
"That we would be what I would call a two-fisted to perhaps effect a forcible entry across a nation if we had to do that, but also capable of operating in this complex irregular warfare that our vision folks again see as the wave of the future," he said. "And we are attempting to stay balanced in that regard with regard to our training, our recruitment, our programs, and those manner of things."
Conway said the Marine Corps fully embraces the maritime strategy and sees a global role for the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
"We see, as we look at the arc of instability...the old caliphate...or more contemporarily called the Middle East, there is a great deal of blue on that map, and we think there is tremendous value for a Navy, Marine, and Coast Guard team to operate and be effective in those waters," he said. "My service has its ties traditionally to the Pacific. We are not there now in the numbers we used to be, but we see the day coming when we have the opportunity to go back, so of course we have interests that remain there."
One topic not mentioned in the new maritime strategy, that the Marine Corps is very much interested in, is sea basing, Conway said.
"We are now developing a concept that will allow ships to literally mate at sea, use a series of inter-connector vessels that will be able to serve essentially as a port and airfield using the sea as maneuver space," he said.
Sea basing will enable U.S. forces to group, should a nation not want those forces coming ashore. It will also minimize U.S. forces' footprint ashore for any combination of reasons, Conway noted.
"We see that [sea basing] as very exciting, and continue to develop and experiment, and I would offer the day is not far away where that kind of capability will exist for use not only by U.S. forces, but potentially other nations' forces as well," he added.