Anticipating the onslaught of projects coming, just
last week, the first week in August, we stood up a new
command — the officer in charge of Construction,
Marine Corps Marianas, whose sole special purpose
focus is to manage this construction effort over the
next decade. This is the model that we’ve used periodically where we have an intensive development effort
somewhere in the world and we’ll stand up this special
purpose unit and then, when the construction is done,
we will stand it down. We’ve stood up that group.
Having said that, anyone who has followed this
program over time knows that it’s difficult, it’s hard,
it’s complicated and will remain so. We have some
environmental planning issues that we’re working
through now and we will continue to work through
those, we’ll get past those, and it is our intention to
meet the needs of the Marine Corps with this construction program.
Do you see the Seabee force as adequate for
the present and what you perceive to be the
MUILENBURG: In my opinion, I see the Seabee force
today as adequate for their tasked missions, for their
tasked workload. However, I will say that the Marine
Corps, Navy and Combatant Command-supported
commanders always seem to want more Seabees. I
think [Gen. Douglas] MacArthur was the first one
to say “the problem with Seabees is there just aren’t
enough of them.” And, so, I think we still experience
that. It’s true in peacetime, but I think it is particularly
true in times of crisis that people want more Seabees.
The history of our force, you are probably aware,
in times of conflict, our numbers go up drastically.
As soon as the conflict is over, our numbers reduce
almost as drastically. This happened in World War
II, Korea, Vietnam and, now, Operations Iraqi and
Today, we are kind of in the valley of our force
structure. The services have reduced their engineers
the last few years. In the aggregate, because we are
able to work as a joint force quite well, I think something to keep our eye on is whether we’ve gone too far.
The challenge for me and others is to be ready to ramp
up again when the time comes, when we’re called to
increase our units, increase the number of Seabees,
that we’re able to do that. We’re spending some time
making sure that we’re doing that.
An example of that I would offer to you is, the
original Seabees came from our nation’s construction
industry. They came out of the union halls. They came
out of industry. They were patriots. They joined the
Navy and they had the technical skills to do any the
job we needed them to do overseas. I like that model.
We really rely on our Reserve workforce to be the
first responders when we need to ramp up for crises.
I want to make sure that the folks we are recruiting
into our Reserve Seabees primarily are people with
those construction and engineering skills because
that is what they do every day of their working lives.
That’s the best recipe to me. I think that’s better than
the method where we’re recruiting non-construction
industry folks and then attempting to train them inside
the military for that mission. We are going to carefully
watch that balance.
Can you talk about what interagency and
public/private partnerships mean to your command? Maybe give some examples of where
those partnerships have met with success or
delivered new capabilities for you.
MUILENBURG: Let’s talk about interagency first. When
we talk about interagencies, we are talking about all the
agencies of the federal government working together
toward a common national purpose. We work with
just about all of them. We work with the Departments
of Interior, Commerce, Agriculture, Energy — the list
really goes on and on.