U.S. Marines Facing Force Reduction In Modernization Drive, Is This Safe?

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Facing deeper budget cuts, recruitment struggles, and complex threats has forced the United States Military into a “Do more with less” mindset. The recently released Force Design 2030 report outlines the U.S. Marine Corps plans to re-orient the service over the next decade.

The main goal is to reduce the service down to 175,000 Marines from the current 180,000 and focusing on retention. This comes after the Corps reduced their numbers by 7,000 over the last few years. As time goes on another 15% of the Marine Corps personnel roster will be cut.

“We’ve gained quite a bit of momentum on Force Design but the learning continues,”

Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl

The only way this will succeed without harming National Security is if the Marine Corps can increase retention for more than a single term of service, which has been about 25% in recent years. This is devastating to the force as the Military relies on building servicemembers into long term, skilled positions.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger has been vocal about changing the culture of the Marine Corps to retain members and reduce the high turnover. He has called for a change to the “recruit and replace” paradigm that plagues the force.

In a move to better take advantage of the dwindling defense budget, Gen. Berger has enacted a pretty radical plan: eliminate tanks and a large portion of aircraft, artillery and other such expensive assets.

“infantry is going to continue to locate close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver — that’s not going to change.” Instead, what is changing is “the range of options for how they do that.”

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger

Of course, Gen. Berger has faced quite a lot of backlash over this plan, but he has not backed down. In fact, he has leaned into the transformation and believes that it will make the Marine’s a more effective fighting force for amphibious landings on islands and conducting sea control and denial. Gen. Berger notes that in modern warfare, “smaller, more distributed units … overmatch the large bulky formations that have huge logistical requirements to sustain them.” 

This is something clearly seen in Ukraine where Russia has struggled to overcome smaller, lighter, more skilled fighting forces resisting the invasion. Considering that Russia does not field NCO’s has further demonstrated that Gen. Berger’s plan to shape the Marine Corps into an older, skilled force will play out well with what we know so far of Military success.

Of course, only time will tell whether Gen. Berger’s plan will work out. With Chinese tensions on the rise, a strong Marine Corps will be critical to any conflict that may arise in the Pacific. While small, skilled fighting forces can be a powerful precision tool, they need a delivery system. Any reduction of Marine Corps equipment will need to be carefully considered so as not to cripple our Devil Dogs.

What do you think, is Gen. Berger’s plan a good one? Do you think our defense budget is getting too low? Is a conflict with China something on the horizon, and will the Marine Corps be essential to that fight?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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