Amos: U.S. Need a Robust Crisis Response Force

Meyer: During his tour in Afghanistan.
National Journal
Gen. James F. Amos, Defense One
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Gen. James F. Amos, Defense One
Sept. 16, 2013, 6:56 a.m.

Our na­tion re­quires a Mar­ine Corps that is ready, for­ward de­ployed and able to re­spond to crisis on a mo­ment’s no­tice. This will not change for the fore­see­able fu­ture, no mat­ter the budget­ary woes our coun­try faces.

Three years ago, the Mar­ine Corps ini­ti­ated a Force Struc­ture Re­view with the mis­sion of re-shap­ing the Mar­ine Corps for the post-Afgh­anistan en­vir­on­ment. This re­view sought to find ways to meet our na­tion­al se­cur­ity re­spons­ib­il­it­ies in a re­source-ef­fi­cient man­ner. Our goal was to provide the most ready, cap­able and cost-ef­fect­ive Mar­ine Corps our na­tion could af­ford. Bal­an­cing the pres­id­ent’s De­fense Stra­tegic Guid­ance with our in­tern­al re­view, we de­signed a force of 186,800 people, which is the op­tim­al-sized Mar­ine Corps, fully ready to meet the ever-in­creas­ing de­mands of the glob­al se­cur­ity en­vir­on­ment.

Four months ago, De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel dir­ec­ted the Stra­tegic Choices and Man­age­ment Re­view ef­fort to bet­ter in­form the De­fense De­part­ment’s pre­par­a­tion for the Quad­ren­ni­al De­fense Re­view. An­ti­cip­at­ing that se­quest­ra­tion would be signed in­to law, in Feb­ru­ary the Corps stood up a work­ing group fo­cused solely on design­ing a fu­ture force op­tim­ized to live with­in our likely re­source con­straints. This ef­fort was in­formed by the real­iz­a­tion that, if faced with a con­tin­ued se­quester, the Mar­ine Corps would have to live with severe budget short­falls that might well threaten its abil­ity to main­tain its edge as the na­tion’s hedge force. Ul­ti­mately, we would build the best force Amer­ica was will­ing to af­ford. As such, the force we have de­signed is sup­port­able with­in a re­duced fisc­al frame­work, but as­sumes great­er risk to our na­tion­al se­cur­ity strategy.

What was our meth­od­o­logy be­hind the pro­cess? Our work­ing group set out with the premise to design a range of pos­sible force struc­tures and sub­ject them to both in­tern­al and ex­tern­al risk ana­lys­is. Aligned with the De­fense Stra­tegic Guid­ance, we wanted a force that was fisc­ally real­ist­ic. Great care was taken to en­sure that both the stra­tegic land­scape and emer­ging threats were prop­erly ac­coun­ted for and bal­anced against force design risks. We had to make sure our meth­od avoided simple lin­ear re­duc­tions of num­bers from our cur­rent planned end state, in or­der to achieve an op­tim­um force design that kept the Mar­ine Corps ready and rel­ev­ant to the se­cur­ity chal­lenges of today and to­mor­row. At the end of the day, we needed to be mod­ern­ized, ready and biased for ac­tion, in­teg­rated in­to the Joint Force struc­ture, ex­ped­i­tion­ary, and right sized, while re­tain­ing our core com­bined arms and am­phi­bi­ous struc­ture and com­pet­en­cies.

What force design op­tim­izes this need, bal­ances risk and is fisc­ally re­spons­ible? Based on the de­tailed plan­ning of our work­ing group, and in con­junc­tion with in­de­pend­ent ana­lys­is, we have de­term­ined that with se­questered budgets a force design of 174,000 is right sized to al­low the Mar­ine Corps to re­main Amer­ica’s crisis re­sponse force (note: this does not ac­count for the 1,000 Mar­ine plus up that Con­gress has dir­ec­ted to our Mar­ine Se­cur­ity Guard Pro­gram). This al­lows us to achieve a high state of read­i­ness, while main­tain­ing for­ward pres­ence as a part of the Navy-Mar­ine Corps team. Ana­lys­is shows that fur­ther re­duc­tions will in­cur heightened and, in some scen­ari­os, pro­hib­it­ive risk to our Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Strategy, and un­ac­cept­able risk to the in­tern­al health of our Corps and its fam­il­ies.

How did we get there? We began by first look­ing at what Mar­ines are do­ing today and then widened our look to in­clude those emer­ging trends that would ul­ti­mately frame the fu­ture op­er­at­ing en­vir­on­ment. Today, Mar­ines are still fight­ing in Afgh­anistan, provid­ing crisis re­sponse in the Middle East, the Afric­an lit­tor­als and the Pa­cific and stand­ing ready to re­spond to Hu­man­it­ari­an As­sist­ance/Dis­aster Re­lief ef­forts around the globe. Today’s Mar­ine Corps also has the cap­ab­il­ity and ca­pa­city to con­duct spe­cial op­er­a­tions and cy­ber war­fare. We see no short­age of de­mand for these cap­ab­il­it­ies in the fu­ture op­er­at­ing en­vir­on­ment. The bot­tom line is we are ask­ing more from our Mar­ines today than at al­most any oth­er point in our his­tory”¦a trend that will likely con­tin­ue and fur­ther bound our fu­ture.

To­mor­row’s Mar­ines will see chal­lenges such as vi­ol­ent ex­trem­ism, battles for in­flu­ence, dis­rupt­ive so­ci­et­al trans­itions, nat­ur­al dis­aster, ex­trem­ist mes­sages and ma­nip­u­lat­ive polit­ics. We will likely see crim­in­al en­ter­prises wield com­bat power once as­so­ci­ated only with states, as well as sep­ar­at­ism, ex­trem­ism and in­tol­er­ance that lead to ter­ror­ism, protests and vi­ol­ence. We will see new tech­no­lo­gies place mod­ern weapons in­to the hands of de­vel­op­ing states and non-state act­ors while the de­vel­op­ment and pro­lif­er­a­tion of ad­vanced con­ven­tion­al weapons chal­lenges our abil­ity to pro­ject power or gain ac­cess. In this se­cur­ity con­ver­gence it will be the for­ward in­flu­ence, stra­tegic mo­bil­ity, ef­fect­ive power pro­jec­tion and rap­id re­sponse cap­ab­il­it­ies Mar­ines are known for today that will define those min­im­um at­trib­utes that must en­dure and frame our fu­ture force design. We must main­tain a force that can bal­ance an in­creas­ing fo­cus in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion, while sus­tain­ing an ever-watch­ful eye on the Middle East and Afric­an Lit­tor­al areas. Amer­ica’s Mar­ines must be po­si­tioned for­ward to counter vi­ol­ent ex­trem­ists op­er­at­ing across mul­tiple do­mains.

The Mar­ine Corps has faced this chal­lenge be­fore. As was the case in the past, our man­power and in­vest­ments fluc­tu­ated with the on­set and con­clu­sion of wars. We are head­ing down a sim­il­ar path today. As our na­tion re­duces its over­seas forces, there re­mains a heightened re­quire­ment for a very cap­able crisis re­sponse force, one that can de­ploy any­where quickly, provide a vari­ety of re­sponse op­tions, a force that can buy time for na­tion­al de­cision-makers when the need arises. The Mar­ine Corps is, and will con­tin­ue to be, the an­swer to this need. This is what we do”¦this is who we are!

Gen. James F. Amos is com­mand­ant of the Mar­ine Corps and a mem­ber of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

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