Plans To Reshape US Marines Comes Under Sharp Criticism

Credit: Scandinavian Backlash/ unsplash
  • The US military commitment to the Pacific was underlined in a White House meeting between the leaders of the US and Japan.
  • A bitter family row has erupted in one of the US military’s most hallowed institutions, the US Marine Corps.
  • A host of its former senior commanders are lining up to attack the current leadership over plans for its reinvention.

At issue is a plan to adapt the service for a potential conflict against China – a plan dubbed Force Design 2030. Almost from its inception this plan has been under attack with a cohort of retired generals taking the unusual approach of going to the press to air their frustrations.

Alternative Plan

Retired senior officers have been meeting regularly; speaking at seminars and think tanks; and devising their own alternative to a plan which they see as a disaster for the Marine Corps’ future. One prominent critic is the former US Navy Secretary and former Senator for Virginia, Jim Webb, who served as a Marine officer in the Vietnam War and ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2015. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, he described Force Design 2030 as “insufficiently tested” and “intrinsically flawed”. He warned that the plan “raised serious questions about the wisdom and long-term risk of dramatic reductions in force structure…”

Launched in 2020 by the Marine Corps Commandant General David H Berger, the plan is intended to equip the Marines for a potential conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific region rather than counterinsurgency wars like Iraq and Afghanistan. The new plan sees the Marines as fighting dispersed operations across chains of islands. Units will be smaller, more spread out, but packing a much bigger punch through a variety of new weapons systems. 

Budget Allocation

Money for the new weapons systems, totaling $15.8 billion, are to be funded by the cuts which amount to some $18.2 billion. In addition to the new rocket artillery systems, there are to be new anti-shipping missiles that can be fired from land and new unmanned aerial systems. The goal is to equip and train the Marine Corps for a new kind of warfare that the fighting in Ukraine has already prefigured. Military specialist Mike O’Hanlon, director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, rejects the central criticism that the new focus on China might impair Marine operations elsewhere. The Marines will go where they are ordered, he says, and the new strategy probably won’t impact on operations as much as some think.

Amphibious Shipping

Amphibious shipping will play a key role here. And as Nick Childs, the Senior Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security at the IISS in London explains, new kinds of ships are going to be needed. “Just relying on their traditional large amphibious ships would leave them too vulnerable to the kinds of modern weaponry that they are likely to face”, he says. “So new kinds of smaller ships in greater numbers will be vital, so that the Marine Corps can operate in a more agile and dispersed way.”

But getting more ships is not going to be easy. Smaller ones can be built quickly and in a wide range of shipyards but not necessarily at the pace needed. The US Navy also needs significant numbers of new warships and it is far from clear that there are the funds or the ship-yard capacity needed.

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Source: BBC


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