Back to the Beach
The Marine Corps is looking to maintain
forward deployment capabilities in an uncertain world
BY JOHN M. DOYLE, Special Correspondent
Harvey Jr., commander of Fleet
Forces Command, said in a March
announcement to the fleet about
Bold Alligator 12.
But 2011 is turning out to be a
tough fiscal time for the U.S. government.
“We’re all going through the
summer of money,” Brig. Gen.
John W. Bullard Jr., deputy commanding general of the Marine
Corps Combat Development Command, told an amphibious warfare
conference in Washington July 26.
Bullard and every other speaker at
the Amphibious Operations Summit, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and
Government Advancement (IDGA), cautioned that
voices in Washington were calling for cuts in the
defense budget just as the Marine Corps needs to
replace aging assets, like amphibious assault vehicles
(AAVs), and refit other equipment worn down by nearly a decade of combat operations at an estimated cost
of $10.6 billion over the next two fiscal years.
Among the Marines’ concerns is the shortage of amphibious ships. There are 31 in the Navy’s inventory,
although many of the Marines at the Amphibious
Operations Summit — including Gen. James F. Amos,
the commandant — say it is more like 29 ships, when
one takes into account ships being decommissioned in
Current Navy and Marine Corps force structure
planning calls for a minimum capability of being able
to deploy two Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEBs)
simultaneously. In 2009, it was determined it would
take a total of 38 amphibious ships to support such
operations. Because of fiscal constraints, that number
was reduced to 33, Navy and Marine Corps officials
agreed in a Jan. 9, 2009, letter sent to the congressional
committees overseeing the military.
After a decade of war, the Marine Corps aims to go back to its
■ Combatant commanders around the globe have increased
their calls for forward deployed rapid response forces.
■ Since the end of the Cold War, the Marines have participated
in more than 100 amphibious operations, from disaster relief in
Haiti and Pakistan to evacuation of noncombatants from Liberia.
■ Marines are concerned that the Navy does not have enough large
amphibious ships to transport multiple expeditionary units.
After 10 years of fighting in the cities and esertsof Iraq and themountainsand valleys of Afghanistan, the U.S. Marine Corps is
going back to basics — revitalizing its capabilities for
Over the service’s long history, Marine Corps leaders
have been wary of the next politician or military planner
who wants to drastically reduce or eliminate the Corps in
times of fiscal constraint. The Corps’ leadership believes
it is time to revisit and improve the execution of the core
mission, forcible entry into dangerous or denied areas
from the sea — or, as they put it, “amphibiosity.”
To bone up on the skills necessary to hit the beach
in hostile territory, the Marine Corps is planning its
largest training exercise in a decade. Called Bold
Alligator 2012, the operation — scheduled for January
and February along the Atlantic Coast of the United
States — will test the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability
to conduct prompt and sustained amphibious expedi-
tionary operations from the sea.
“It is imperative that we not lose sight of the importance of this core competency, nor the fact that this
competency is, and always will be, a unique capability
delivered by the Navy-Marine Corps,” Adm. John C.