One of the key components of the “Long War”
document is re-establishing ties with the Navy
and focusing on the expeditionary nature of the
Marine Corps. How do you go about doing that?
MAGNUS: Iraq has clearly got us pulled away and
focused on combat operations, counterinsurgency operations, stability and security operations, which means
that we haven’t had the time or depth of personnel to
dedicate to traditional amphibious, sea-based operations. Most recently, the 24th Marine Expeditionary
Unit, which normally would have gone onboard an
Expeditionary Strike Group, went to Afghanistan via air.
I think the relationship with the Navy remains
strong but, in fact, the focus of our efforts has necessarily been on the war we have. We have a generation
of company-grade officers who, other than classroom
studies, have never planned or conducted an amphibious operation from the sea. And that is what’s critical.
I will say the focus has also been different for the
Navy. There are more Sailors on the ground in Central
Command [CENTCOM] than there are at sea in
Central Command right now. So, very clearly, the focus
of the Navy is also on the war at hand.
The “Long War” document presupposes a
robust amphibious fleet. Do you think the
Navy is fully onboard in terms of shipbuilding?
MAGNUS: The Navy is clearly moving toward more
capable ships. The plan is to build a force of 313, perhaps more, ships. Now, of course, there’s a tremendous
amount of debate about how affordable that is, but the
intent is not to build fewer more capable ships. The
intent is to build more more capable ships. And the
commandant [Gen. James T. Conway] and the chief of
naval operations [CNO Adm. Gary Roughead] have
completely aligned with that idea.
The priorities about what ship gets built first and what
gets built last, there is always a discussion about that
because the nation’s got certain priorities for nuclear-attack submarines, aircraft carriers, Maritime Preposition
Force (Future) and Littoral Combat Ship [LCS]. So we’ll
always have a discussion, every year, about that.
You have said that sea basing is a vital national
priority. Has the definition of what constitutes a
sea base changed over the past few years?
MAGNUS: I think there are a lot of different definitions, but the Joint Forces Command put out a joint
integrating concept on joint sea basing, which was fairly clear that we’re talking about a capability to support
major combat operations.
There are people who will say that “sea basing” can be
a ship at sea, but to me that is reducing this to a level
where it doesn’t have any meaning anymore. If you want
U.S. MARINE CORPS
Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., right, the commanding officer
of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations
Capable), gives a brief on his unit’s counterinsurgency
efforts to Gen. Robert Magnus, far left, then-Lt. Gen. Jan
Huly, center, and retired Col. Harvey C. Barnum Jr., aboard
Forward Operating Base Hit, Iraq, Jan. 5, 2006.
to take elements of a sea base and create Global Fleet Station Africa partnership with a handful of ships, that’s fine,
but that’s not the same thing as the overarching joint integrating concept of joint sea basing. It is just a subset of it.
Now we’re getting into the hard work of letting contracts and actually having the money on the table for
the ships that we want that are the focal point of joint
integrated sea basing, which are basically the transportation platforms. And they do not survive in the sea
base without surface combatants around them. You
can’t just have a Preposition Force (Future) with no
DDG 1000s, no LCSs, no submarines.
How long will it take for the Marine Corps to
MAGNUS: If we were going to substantially draw down in
Iraq and Afghanistan, which is not going to happen in the
near term, it would take me at least two years after that by
the time I got done with my main depot maintenance
work. My gut reaction is, if you were to ask me from
2009, how long will it take to reset the force? The answer
depends on how you set it up, but it’s two to six years.
Maritime Preposition Squadron 1 is at 80 percent of
its on-hand equipment. We believe that those ships
will go through their normal maintenance cycle at
Blount Island and, at that time, we’ll be restocked and
we’ll be at 100 percent in 2011.
Maritime Preposition Squadron 2, which was the
main source of equipment for the CENTCOM operational area, is down to 54 percent of its on-hand equipment. Those ships will go through their cycle, and we
will be back up to 100 percent in 2012.
Maritime Preposition Squadron 3, which is in the
Pacific, is at 100 percent of its on-hand equipment and
ready for other contingency operations. ■