Who determine the brands of warfighting?
This story is perplexing because it implies that someone inside the Marine Corps may have decided it can return to its roots. Whose job is that to decide?
- Secretary of Defense
- Joint Chiefs of Staff
- U. S. Congress
As the nation comes to grips with its limited capacity to serve constituents’ needs, a big target for adjustment is the Department of Defense.
The Commander in Chief must lead with support from the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs to reconcile Foreign Policy needs with the Secretary of State. The combination of planning and reconciliation engages the participation and support of Congress.
- Define U.S. Foreign Policy
- Identify and describe threats to the USA foreign and domestic
- Determine the type and level of military power and capacity to prevent and mitigate threats to national security
There should be no assumptions that the current military structure and components are a given. We must plan in reverse, beginning with defining required outcomes for national security.
Then, in determining the types of threats, and anticipating new ones, the President and Military leaders, State Department, and Congress help define the requirements for military forces.
I have always advocated several ideas:
- National security is a consumer product
- Military forces are brands of warfighting determined by the nature of the nation’s enemies
A joint and consolidated military structure is how we have evolved. Having an Army, Navy, Air Force , and Marines is where we have been. With the creation of Navy Seals and Special Operations Forces, the old structures may not apply. The WWII Army model didn’t work for Middle East warfighting and the Army changed and adapted while the more suitable Marine Corps force assumed greater responsibility. Now, planners need to think very carefully and comprehensively about the shape of the U.S. military.
For Marines, it’s back to the future after Iraq, Afghanistan
With the Iraq war ending and an Afghanistan exit in sight, the Marine Corps is beginning a historic shift, returning to its roots as a seafaring force that will get smaller, lighter and, it hopes, less bogged down in land wars.
This moment of change happens to coincide with a reorienting of U.S. security priorities to the Asia-Pacific region, where China has been building military muscle during a decade of U.S. preoccupation in the greater Middle East. That suits the Marines, who see the Pacific as a home away from home.
After two turns at combat in Iraq, first as invaders in the 2003 march to Baghdad and later as occupiers of landlocked Anbar province, the Marines left the country in early 2010 to reinforce the fight in southern Afghanistan. Over that stretch the Marines became what the former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, has called their own “worst nightmare” — a second U.S. land army, a static, ground-pounding auxiliary force.
That’s scary for the Marines because, for some in Congress, it raises this question: Does a nation drowning in debt really need two armies?
Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, says that misses the real point. He argues that the Marines, while willing and able to operate from dug-in positions on land, are uniquely equipped and trained to do much more. They can get to any crisis, on land, at sea or in the air, on a moment’s notice.
He is eager to see the Iraq and Afghanistan missions completed so the Marines can return to their traditional role as an expeditionary force.
“We need to get back to our bread and butter,” Amos told Marines Nov. 23 at Camp Lawton, a U.S. special operations base in Afghanistan’s Herat province.
That begins, he said, with moves such as returning to a pattern of continuous rotations of Marines to the Japanese island of Okinawa, home of the 3rd Marine Division. The rotation of infantry battalions to Okinawa was interrupted by the Iraq war.
Amos says he plans to begin lining up infantry battalion rotations for Okinawa before the 2014 target date for ending U.S. combat in Afghanistan.
Another signal of the shift is the decision announced in late November to rotate Marines to Australia beginning in 2012 for training with Australian forces from an Australian army base in Darwin. Up to 2,500 Marines, infantry units as well as aviation squadrons and combat logistic battalions, will go there from Okinawa or other Marine stations in Japan and elsewhere in the Pacific for a few months at a time.
“As we draw down (troops in Afghanistan) and we reorient the Marine Corps, it will be primarily to the Pacific,” Amos told Marine aviators at a U.S. base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. “The main focus of effort is going to be the Pacific for the Marines.” He added that Marines will remain present in the Persian Gulf area and elsewhere as required, but not in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Versatility is the key to keeping the Marines relevant to U.S. national security requirements, he says.
“We’re not a one-trick pony,” he said. “We’re the ultimate Swiss army knife.””