Small Wars Journal

Gen. Amos on Reinventing the Marines, Owning Sequester and Why COIN Is More Relevant Than Ever

Thu, 08/08/2013 - 3:38pm

Gen. Amos on Reinventing the Marines, Owning Sequester and Why COIN Is More Relevant Than Ever by Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One.

… The lessons of COIN are being taught in the halls of Marine Corps academies. And the Marines have doubled the number of foreign area officers in the past two years, after opening the program up to staff NCOs…

Read on.



Outstanding summary and right on the mark. The USMC is seriously duplicating America's Ground Force and should be drastically reduced in size. Heavy and fixed wing assets re-allocated to the Army and Air Force, and turnover base functions to a DOD consolidated IMCOM type organization. The remainder of the USMC, now falling under the Navy, should be transferred to SOCOM to perform functions as a "Maritime Expeditionary Force" under a SOCOM designated Commander, where they would actually be employed instead of floating around the ocean wondering which Libbo port is next.

The US military has a capable ground force component -- called the US Army. The last thing the DOD and the nation's budget expenditures need are units from different branches of the military competing to preform the same core strategic and associated tactical tasks as a matter of "permanently" assigned responsibility.

COIN type operations whether carried out on a small(er) scale in support of another country;s military (by the Special Forces and other supporting units such as Ranger Battalions) or at the larger scale level, combined with the occupation of a foreign country, are most certainly one of the core missions of the of the Department of the Army. They certainly should never be the responsibility of one of the Department of the "Navy's" component organizations. The area of responsibility of the Navy Department is the sea.

Any application of force from a sea based platform directed against on-shore targets should be temporary in nature. And, that application of force (delivery of explosive power) or a small ground presence should be provided by sea based forces only in an operating environment where the needed airfields or debarkation ports are not under control of either US or friendly foreign forces and thus not immediately available for use by the Army and Air Force -- as they were in Saudi Arabia during the 1990 crisis.

To the extent that the primary mission of Marine Corps ground units and supporting air assets has post-WWII been to conduct long term ground operations de facto under Army command, they have merely been part of the Army. An indication that the Army was understrength in those times of need and the Marine Corps over strength.

The Marine Corps' core mission remains what it has been since its conception (as the previous Commandant noted) -- to provide "soldiers from the sea." They, therefore, exist to enable the Navy to extend sea power in the form of a temporary ground presence ashore in order to secure executive department ordered tactical objectives (on foreign soil) on a short term basis, otherwise, the Marines will be competing to perform "Army" missions. In that case their organizational components so involved and their budgets should be part of the Department of the Army.

The SecDef needs to determine within obvious budget constraints where and how many deployed afloat Marine Corps battalions (including their supporting air assets) this nation wants to continually maintain at sea and using that information / data association with that mission requirement extrapolate the necessary size of the Marine Corps and its organization. Of course that computation would include the number of non-deployed battalions and supporting forces stationed stateside or at forward US bases, the shore duty components needed to maintain and supply that effort, the manpower needed to support the Marines other smaller assigned efforts such as various ceremonial functions, guarding embassies, etc.

The budget and manpower currently part of the Marine Corps in excess of that extrapolated requirement should be transferred either to the Army or Air or perhaps assigned (to some degree)to the Marine Corps Reserve.

The era of large scale amphibious operations is over and this country should not expend the budgeted funds to maintain a large amphibious force in waiting for a military mission that will never again occur. The Navy's campaign up the Pacific in WWII was a one time event. The only reason that Admirals Nimitz and King spent part of the Navy's budget on Marine Divisions under their total control was their realization that (understandably) the priority of the Army lie in Europe and the Navy's unwillingness to compete with MacArthur for ground force resources being sent to the Pacific. Absent those considerations there would not have been Marine Corps divisions. As the Army demonstrated in North Africa, Italy France, the Southwest Pacific, the Philippines, etc they were more than capable of conducting (repeated) successful amphibious assaults.

Historical events and traditions should never be the basis for determining the structure of the US military's organization or their components' missions accompanying budgets -- else we would still have "horse" riding cavalry which secured the West, never replace piloted aircraft with "software" guided drones, the wooden sail powered U.S.S. Constitution would still sail the seas outside of Boston Harbor, etc.

In fact, not only should the Navy Department shed much of its budget for Marine units, it should also much reduce the size of its SEAL units and with substantial parts of that organization and those budgeted funds reassigned to the Army's Delta Forces. SEAL units, like the Marine Corps should only be sufficient in size to carry out missions from the sea and return there "immediately" after that raiding type effort is concluded. Maintaining a SEAL force so numerous that it can share long term sustained ground force campaigns (deep inland) with the Delta Force merely indicates that the Delta Force is understrength and the SEAL components of the Navy too large.

The DOD needs to end the costly and unnecessary duplication of efforts (duplication of missions) that has arisen within the US military over the past five or more decades. Performing duplicate or supplemental missions with the same strategic / tactical objectives by different branches of the military should be allowed when they result from absolute needs such as that resulting from operating environments. For instance, as in the placement of ballistic missiles on submarines.