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Commandant calls Marine Corps' future 'frugal'

9 Feb 2011 | Gunnery Sgt. Bill Lisbon

The Corps’ commandant gave a glimpse at the future of a frugal Marine Corps returning to an expeditionary mindset Feb. 9 during a speech in San Francisco’s Marine Memorial Club.

Six months before Gen. James F. Amos took the stage, the Secretary of the Defense stood at the same podium, asking the Corps to define its place in the future of the American military.

“When the boss challenges you to do something, you probably ought to take it seriously,” said Amos.

Amos’ response was outlined in his October 2010 planning guidance, calling the Marine Corps a middleweight force – “light enough to get there quickly, but heavy enough to carry the day upon arrival.”

Yet, over the past six years, the Corps has grown accustom to large budgets linked to virtually limitless funds to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those days are over, said the commandant.

“In today’s fiscally constrained environment, we must continue to improve our efficiency. Marines have historically been known as ‘the Penny Pinchers,’” said Amos. “At the end of the day, Congress and the American people know that the Marine Corps is a value and that we only ask for what we truly need.”

In fiscal year 2010, the Marine Corps consumed only 8.5 percent of the defense budget, yet provided 31 percent of the nation’s ground operating forces, 12 percent of its fighter and attack jets and 19 percent of its attack helicopters.

On Feb. 7, Amos briefed Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the results of a comprehensive review of the Corps’ force structure and his plans to craft a post-Afghanistan Marine Corps.

Among the changes in store, the Corps would “right-size” for a post-Afghanistan world. While Amos didn’t detail what that size would be, it’s likely to be between 15,000 and 20,000 fewer Marines, according to Gates.

The commandant also plans to eliminate unnecessary headquarters and flatten the Marine Corps command structure “where it makes sense to do so” and transition 7 percent of non-operational forces to operational billets.

A vital part of building capabilities to support a middleweight expeditionary force is the Joint Strike Fighter, said Amos.

Despite the Marine version of the JSF being put on a two-year probation, Amos said the Marine Corps is committed to working closely with industry to get this platform back on track in terms of cost, performance and schedule.

“I am personally tracking the progress of the F-35B on a daily/weekly/monthly basis,” he said. 

The capability inherent in the F-35B, a short take-off and vertical landing jet similar to the AV-8B Harrier, facilitates the Corps’ doctrinal form of maneuver warfare and its need for close air support in the many austere conditions and locations where it will likely operate in the future, said Amos.

“When evaluating runways around the globe, there are 10 times as many 3,000-foot runways capable of handling the STOVL JSF variant as there are 8,000-foot runways required for conventional fighter aircraft,” said Amos. 

Additionally, the efficiency gained in training, maintenance, and support realized when the Marine Corps is operating a single aircraft, instead of three, will save the nation more than $1 billion a year, said Amos.

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