“Our most significant readiness challenge is the gap in
the numbers of unit leaders with the right grade, experi-
ence, technical and leadership qualifications,” Dunford
said. Specifically, he explained, the inventory of noncom-
missioned officers [NCOs] and staff NCOs “is not meet-
ing our force structure requirements,” and that “directly
affects our training, maintenance and discipline, result-
ing in degraded readiness and combat effectiveness.”
Also due to the funding reductions, the Corps “is not
adequately resourcing our non-deployed units,” Dunford
said, resulting in “deficiencies in personnel, equipment
and training. This is a rational choice given the current
fiscal situation, but it is not sustainable over time,”
because it would “hollow the force and create unaccept-
able risk for our national defense.”
The commandant noted that the Corps’ operational
tempo has remained high since Sept. 11, 2001, and “we
expect this trend to continue. Your Marines serving in
the operating forces are either deployed, getting ready to
deploy, or have recently returned from deployment.”
In his oral statements to the subcommittee, Dunford
said the operational forces are maintaining a deployment-
to-dwell ratio of 1-to- 2, meaning they are gone for about
seven months and then home for about 14 months. A
more sustainable rate would be 1-to- 3, he said.
Because they have had to focus reduced resources on
the deploying units, he said, the Corps “does not have
the proper level of personnel stability or cohesion in
our non-deployed units. The practice of moving
Marines between units to meet manning goals for
deployments creates personnel turbulence, inhibits
cohesion” and it “affects our combat readiness and our
ability to take care of Marines.”
The general also noted that while deployed Marine
units have “high levels of readiness for core and assigned
missions,” more than half of non-deployed units “report
unacceptable levels of readiness.
“We must remain cognizant that our home-stationed
units constitute the ‘bench’ that would surge to conduct
full-spectrum operations required in major contingencies,” Dunford said.
“We ask Congress to support these measures through
appropriations of the funds we have requested” in the
president’s budget, he told the subcommittee.
Many of the “priorities” in Dunford’s congressional
statement were acquisition programs aimed at correcting equipment weaknesses.
High on that list were two aviation programs — the
F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-landing variant of
Lockheed Martin’s joint strike fighter and the CH-53K
heavy-lift helicopter being developed by Sikorsky.
The decades-old F/A-18s, AV-8Bs and EA-6Bs “have
performed magnificently in combat in Iraq and
Afghanistan, providing our Marine riflemen the fires
they needed” while operating from sea and from expe-
ditionary bases ashore, he said.
Although with Congress’ help the Corps has kept
those legacy aircraft “as modern as possible and
extracted every ounce of readiness we can from them,”
he said, a high operational pace has pushed these air-
craft toward the end of their service lives.
“Due to the uncertainty prevalent in today’s global secu-
rity environment, the nation requires we maintain a capa-
bility to respond quickly in contested regions regardless of
weather conditions.” The F- 35, as part of the Marine Air-
Ground Task Force, “meets the nation’s need,” he said.
The proposed budget requested $1.1 billion for Marine
procurement, just $100 million over current funding.
But Marine aviation programs are funded in the
Navy’s $44.4 billion procurement account, which
would buy nine F-35Bs next year, 14 in fiscal 2017 and
20 in each of the next three years.
That requested funding supports the timeline to
achieve initial operational capability (IOC) of the
Marines’ first F-35B squadron later this year and full
transition to the new jet by 2031, Dunford said.
“Continued congressional support for this transi-
tion is key to increasing our degraded aviation readi-
ness and minimizing our exposure to ever-increasing
operations and support costs for aged aircraft,” he said.
Dunford also stressed the need for the CH-53K to
replace the legacy CH-53Es, which are the U.S. mili-
tary’s only heavy-lift helicopters.
The budget requested $673.4 million for the engineering and manufacturing development phase and
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / APRIL 2015
An F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-landing variant of the joint
strike fighter completes wet runway and crosswind testing
July 30 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., an important pro-
gram milestone in enabling U.S. Marines Corps initial opera-
tional capability certification.