“They can either have fewer
well-equipped, trained and fully
manned units, or more units
understaffed, with older equipment, operating on a tiered readiness rotation. I think the Corps
should be around 200K [200,000],
unless its workload is reduced to
levels a 180K-force can handle,”
Wood told Seapower.
Marine leaders took some comfort in the budget’s assurance that
their personnel reductions would
stop after a final drop this fiscal
year from 183,500 to 182,000, and
would remain at that level through
fiscal 2021. Although the Corps’
leaders lost their argument for a
floor of 186,800, they avoided the
deeper cuts projected when the
But as the force reductions were under way, Congress
ordered the Corps to nearly double its Embassy Security
Group, in response to the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
The Corps also created an SPMAGTF Crisis Response with about 2,000 Marines and Sailors to provide a quick-reaction force for contingencies in Southern Europe and Africa, a second one of similar size for
Central Command and, recently, a smaller one for
The Marines for those deployed units came from the
same shrinking operational force supplying the six
2,000-strong deploying MEUs, the nearly 10,000 Marines forward-based in the Western Pacific, and train-and-advise units in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Marine Corps Reserves would drop 400 to 38,500,
and stay there through the five-year budget plan. Marine
civilian employees would go down slightly to 20,000.
The proposed procurement budget of $1.4 billion supported most of the Corps’ top-priority ground modernization programs, although Neller said the buy of one
key ground combat vehicle, the Joint Light Tactical
Vehicle (JLTV), had to be reduced in order to preserve
development funds for the other crucial requirement,
the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV).
Because there was a likely delay in the JLTV deliveries due to a protest of the contract award to
Oshkosh, he chose to cut the planned buy from 269 to
192 to protect the $159 million needed to continue
development of the ACV and the planned delivery of
32 test vehicles.
The JLTV will replace aged Humvees with a safer and
more capable vehicle, while the eight-wheel ACV will
replace the AAV- 7 assault amphibious vehicles, which are
years past their expected end of service life. The budget
also would provide $74 million to continue improvement and life-extension work to keep some of the old
AAVs combat ready until the ACVs are fully operational.
The Corps’ procurement budget also supports the AntiTank Modernization to increase the lethality of the Light
Armored Vehicles (LAV-25s) and purchase of more of the
highly capable Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar systems.
The Marines’ share of the Navy’s $44.1 billion procurement budget provided a boost in the Corps’ top aviation modernization effort, the short-takeoff, vertical-landing F-35B Lightning II, which will replace all three
of its legacy tactical aircraft — the F/A- 18 and AV-8B
fighters and the EA-6B electronic warfare jet.
The increase of two F-35s to 16, however, was offset
by reductions in the Corps’ rotary-wing modernization,
with 16 MV-22B tiltrotor transports proposed, instead
of the 18 planned, and 24 AH-1Z attack helicopters,
instead of 27 expected.
But the budget provided funds to continue testing of
the CH-53K and production of the first two operational
versions of the heavy-lift helicopter, which will replace
the legacy CH-53E with a modern and more capable aircraft. It also would continue development of the VH-92A,
the future presidential helicopter that the Marines will fly,
and buy four RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial systems, which will make their first operational deployment
this summer [see story on page 40].
And the Marines will get two more KC-130J tanker-transports, which will replace the old KC-130Ts in the
An F-35B Lightning II from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 conducts a
vertical landing at a Forward Arming and Refueling Point aboard Marine Corps
Base, Camp Pendleton, Calif. It was the first time that the F- 35 conducted
close-air support missions in support of exercise Steel Knight.