Marine Corps Personnel Cuts: How Deep Will They Go?
“Our nation doesn’t need 202,000 … Marines, and quite honestly, we can’t afford them,” Amos said at a talk sponsored by Analytic Services Inc. at its Arlington, Va., office.
The Pentagon must contend with a $450 billion budget reduction over the next 10 years with immediate cuts of $261 billion. “We have a piece of that,” the commandant said.
The Corps grew from 176,000 in 2006 to 202,000 because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Last year, a force structure review recommended a number of 186,800. That wouldn’t return the service to its 2006 level, but it does take into account the addition of 1,000 personnel dedicated to cyber-operations as well as the 3,600 that are part of the new Marine Corps Special Operations Command, he said.
Former Secretary Robert Gates before his departure gave his approval to the 186,800 number, “but that was before everything began to unravel financially,” Amos said.
“My sense is that we’re probably going to go lower than that. I can’t tell you how much lower because that decision has not been made yet,” he added. “We are going to come down well below 186,800,” he said. “I think we’re going to be OK. I think we will still be able to do what our nation expects of us.”
However, there will be a reduction in capacity, which he described as “depth on the bench.” If there are simultaneous events occurring in three parts of the world that the Marine Corps normally would respond to, it may mean it could only carry out operations in two of them, he added.
Meanwhile, Amos said he was “excited” about the plan that emerged from President Obama’s trip to Australia to station Marines in the northern region of that nation. Traditionally, there have been 18,000 to 20,000 Marines deployed in the Asia-Pacific region. That number dropped as personnel were forward deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
“That’s an area where we grew up. We shed a lot of blood there in World War II,” he said. It’s an opportunity to reorient the service back to the Pacific and return the Marine Corps to its amphibious roots, he said. Although details have not been worked out, he did not envision simply flying a bunch of Marines there on transport aircraft to do training.
“It’s got to be more than just fly down, get off the plane, train, jump in the plane and then fly back some place,” he said. He would like to see Navy vessels bring them there for a more permanent presence in the region.
“I think it will be good for the nation because China’s presence in that part of the world is pretty significant. They are not threatening, but they are pretty significant,” he said.