JUST IN: Marine Corps Building Navy Buy In for 2030 Modernization

By Meredith Roaten

Marine Corps photo

The Marine Corps is working more closely with the Navy during wargames and experimentations to demonstrate the value of the amphibious force, according to a top Marine leader.

While fiscal pressure can sometimes set the forces against each other, the Marine Corps’ new modernization plan will require the Navy to be all in on Force Design 2030, said Gen. Eric Smith, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

Marine Corps Commandant David Berger introduced the new Force Design in 2020 and released an updated version earlier this year. The document calls for divestment from legacy systems such as tanks and investment into platforms that give the force more mobility.

Smith said building personal relationships is not enough to build the strategy to win the future fight.

“You have a candid conversation with fleet commanders with the Navy staff about what is the value of the Navy-Marine Corps team, that ability to be forward deployed 24/7 with organic mobility that is playing itself out at the fleet level,” he said Nov. 4 during an event at Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

One example of the collaboration that takes place is the Marine Expeditionary Units which are made up of Marines and sailors that “are completely tied together.”

Force Design 2030 includes a campaign of learning approach to change, which means that there is constant conversation internally in the Marine Corps and with its counterpart, he noted.

“We are in fact wargaming, experimenting and just having daily debates about the efficacy of this platform, that platform, and I would say the Navy and us are much closer than I think is portrayed in the press,” he said.

He noted fiscal pressures can exacerbate tensions. The Marine Corps is saving money by divesting from legacy platforms, but it still has to purchase the latest platforms such as long-range precision munitions and anti-ship cruise missiles.

“Where it always comes down to is when there's this is the last dollar authorized to be spent or appropriated to be spent, where are we going to spend it? That's where the rub comes in the Pentagon, frankly, because it's you know, there's one ice cream cone, two kids,” he explained.

The Navy and the Marines need to build the understanding that amphibious forces cannot achieve the objectives in the National Defense Strategy alone.

“The purpose isn't the amphibious force. Amphibious force is there in order to enable the national defense strategy, which is to deter, to counter aggression, to provide a free and open Indo Pacific,” he said.

The Marine Corps is also prioritizing connections with Congress to help reach its 2030 goals, Smith said. The force has been successful in implementing some of the changes from Force Design 2030 so quickly because senior leaders are in constant conversation with leaders on the Hill, Smith said.

“But we have good support on the Hill because the Hill understands what the threat is. And the Hill is a place, it's not a person,” he said.

While the Marine Corps is getting buy-in from the Navy, Pentagon and Congress, leadership could have done a better job connecting with the retired Marine community, Smith said. The force has seen some blowback from that community, mostly around sunsetting legacy platforms.

“Where we failed, I think was with — this is for institutional change management — your other shareholders, so our retired community could have done much better,” Smith said. “The active community is a little bit easier because when the commandant says move, you move.”


Topics: Marine Corps News

Comments (1)

Re: Marine Corps Building Navy Buy In for 2030 Modernization

This article says it truthfully about the joint US Navy and USMC teaming. However, the disconnect seems to be the obvious in that the teaming doesn't seem to click in some areas to prepare for a peer nation war.

If CRRCs are the "happening trend" of Force Design 2030, then why not design a new CRRC? There are small troop hovercrafts that can serve for beach assaults instead of large LCACs and SSCs. Why don't the ESBs get CIWS, EW/ECM, automatic armament, CEC, and NSM or VLS? If the goal is EABOs, then the unarmed ESBs will be mighty vulnerable to attack. The USN/USMC teaming just doesn't click for a peer nation conflict with the unarmed ESBs.

If the analogy is two kids and one ice cream cone, then why not one huge cup of ice cream and two spoons? See how the word terminology is jinxing Force Design 2030 already? If one ice cream cone is all you got for two kids, then already the plan is flawed. Even one ice cream scoop in a cup is fairer to see and eat than licking a cone with two tongues and trying not to get the ice cream to fall off the cone onto the ground.

Yes, some retired USMC generals were livid about the MLR and Force Design 2030. They complained how the MEUs were so balanced in organic air and land firepower and the MLR is not. But the USMC does have to transform to change and more hiding is vital to more "Show of Force" that risks getting openly whacked. Nonetheless, this story does point out that the USMC has not really acquired a lot of new systems and is still testing. The risk is that testing too much and not buying runs the problem of facing a pacing threat nation that is building ships and already has a vast land army with armor that it just needs to ship over to invade.

If WW2 coastal deterrence were big battleship guns, and modern coastal deterrence will be huge anti-ship missiles, then the USMC is "late to the game" as anti-ship missiles isn't their forte. The US Marines are essentially following some US Army and Navy missile programs and putting them on land instead. Gone are the railguns, 155mm AGS, Arsenal Ship, 747 Airborne Laser, CLAWS/SLAMARAAM, EFV, MEADS, NASAMS, and a host of other systems that could have helped the US Marines be smarter, stronger, and tougher use crying over shelved milk though.

This doesn't mean all is bleak and woe for the Marines as the US Army, Navy, and Air Force seems to be making strides with their armor and missile modernization and transformation programs. And the USMC was rated as "Strong" by the Heritage Foundation. But even USMC pack animals need a program of expansion and so far no news has come that is even happening.

Obviously, this doesn't mean wanton USMC spending to catch up. The USMC will need to spend their money wisely---I am sure I and others are REALLY WONDERING how much money the USMC saved with the divestment of Legacy platforms and if that saved money is enough for transformation. If the US is in a budget surplus, then perhaps the Marine Commandant does need to swallow pride and ask Congress for more money just to compete with pacing threats. Remember, Force Design 2030 divested of Legacy platforms (M1A1 tanks, 155mm M777s, V-22s, etc.) to save money because the Commandant believes Congress will not give the USMC any more money to transform.

Trisaw at 7:35 PM
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