crisis area, while acknowledging the
Marines would need Air Force support to open the door and Army follow-up forces to exploit the opening.
Work accepted Gates’ view that
the proliferation of precision anti-ship missiles could drive the
amphibious force farther off shore.
That threat can be minimized, he
suggested, by achieving “battle
network superiority” with strikes
on the sensors and command networks supporting the missiles.
The Marines have argued for years
that they can operate safely from 25
nautical miles at sea, using the MV- 22 Osprey tiltrotor
transport and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV),
with its high water speed. But EFV development has been
troubled and it is thought to be on Gates’ list of likely program terminations.
Asked about the EFV, Work praised it as a “
tremendous capability,” but “also very expensive.” He said it
would be reviewed in an ongoing tactical vehicle study
and during the fiscal 2012 budget process.
The MOC also stresses the value of sea-based
Marine units conducting “engagement” missions, such
as training and advising, and exercises with allied or
neutral nations’ militaries.
Working from Navy ships offshore, “you’re not
impinging on their sovereignty,” and not creating a “big
foot print,” the document says. “That builds friends.
And in time of crisis, friends help naval access.”
Work and the MOC went into considerable detail
on what the Marines will have to do to regain their
“naval character” after Afghanistan. A key part of that
will be “lightening the force,” or reducing the amount
and weight of the equipment the service amassed for
the prolonged land fights.
Helping to achieve that will be the ground tactical
vehicle strategy being developed by Flynn’s command to
determine the number and types of vehicles the Corps
will need. Even before that is done, Flynn said, the Corps
plans to cut 10,000 of its current 42,000 vehicles.
Work said the Marines also convened a Force
Structure Review Group that is going to “outline the size
and organization of the post-Afghanistan Marine Corps.”
He said the results were expected by the end of this
year, and the required changes would be reflected in
the planning document for the fiscal 2013 budget.
The Marines’ return to their naval roots could be complicated by a possible shortage of amphibious ships,
which have been reduced by 60 percent since 1990, the
MOC says. That cut, the lack of training for expeditionary operations and the heavier equipment obtained
U.S. MARINE CORPS
U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 24 conduct
a beach assault with Peruvian Marines in Salinas, Peru, July 11.
Flynn said, while the Corps supposedly was becoming “a
second land army” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those operations included evacuating U.N. forces from
Somalia under fire, evacuating thousands of Americans
during conflicts in Lebanon and Liberia, and performing
numerous humanitarian relief and disaster-assistance missions, such as after the recent earthquake in Haiti.
But they also included an amphibious force off of
Kuwait in 1991 that tied up thousands of Iraqi troops
on the beaches while other Marines came in behind
them by land, and the insertion of about 1,000 Marines
into Afghanistan 400 miles from amphibious ships in
the Arabian Sea in 2001.
The continued need for those sea-based response
capabilities and the increasing threat of “anti-access”
efforts by potential adversaries, such as China, “makes
the flexible, expeditionary qualities of the Marine
Corps especially relevant,” the MOC argues.
The Corps’ prime contributions to the nation and
the joint force, the publication said, are “assured littoral access” and crisis response, from humanitarian
assistance to major conflicts.
That position was supported by Robert O. Work,
undersecretary of the Navy, who discussed the future
Marine Corps at a Center for Strategic and International
Studies forum in Washington Aug. 3.
After years of constant land combat, Work said “the
future Marine Corps will more reflect its naval charac-
ter. The future Marine Corps, closely supported by the
U.S. Navy and the joint team, is going to be capable of
conducting amphibious assault and conducting joint
forcible entry operations.”
But, he added, “amphibious assault means nothing
more than putting a force ashore on a hostile, or poten-
tially hostile, shore. … If you think Tarawa, that’s old
think,” said Work, a retired Marine colonel [see
Interview, page 48].
The MOC also argues for amphibious assault capabilities as a tool to ensure U.S. forces can project power into a