Today General James Amos (currently the Assistant Commandant) had his confirmation hearing to be the next Commandant of the Marine Corps. Senator Scott Brown asked Amos to describe his vision for the post-Afghanistan Marine Corps (fast-forward to 91:30 in this webcast). Amos' answer re-affirmed Gen. James Conway's intention to return the Marine Corps to its naval and expeditionary roots.
Amos summed up his post-Afghanistan priorities for the Marine Corps:
1. High operational readiness
2. Persistent forward deployment, especially for ongoing theater security cooperation activities
3. Be prepared to execute a wide variety of crisis response missions
Amos made clear his strong support for a minimum of 33 Navy amphibious ships (enough for the assault echelon of two amphibious brigades) and left open the possibility that the Marine Corps' Force Structure Review Group (due to issue its report in January) may call for more than 33 amphibs. He also praised Navy Undersecretary Robert Work's support of the amphibious mission.
There was no discussion at the hearing of the troubled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program, nor was Amos asked to discuss his views on reducing the Marine Corps' post-Afghanistan end-strength from 202,000 to 175,000.
After Afghanistan, the Conway/Amos vision seems to call for preventive Phase Zero theater security cooperation deployments to be the Marine Corps' standard day-to-day routine. At the same time, the vision calls for the Marine Corps to be ready to rapidly mass for crisis response missions, ranging from disaster relief to raids to the possibility of brigade-sized amphibious operations.
Amos pledged that the Marine Corps would retain the counterinsurgency expertise it has re-exercised over the past nine years. But Amos also seems ready to shake the image of the Marine Corps as a second land army.