The proposed fiscal 2017 defense budget would allow the Marine Corps to stop its personnel reductions and continue its highest priority modernization programs, but leave the Corps straining to meet
a growing load of commitments, fill new critical skill positions, maintain a combat-ready backup force at home
bases and keep its legacy equipment operational.
“Today’s force is capable and our forward-deployed
forces are ready to fight, but we are fiscally stretched
to maintain readiness across the depth of the force,
and to modernize, in order to achieve future readi-
ness,” Gen. Robert B. Neller, the Marine Corps com-
mandant, said in his posture statement to Congress.
“The Marine Corps is no longer in a position to gen-
erate current readiness and reset our equipment while
sustaining our facilities and modernizing to ensure
Neller said the 2015 budget
forced the Corps to “reduce training
for our operating force,” then oper-
ations and maintenance (O&M)
funding was reduced another 5. 6
percent in the 2016 budget, which
was carried forward into the pro-
posed fiscal 2017 budget.
Those years of reduced O&M
funding “will force us to employ a
prioritized readiness model for our
deploying forces and prevents us
from our desired readiness recovery, both in operational training
and facilities sustainment,” the
commandant said in the written
statement March 2.
“This means the Marine Corps
will not have as deep and as ready
a bench to draw from for a major
contingency,” Neller said, referring
to the non-deployed units.
In more ominous terms, Gen.
John M. Paxton Jr., the assistant commandant, told the
House Armed Services readiness subcommittee on March
3 that due to the prolonged reduction in funding, “our
ability to surge to the war fight is seriously challenged.”
Neller said the readiness crisis was most severe in
the Corps’ aviation units, which are unable to meet
training and mission requirements, primarily due to a
shortage of ready aircraft. Because of a shortage of spare
parts and delays in getting old aircraft through depot
maintenance, he said that if the F/A- 18 squadrons had
to go to war today, “they would be forced to execute
with 86 less jets than they need.”
Testifying with Paxton at the readiness subcommit-
tee hearing, Lt. Gen. Glenn M. Walters, deputy com-
mandant for Programs and Resources, said the 2017
O&M funding was $460 million short of requirements,
which would hurt the effort to return worn-out equip-
Marine Corps’ ‘ability to surge to the war fight is seriously challenged’
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
Tradeoffs and Consequences
The fiscal 2017 budget request for the Marine Corps halts cuts
to personnel and continues key modernization programs, but at
the expense of readiness.
; The Corps will have difficulty meeting a growing load of commitments, filling critical skill positions and maintaining a combat-ready backup force at home bases.
; The budget would stop the Corps’ drawdown at 182,000
Marines, from a peak of 202,000, avoiding the earlier projected
cut to 175,000.
; That end strength, however, will be stretched across an
expanded Embassy Security Force commitment, three recently
created Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, its
traditional Marine Expeditionary Unit deployments at sea, forces
stationed ashore in Japan, an expanding rotational presence
in Australia and a still-growing Marine Forces Special Operations Command.