The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos, has been pressing his senior leaders over the last few
months to think hard about the proper role for the Marine Corps in the coming years. Last year, at the direction of
the Secretary of Defense, the Marine Corps initiated a Force Structure Review and the result was an agreement with the Secretary
that the Marine Corps would be reduced in size from a force of 202,000 to a force numbering around 186,000.
Given this downsizing and the likely
budget pressures and increasingly unstable international environment that appear to lie ahead, the Commandant wants to make
sure that the Marine Corps is structured to be able to meet the most likely missions that may be assigned by the President.
After almost a decade of fighting wars in largely landlocked regions,
the Marine Corps has been working to re-establish its sea-service identity and get back to a posture of being our nation's 911
Force -- forward deployed and ready to respond to all manner of crises.
It appears that the Marines' introspection phase is now over and the Commandant is ready to make the case for reshaping
the Marine Corps to be ready for the increasingly unstable security environment that lies ahead.
At a two day conference held in Washington this past week, the Marines were out in force articulating the Commandant's vision
of a "...balanced air-ground-logistics team...forward-deployed and forward engaged...shaping, training, deterring and
responding to all manner of crises."
The conference, sponsored by the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis and
the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, was entitled: The Marine Corps: America's Expeditionary Force in Readiness. The
conference hosted an estimated 300 analysts, policymakers, Members of Congress and Congressional staff as well as a substantial
number of the Marine Corps' most senior officers. General Amos himself gave the keynote speech on Friday where
he outlined the increasing instability and uncertainty that is likely in the international environment of the next decade
and he made his case for how the Marine Corps needed to be structured to be ready to answer the nation's call in that uncertain
The Commandant described the Marine Corps he was striving for as a
"middleweight force -- light enough to get there quickly and heavy enough to carry the day upon arrival; capable of operating
independent of local infrastructure carrying with it its own logistics." He went on to state that the Marine Corps
needs to be able to operate throughout the spectrum of threats --irregular, hybrid, conventional or the shady areas where
The Commandant's effort to make anew the case for why the nation needs
a Marine Corps is clear evidence that all of our nation's military services expect to see drastically reduced budgets in the
years ahead. It is also evidence that the Marines have done their homework and are now ready for the budget battles
that will surely lie ahead.