Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Marine Corps End Strength: 100k

Just the other day, I was discussing sequestration with a fellow officer.  After we got into the discussion of what it means for the Marine Corps, we began to imagine about what would happen if over the next several years there were further cuts to DoD.  As something of a thought experiment, we asked ourselves, what would a Marine Corps with an end strength of 100k look like?

First of all, we figured you'd move Tanks, AAVs to the reserves.  Then reduce the LAR Bns to 1 Company per coast, putting the rest in the reserves. Much like the old Self-propelled howitzers we moth-balled after Desert Storm, all of these vehicles are big, heavy, and have a massive maintenance and logistics footprint in both manpower and materiel terms.  If we had to keep one of the two, we imagined AAV would be maintained in some sort of cadre format.

Second of all, the attitude moving the Marine Corps to throw Tanks and LAR to the reserves would be an attitude of "lighter, more expeditionary."  With that, you'd probably see a gradual shift away from the 155mm in Artillery as the standard tactical artillery piece to something lighter.  For example, we might move to the 105mm, while maintaining our current 120mm mortar capability. 

In spite of phasing out the 155mm from Battalions, we imagine the Marine Corps would maintain the HIMARS because they provide a much higher cost-benefit, and are the best GS weapon system the Marine Corps owns for shaping the battlefield. If we hold onto them, and we should if we went down to 100k, then the Marine Corps should organize them and any 155mm howitzers the Marine Corps keeps in the inventory into a Force Artillery unit. 

In regard to the airwing, not really sure what would happen there.  One thing that was brought up was that there'd be a possibility of dropping fixed wing altogether, focusing on our VTOL platforms. If we did get rid of most or all of our fixed wing, then it would be natural to see the shift mentioned above in artillery to HIMARS and mortars, both of which have high angle trajectories, making it easier to deconflict with our Cobras and Hueys. That said, 105mm howitzers at the Battalion Artillery, and 155s at the Force Artillery level would still be important to give a sufficiently wide breadth of fire support options.

In regard to the "macro" organization, we imagine there'd be two divisions, each comprised of two expeditionary brigades.  Each brigade would be commanded by a Colonel, and would be comprised of two infantry battalions, an artillery battalion (-), a mixed rotary wing squadron, and a logistic battalion minimum.

More on the supporting establishment, and reserve force structure later.

If you have thoughts, please comment below.


  1. Before you get flamed by the "what if WW2 breaks out tomorrow and we need to land on a beach?" crowd, I like your thinking in even broaching this question. From my perspective, I'd tackle the problem historically. That is, I'd look at our previous slow, low budget, inter-big-war periods and ask what we used vs. what we didn't. So the questions I'd ask in scaling back to that level would be more State Dept-centric, as in what kind of missions they might have that we could support with our capabilities, because historically they've done more than anyone to keep us in business between the big wars. I'd also save a few bucks by slashing the budget of whoever at MCRC came up with that "move to the sounds of chaos" commercial.

  2. Mr. Palmer,

    Thank you for your comment. I hope to do some of that research in the coming months as I develop this idea. I do know that after the Korean war there was a more gradual force reduction than after WWII. After WWII it was a quick downsize from 450k+ to 74k within 3 years of the end of the war. After Korea the drawdown was more gradual, but went from about 250k to 170k, a reduction in 80k. I expect both examples to have some worthwhile lessons to learn for designing this fictional 100k Marine force.

    Regarding the mission, I would assume maintaining something of a MEU capability, except now it is almost "guarenteed" you'll get on a MEU because of the size of the two Fleet divisions. Secondly, if it is possible to do so, taking back the training of foreign militaries from SOCOM would be a priority. Marines are imperial grunts, and been one of the profoundest tools of empire building in the history of the world. No reason we should focus on amphibious warfare at the expense of our experience with running small countries and fighting small wars.

  3. Many interesting cases from both periods. I was just at Gray and the National Archives studying a very strange unit lineage that touches on this...an AAA Bn in the Reserve that joined a Defense Bn in WW2, then turned into a 90mm AAA Gun Bn between the wars, went to Korea, and seems to have been converted into an ANGLICO when it came back in 1952. But the more I think about it, the less weird it seems and the more sense it makes. Korea's shown that missiles are obviously replacing anti-air artillery, but you have a bunch of seasoned artillery Marines who know how to work with the air side and understand coastal gunfire. Making them into an ANGLICO starts to sound kind of brilliant. I guess bottom line, something to think about in this project is whether units that don't make as much sense outside a big war could be converted into something more useful that takes advantage of their previous mission and institutional culture, rather than just being mothballed along with questionably useful equipment.

    As far as training foreign militaries, I think at this point you could even leave it at SOCOM, because it seems like a natural mission for MARSOC compared to the lower-density capabilities SOCOM has at its disposal...Green Berets are great if you're training guerrillas, and SEALs are great if you're trying to kill a guy or rescue some hostages. But if you wanted to train a bunch of conventional forces, it seems like the go-to guys would be either 75th Rangers or MSOR, and MSOR would just be a much easier sell, especially since the State Dept already has a comfort level dealing with Marines because they work with us so much.

  4. You might also want to look at LtCol Freeman's thoughts in Foreign Policy. His argument is basically that we need to look more at capabilities like MSOR and the ANGLICOs to maintain our relevance. Small, elite, and combined arms savvy. The big qualifier is "must be capable of expeditionary logistics".


  5. "Then reduce the LAR Bns to 1 Company per coast, putting the rest in the reserves. Much like the old Self-propelled howitzers we moth-balled after Desert Storm, all of these vehicles are big, heavy, and have a massive maintenance and logistics footprint in both manpower and materiel terms."

    To the issue of the maintenance and logistics footprint of the tank and LAR battalions, let's not forget that the Marine Corps also gains a massive amount of capability, commensurate with the investment of resources. Although

    I will have to let the tankers speak for themselves, but pound for pound, LAR is probably the most lethal element in the ground combat element. There is a reason why three battalions were composited under Task Force Tripoli and sent north to seize objectives in Tikrit, Iraq, in 2003. There's also a very good reason why LAR battalions were assigned vast areas of operation in Anbar and Helmand Provinces, often controlling swaths of terrain in excess of doctrinal spans of control.

    Be careful not to discount the capability that LAR provides, and the wide range of missions/roles it can fulfill.

    *I don't have any of the various social media accounts to post under, but I'm Maj Jon A. Custis.

  6. Maj Custis,

    Sir, agreed, they do provide a valuable capability. That said, if the Marine Corps were to go down to 100k where would the main effort be in the operating forces? It would probably be the line battalions. At our current size, and as we inch down toward 180k, and maybe even further, we can afford manpowerwise that capability. If we went down to 100k we'd still need MCRC, and other supporting establishment commands like TBS, the recruit depots, OCS, etc., all of which require manpower. I imagine much of the tradeoff between fleet and supporting establishment will be in our "heavier" units.

    To put what I'm talking about in one place: 2 divisions containing together a total of: 2 Division HQs, 2 Force Artillery, 4 MEB HQ, 8 infantry battalions, 4 artillery battalions(-), 4 logistics battalions(+), 4 mixed squadrons (+), 4 companies of LAR, and 4 companies of combat engineers (left them out of the post above). Maybe we could have 2 LAR battalions. I haven't rigorously gone over what the T/O numbers would look like.

    If we did this, or something similar, we'd need to make the reserves much more robust than they are, and restructure our mobilization plan in the event of a large scale conventional war. So we'd still have tanks, and we'd still have AAVs, but in the reserves. The active component would be focused on power projection, small wars, humanitarian aid, pirate hunting, what have you. I think Christian Palmer is right, I probably should define the mission more clearly. Taking Tikrit? Conventional, and at that point the reserves would be called up. Evacuating American citizens from Lebanon? Delivering MREs to natural disaster victims in Haiti? Pirate hunting? Unconventional.

  7. Mr. Palmer,

    I read that article, and actually linked to it at the end of my blog post. LtCol Freeman is bascially selling Air-Sea Battle with a Distributed Ops flavor, trying to make the unrealistic ASB strategy sound somewhat respectable. ASB is an acquisitions ploy for the Air Force and Navy, not a serious strategy that will gain us anything but defeat.

    Missiles are expensive. What happens if you waste them on decoys? What happens if your enemy decides not to capitulate just because you destroyed some infrastructure and killed some innocent civilians? What happens if you don't have air dominance? What happens if they jam, or misdirect the GPS guidance systems? My guess is boots on the deck, guys slinging rifles.

    1. My mistake, missed the hyperlink. Yeah, it struck me as more off-brand maneuver warfare with a procurement prize at the bottom, kind of like AirLand Battle. But his suggestion regarding smaller, more elite, expeditionary infantry units more capable of using combined arms seemed like a promising idea for the Marine Corps that plays to a lot of our current strengths. It also kind of made me think of later parts of Vietnam, when we started more effectively combining local national infantry combined with US air power.

      Also, speaking of the expense of missiles and procurement, one conversation I had recently was over whether some of our organic fixed wing capabilities could be preserved by trying to shift to something cheaper that was more of a fit for the Marine Corps, like resurrecting the idea for the fighter mafia's scaled down A-10, the Blitzfighter.

  8. I really like the concept you're going with here and would love to read a more drawn out "proposal" in this same area. That being said, I think your last paragraph deserves a whole post in itself. Two quick comments on your last paragraph though:

    -The ACE portion of the "mini MAGTF" you described needs to be defined by capability; it's not as simple as saying a "mixed rotary wing squadron". A composite squadron for a MEU comes with the aircraft itself plus various aviation C2 capabilities that provide the control/deconfliction ashore. This, however, is not a stand alone capability; it relies heavily on the Navy's Tactical Air Control Squadron (TACRON) capability aboard the ESG. A MEB ACE is really the first element that is able to control its own aircraft, develop its own Air Tasking Order (ATO), etc because of all of its MACG augments. Their are some efficiencies that can be made, but the reality is that the ACE is going to be a heavy beast if you want all of the capabilities it has to offer.

    -At the "macro level", as you put it, a question would be: do we need MEF sized elements? In this model of 100K, why not have MEBs as the largest MAGTF? Essentially, keep the maneuver elements but reduce the number and size of the headquarters staffs. Make the MEB a two star level command (similar to MEB-A), get rid of the Division, Wing, and MLG constructs and stick with standing MEBs. The MEF construct can still exist, but would be created as necessary by combining MEBs. Essentially the inverse of what we have now.

  9. Capt Drew,

    Thanks for the comment, you make valid points. The ACE is my weakest area. I have had little exposure to it. After reading your comment last night and taking the evening and morning to think about it, I imagine the answer would be "we don't want to lose some of that capability" and the solution might be found in shifting sooner rather than later all our fixed wing capabilities to drones. In essence, drop all piloted fixed wing aircraft (except maybe C-130s), and shift the capabilities they provide to UAV squadrons.

    In regard to MEF construct, we wouldn't have them. I'd rather empower a Colonel to command a MEB, get rid of the regimental headquarters, but maintain independent line battalions (with the rest of the MAGTF). I think you still need a divisional staff, though I agree not a MEF staff unless we had more than one division deployed in a conventional fight. The Division, however, would be commanded by a Brigadier instead of a MGen, and would be primarily administrative and logistics focused for sake of supporting the main effort, the division's two MEBs.

  10. Something else that might bear looking at is what kind of cuts could be made to our endstrength just within the T/O, without eliminating whole units or putting them into the SMCR. For example, within the 30XX field, a huge number of 3043s (supply clerks) are crosstrained as 3051s (warehousemen), maybe most of them, but very few 3051s are crosstrained as 3043s...if a percentage of the crosstrained 51s could be lat-moved into the 43 field to cover the losses in bodies at 51-heavy units, the entire 3051 MOS could go away without causing too much trouble. And that's a relatively high density MOS, so that kind of change could make you some money in trying to get down to 100K.

  11. I'm all for eliminating the bloated higher headquarters and staffs that often don't do much more than suck up reporting, information, and other events, and deliver very little in return. There are terabytes of data wasting away on servers in Afghanistan right now that will never see the light of day because the information was gleaned under dubious collection requirements.

    What's worse is that we don't have the right people looking at the information to gain any worthwhile insight that supports or empowers commanders. We've deployed regimental staffs in support of steady state operations that were ridiculously large and cumbersome, all because we didn't have the discipline to curtail our information/intelligence reporting behaviors. Instead of sticking to the critical information that truly supports operations, we've essentially traded staff size for discipline in staff planning/work (and smaller staffs). In a nutshell, minimize the staffs to achieve efficiencies and return the endstrength to the elements at the tip of the spear.

    I don't like aiming for an arbitary number like 100K, and would prefer to look towards a minimum capability, letting that define the final number. I recognize that the Department of Defense and Congress may likely look to a manpower ceiling first though, and let the services figure out what they can get in terms of capability.

    I also don't like the idea of transferring a lot of heavy or light armor capability to the Reserve component. We've followed that model in the past, but I've served as an I&I to a LAR company, and those type of forces require a long lead time to spin up. You would not have responsive, agile capability if you transferred it to the Reserves, so a certain degree of risk comes with that sort of realignment.

    With a smaller Marine Corps, can we afford to assume the risk of the time required to get Reserve echelons into the fight?

    1. Just real quick, I'll get to some of your other points later: shifting the heavy armor capability to the reserves, along with an additional 100k (drop 100k from our 202k AC force, pump up the RC with 100k) we would by necessity need to revisit the definition of "drilling reservist."

    2. You'r right, 100k is a little arbitrary, but I imagine that you are also right about Congress and DoD looking first for a manpower ceiling and then we just figure out how to optimize.

      The post (and future posts on the topic) is really a thought experiment to get myself, and hopefully others thinking. If we did cut our forces to 100k, while I agree, Higher HQs must be cut, it would be unrealistic to not expect a shaving down of the "pointy end of the spear."

      If you were given a manpower ceiling of 100k, what would you do? I'd drop fixed wing, tanks, and AAVs, keeping LAR, artillery, and VTOL platforms on the support side. I'd drop the third division, and restructure 1st and 2nd division around two brigades contained in each division. Talking to an LAR guy I know, their Battalions run at about 1k in personnel thanks to their maintenance footprint. Maybe we could maintain a "battalion" per division, go down (as planned now) to 4 companies per, and each brigade gets two companies in their T/O.

      We can't forget that we also have to continue manning embassies, recruiting stations, schools, and a couple of other necessary higher headquarters commands.

  12. Why don't you think like Marines? By that I mean what are the Surfaces and Gaps in the entire DOD Spectrum of Capabilities? What is the Gap the Marine Corps could go through? From there what is the Mission for the Marine Corps? And finally what is the Main Effort...what is the very essence of the Marine Corps that can not be duplicated by any other service. From my own experience and from an Airborne Warfare perspective although it is a bit dated the ANGLICO's provided a unique and needed capability that did not exist anyplace else. Not only did it make the Marine Corps more powerful but it made the Larger System of DOD Capabilities more powerful. Just simply getting smaller may not save the Marine Corps from the budget ax.

    1. Arguably, there are no gaps, and even with Goldwater-Nichols there are actually some overlaps, like with riverine operations. But still, that seems like a good approach, maybe going to the combatant commanders and State, and just asking "what kinds of capabilities do you not have right now that would cover your most pressing missions?" That could at least lead us in new directions with ideas on how to keep our current capabilities employed in new ways to stay relevant, like a drug interdiction SPMAGTF or something.

    2. I bet the State Department would be very interested in some type of a Marine quick response force in view of the recent Libya incident. General Gavin the WW2 General of the 82nd Airborne thought that the primary Mission of the Marine Corps was to "Attack across the shore!" because they were already deployed aboard ships they would have a speed advantage that no other service had.

    3. Slapout9,

      I agree, we should think like Marines. Since MarDets aboard surface vessels has been shot down, I recommend we focus on the MEUs and aggressively establishing ourselves as the service that trains foreign militaries.

      This is why I recommend getting lighter, and more expeditionary, but with sufficient heavy assets for something a little tougher than a third world militia. Reorganize around the expeditionary brigade model, but ditch the regiments. So no intervening command between the battalions and the brigade. Have the brigade commanded by a Colonel. At the battalion level, f you aren't on a MEU, you're training for one.

    4. Roles and missions are key. LAR and armor are nice to have, but interdependence would be necessary for the USMC if we were as low as 100k. The only unique capability we bring (aside from the natural aggressiveness of the individual Marine) is our amphibious capability. The amphibious capability must be maintained and be the centerpiece of any future Marine Corps. Otherwise, we are just another land army.
      Now, the hard part is, what does the amphibious Marine Corps of a 100k look like? It will most likely NOT look like the MEU of today (2500 Marines, 3 ships, etc.). It might look more like the missions we did in the 1800s (think Barbary wars) where Marines were on multi-mission ships for various tasking. Single ship amphibious deployment have been successful (Africa Partnership Station, Southern Partnership Station, etc.) in the past. Either way, roles and missions, the USMC amphibious capability, must be the center of the discussion for the future of the Marine Corps.

    5. I think the focus will be on the MEUs, and that they will be maintained. I don't know much about recent single ship amphibious operations, but will read up on them. That said, just my initial thoughts on what you've presented is that we may be able to restructure the MEU such that it included a kind of modularity that allows one ship to leave the pack if necessary.

      I agree, our ampibious capability is significant. Even though there's been much discussion of "why a Marine Corps" I think a much better discussion the DoD should have is, "Why an Air Force?" or "Why a large Surface Navy?" I'm sure if we took a hard look, the Air Force could probably have the various "capabilities" it provides rolled back into the Army, while others just get dropped. When was the last time we conducted an ampibious landing? 2003 on the Al-Faw Peninsula, if I'm not mistaken. When was the last time a nuke was dropped from a bomber? 9 Aug 1945. In regard to bombing campaigns that we've conducted, the way of the future is the UAV. Why do we need to send in jets when we could send in a UAV? I doubt very much that UAV training costs quite so much as training an F-15 pilot.

    6. My ultimate point regarding the Air Force being, roll UAVs, bombers, and cargo planes over to the Army. Let the Navy take over whatever gap is left that we need to fill with fixed wing.

    7. I totally agree with the angle of focusing on the amhibious capability. As I memtioned immediately below slapout's 29 March reply, our ability to work in the littorals to accomplish NEO, TRAP, maritime interdiction, HA/DR, and very limited assaults or raids could be the prime focus.

      I think the foreign military cooperation/training mission is merely an attempt to re-purpose ourselves to ensure relevancy, but that mission can be handled by SOF (admittedly, when they are not decisively engaged in a particular theater--like OEF). The Corps might have relevance in that realm if we can do it cheaper than SOF, but if security cooperation requires an element of the MEU to drop anchor off of the coast of Country X, in order to disembark forces to conduct training, is it really cheaper?

      As a companion rhetorical question, if Marine forces only need to board a C-17 to fly into Country X to conduct training, how is that mission unique to the Marine Corps?

      There once was a time when we trained the Columbian Marines in riverine TTPs, and it made sense because we had long-standing riverine units and a significant capability it that area. 3/4 of the way through OIF, the Corps disbanded the unit and we lost the capability, stepping aside to let the US Navy do the job. That was a very unique capability, but the Army had watercraft as well (my knowledge of the scope of Army capability in this area has lapsed).

      During the post-DS/DS era, the bread and butter missions were what the Marine Corps focused on (although we ended up in a more protracted mess in Somalia), and we performed fairly well. I believe the Corps' optempo over the past 30 years serves as justification for maintaining three MEUs afloat at any given time, so if we stripped out some of the other capabilities like fixed-wing, MEF-level support elements, and trimmed some of the armor (not all mind you), we could maintain an agile and flexible force that has the capability to maintain persistent presence in a theater, use the sea for manuever space, and perform a wide range of missions in a more timely manner than any other US force.

    8. I also think focusing on the Littorals is key, thats where all the people are and having a permanent floating, forward deployed ,multi capable force is a capability that America will need for some time. Who else but the Marines could do that? For some out of the box thinking that is very affordable. If you merge Maneuver warfare thinking with Airborne warfarethinking you would have a very light and lethal and affordable force. V-22 delivered troops with Parachute delivered heavy equipment solves a lot of problems that up until now were very formidable but are now solvable.

    9. And therein lies the harsh reality that the Corps needs to seriously evaluate what "forcible entry" means, in very concrete terms that DoD (SecDef), the NSC, State, and Congress understand and agree on. I really need to do a full read of the Marine Corps Service Campaign Plan 2012-2020 and re-read the Marine Corps Vision and Strategy 2025, because the requirement may be clearly delineated there. I recommend the latter document to anyone with casual-to-deep interest in what the Corps is up to these days.

      If limited raids and assaults require a threshold of ship-to-shore maneuver capability that the EFV was supposed to deliver, roger that. Requirments definition and refinement is always the toughest

      The Core Competencies discussed in the Vision & Strategy document reference forcible entry, but of course the devil is in the details; how far, for how long, from what distance offshore, in what weather, carrying how many Marines, etc.:

      o The Corps conducts persistent forward naval engagement and is always prepared to respond as the Nation’s force in readiness.

      o The Corps employs integrated combined arms across the range of military operations and can operate as part of a joint or multinational force.

      o The Corps provides forces and specialized detachments for service aboard naval ships, on stations, and for operations ashore.

      o The Corps conducts joint forcible entry operations from the sea and develops amphibious landing force capabilities and doctrine.

      o The Corps conducts complex expeditionary operations in the urban littorals and other challenging environments.

      o The Corps leads joint and multinational operations and enables interagency activities.

    10. One ship amphib operations have been going on for some time. Most MEUs conduct split operations (ships and Marines conducting different missions in the same Geographic Combatant Commander's AOR) and the 22d MEU conducted disaggregated (one ship in one AOR, others in another) in support of CENTCOM and AFRICOM back in 2011. The key point we will need to change in our thinking is that we must man, train, and equip the forces to support this type of employment. It will take work on all sides of the MAGTF, as there are HD/LD capabilities that will have to be resident on single ship activities. These forces can be used as rapid reaction forces, to be postured/positioned off the coasts of nations in crisis, better than forces stationed at NAS Signoella waiting on aircraft. Oh, V-22s are good, but the UH-1Y provides a great capability that we have yet to exploit.
      - LtCol USMC

  13. That sort of thinking would leave us relegated to amphibious MEU work in the littorals (think NEO, TRAP, maritime interdiction, HA/DR, very limited assaults or raids), which was our bread and butter before we got into all that COIN and regime change stuff.

    Those tasks are not easily accomplished by the other services in combat, non- and semi-permissive environments, at a tempo of military action comparable to the Marine Corps. Could the joint force do it? Absolutely, but the limiting factor remains time.

    We all know and understand the adage that nothing influences third-rate dictators quite like the arrival of a MEU on the horizon, but as always Slap, you bring commonsense to the discussion.


    1. JC just figured out who you are! Good comment. Time is a critical factor in any type of successful response.

  14. 1963 video of C-130 Hercules operating from an aircraft carrier! The point is by being creative the Marine Corps can pack a tremendous Airborne/Amphibious Punch that is not generally practiced or known about. After watching a CSPAN program of the new SECDEF defense priorities and budget cuts everybody is going to need to get creative. Link to video clip of C-130 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar-poc38C84

  15. This open question sort of ties into the Ellis writing contest prompt for 2013, but can the Marine Corps afford the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, relative to the missions a smaller force can expect to focus on (think suite of MEU(SOC) missions).

    I see the effects of age on the AAV fleet, and it's not good, so it makes me wonder if we still need the capability of crossing coral reefs that the first amtracks provided in WWII? Does a requirement to transit a coral atoll during forcible entry still exist?

    Last year's winning Ellis essay outlined a number of alternatives to going after another amphibious vehicle, but I felt it was weak in that it did not provide a suitable answer for inland movement against enemy forces. Considering the current and future prevalence of the IED, the Corps can expect to need obstacle reduction capability beyond the high-water mark.

    -JC, Major

  16. A while back over at the SWC I said the Marines need an UMV (Unmanned Marine Vehicle)you need an remote controlled robotic amphibious vehicle to clear the obstacles and then just use regular Army vehicles for Maneuver. Of course if the Navy SEALS went back to being UDT/Frogmen and actually did their job (clearing obstacles for a landing) instead of trying to be Recon/Ranger/Green Beret/SWAT/Secret Agent/Special Operators you probably wouldn't have to be concerned about this problem.

  17. Great point by slapout9. You could even say that about Recon. Tying into the reduction discussion, that has to be a concern as well. The center of our Corps is the infantry, but to be effective in the coming years fiscally and keeping to our mission the infantry must start having an honest discussion with itself about organization. Some questions I would ask are: Why are we so concerned with expanding Recon battalions? Why does an asset like a Recon unit have battlespace in OEF/OIF? What is MARSOC to the MC as a whole? Is Force even relevant now? Why are we trying to streamline the training of the Recon Marine and what value does it give the Corps to take a recruit and put him in that pipeline?
    Obviously, there are many more questions concerning Recon/MARSOC/Force Recon, but the biggest one for the infantry is, are we being phased out by a push to make Rambo the focus in combat?

  18. Interesting article, and even more interesting comments. I am going to make my own observations to the debate, but I would like to preface it with this: I am not a member of the military and say these comments as an outside observer. With that being said the comments and articles seem to have pointed out some redundancies in the military. With UAVs the concept of three or four branches operating them in combat seems a little pointless. Unless each branch performed a specific function. Say the Navy and Army handle tactical air support and the Air Force providing strategic assets such as bombers and satellites. I do wonder if the Marine's fixed wing are redundant. Both the Navy and Air Force provide tactical air support, and with modern Joint Operations Marine fixed wing seems redundant. Also could the infantry battalions be formed into a "Battalion Combat Team" whereby they have a tank platoon, LAV platoon, and an AAV company assigned to each similar to the MEUs G.C.E? Also would it be possible to replace some of the vehicles with others? Maybe the tanks could become MGS Strykers instead? Or the LAVs becoming an amphibious version of the Stryker's scout variant? Would this also allow the Marines to split costs with the Army for new vehicles? Also could the company in the Bat. that air assaults in be trained as something like a Pathfinder in the Army? Using the V-22s for airborne insertion to scout out a beach and begin to clear defenses, thereby allowing the rest of the Battalion to make a less contested landing. Could an MEU be stationed in Hawaii so as to allow for quicker deployment to the Pacific? From the outside it seems the Marines might look to making their forces smaller but with more training so become a more elite force so they can deliver a highly trained, small yet powerful force to a global hot spot? I mean unless the Army decides to reactivate their Engineer Special Brigades that performed amphibious assaults in WW2 the Marines still have a mission, albeit maybe one that is more difficult to perform than in WW2. Though the same could be said for Airborne units given modern Anti-Air Defenses. But they do not seem to be going away any time soon. As an outside observer it seems the Marines may need to shrink and refocus on their mission. Two divisions of two brigades seems a good approach. Again I am not a member of the military, I am, though, making observations. I also understand that I may be missing something that a civilian would not know and I apologize for any ignorance to said details.

  19. Reading this and considering the drastically scaled-down Army the U.S. has nowadays all I can say is I hope this country doesn't get into a war with anybody that can actually fight back. Stick to picking on countries with no air force and tanks from the 1960s (or better yet don't pick on anyone at all) because if the U.S. has to fight for example China or even Iran in a real land war America is screwed. Get ready for the embarrassment of a lifetime. As it is now America's status as the "world's only superpower" is just one REAL fight away from being exposed as the myth that it is.

    Best bet is to put off that day of reckoning as long as possible with artful diplomacy, a more flexible foreign policy and much less belligerence and jingoistic in-your-face America-can-do-no-wrong B.S. that the rest of the world sees for the overcompensation of an insecure, waning great power that it is.

  20. All commenting officers are to be commended for their forward thinking. My only caution here would be not to publicly think or say too much about a 100,000 end strength. Why? If you give policy-makers the slightest hint that the nation can get by with 100,000 end strength, that's what they'll give us, and it won't be the mix you want. Rather, it will ineluctably and inevitably be a mix heavily influenced by the politics of weapons acquisition, I fear.

    It seems to me that our greatest threats are regional flare up's in the middle east, and hopefully not, China flaring up with one of our Pacific allies.

    But 100,000 end strength is something that ought to be discussed in Officers' Clubs and at card games. Keep talking about 182,100.