Dunford: Marine Corps Must Strike Readiness Balance


NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — With budgets getting tighter, the Marine Corps is struggling to keep its forces ready for unexpected contingencies, the service’s commandant said April 13.

“When I look at our ability to respond to the unexpected or to a major contingency, I have some concerns. The overall state of our non-deployed unit readiness, particular aviation units is below what we want it to be,” Gen. Joseph Dunford said in a speech at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Conference.

“We’re always going to have some disparity between deployed and non-deployed forces, but I believe we actually need to rebalance this area,” he noted.

Over the past several years, the Marine Corps has focused on its deployed force to meet the needs of combatant commanders in the Middle East. There was hope that eventually the budget would allow for more flexibility, but that has not happened, he said.

“I think there was an expectation that after a couple of years the budget would stabilize and we would be able to then go back and revisit some of the risk that we assumed on our non-deployed forces. But as I look at things today … I don’t know anybody who believes we’ll actually stabilize in the budget area in the next couple of years,” he said.

The service also faces a shortfall in its amphibious fleet’s readiness, Dunford said. He and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert both agree that the Marine Corps needs more ships.

“The truth of the matter is we don’t have sufficient amphibious ships to meet all the combatant commander’s requirements. If we add it all up — and the CNO and I both agree on this — it’d be a requirement for over 50 amphibious ships. We have a fiscally constrained requirement of 33 and as of couple of weeks ago, we’ve got 30 in the inventory,” he said.

“We need to rebalance out efforts to prepare for the future,” he said. “Underinvesting in modernization is going to result in us maintaining older or obsolete equipment at higher cost and [with] degraded capabilities. It’s eventually going to erode our competitive advantage I think we would all agree we don’t ever want our Marines and sailors in a fair fight.”

Key modernization priorities include the F-35 joint strike fighter, the joint light tactical vehicle, the amphibious combat vehicle and improved command-and-control systems, Dunford noted.
Additionally, the Marine Corps will need to invest in anti-access/area denial technnology, he said.

“Given the importance of maintaining a viable sea-based forcible entry capability our service level exercise priorities for 2015 and 2016 are going to focus on how we fight from the sea in an anti-access area denial environment,” he noted. “We want to protect our ability to use the sea as maneuver space in an environment where access is increasingly contested by state and non state actors.”

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget

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