LEADING THE NATION’S
CRISIS RESPONSE FORCE
Gen. James F. Amos became the 35th commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps on Oct. 22. A Marine
aviator, Amos has held command at all levels, from lieutenant colonel to lieutenant general, most recently
serving as the 31st assistant commandant of the Corps from 2008 to 2010.
Amos laid out his priorities for the service in the “Commandant’s Planning Guidance” for 2010, saying his
No. 1 priority is continuing to provide the best trained and equipped Marine units to Afghanistan. The commandant also noted the importance of rebalancing the service and posturing it for the future. Other priorities include better educating and training Marines “to succeed in distributed operations and increasingly
complex environments” and keeping “faith with our Marines, our Sailors and our families.”
The Marine Corps has some significant challenges ahead, not the least of which is the budget, what Amos
calls “the absolute near-term alligator.” The commandant discussed how the service can meet the demands
of today and prepare the expeditionary force for the future under extreme fiscal constraints with
Managing Editor Richard R. Burgess and Editor in Chief Amy L. Wittman. Excerpts follow:
How would you make the case that the Marine
Corps is vital to national defense?
AMOS: In a nutshell, we are America’s crisis response
force. The United States of America needs a force that
can get out the door very quickly, a force that’s in a
high state of readiness — all the time — and a force
that is willing to adapt to really any kind of environment, that is willing to live in harsh environments, that
brings skill sets that range from full major combat
operations to taking care of folks.
I’m not saying that a force in the Army can’t respond
to something, I’m not saying a force in the Navy or the
Air Force [cannot], but we bring the whole package.
We don’t just bring airplanes, we don’t just bring
ground forces, we bring everything.
We bring an air-ground logistics capability that is
structured and scaled and sized for each individual crisis.
We respond to today’s crisis, with today’s force, today.
When a crisis hits around the world — it can be a
humanitarian crisis, it can be a crisis off the coast of
Libya, it can be something someplace else — America
needs a force that it can send rapidly. Ideally, it would
come from some type of forward-deployed naval ves-
sels, you could put it on airplanes, but it is ready to go.
That is the Marines Corps’ lane.
The other services each have a domain. The Navy has
the sea/water domain. The Army has the ground domain. The Air Force has the sky and space domain. If
you imagine a Venn diagram, with three circles overlapping in the center, that’s the lane of the Marine Corps.
We’re not trying to do other services’ missions, but we
are our nation’s sole crisis response force. Without us,
the truth of the matter is our nation won’t be able to
respond the way it might like to.
When I was being interviewed for this job, a very sen-
ior civilian who interviewed me said, “You know, the neat
thing about the Marines is, we can have a crisis cook off
— we could send the Marines in and we’re not even sure
what they should do. We just know we need to get some-
body there on the ground, and the Marines will figure it
out when they get there.” That was a direct quote: “The
Marines will just figure it out when they get there.”
It means that we come with this expeditionary
“adapt” and “overcome” mindset. We’re ready to go.
When Libya hit and a no-fly zone was going to be instat-
ed, they brought two of the three amphibious ships up