The Marines Are A Changin'

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The Economist April 4th, 2020 pp22 United States Military Strategy “Send the Marines” “The US Marine Corps sheds its tanks and returns to its naval roots”.

“From the Halls of Montezuma/To the shores of Tripoli/We fight our country’s battles/In the air, on land and sea” and so it goes the hymn of the U.S. Marine Corps. Historically the Marines “served as raiding parties and an insurance policy against mutiny….” Marines were known as “macho” and that was reinforced by their contribution in WWII’s “brutal island-hopping battles against Japan…”. Times change and thinking changes based present and anticipated future circumstances. China is pressing from the mainland outward in the South Pacific and “war games showed that China’s precision missiles would make it harder for America to fight its way into the western Pacific”. “Junior marine officers…pressed…superiors for change” no doubt in part leading to “The ten-year ‘force design’” returning the Marines to their “navel roots”.

Elements of the ten-year force design.

1) Reduce headcount to 170,000

2) Downsize artillery and aircraft-F-35 decrease by one-third

3) Exchange tanks for “commando-like infantry force with nimbler weapons: drone squadrons, rockets and anti-missiles” able to fight by “fanning out on islands along and inside the chain from Japan to the Philippines”. “They could identify targets for more distant ships and warplanes, or pepper the Chinese fleet with fire themselves-dispersed, island-hoping warfare to stop any attack in its tracks”

4) Seamless integration with the Navy (The Marines Sister Service) will lead to “greater capability”

Getting buy-in will be “generational. “The younger members…are more willing to divest…legacy capabilities”.

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