JUST IN: Amphibs, Logistics Most Pressing Needs for Marines, Commandant Says

By Sean Carberry

Defense Dept. photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Marine Corps has already completed much of the transformation outlined in the Force Design 2030 restructuring and re-equipping plan, but the service, Defense Department and Congress need to act urgently to deliver amphibious ships and resilient logistics capabilities, the commandant said.

“Not satisfactory,” was Gen. David Berger’s assessment of the progress made on fielding small amphibious ships to ferry Marines around the Indo-Pacific. The Marine Corps says it needs at least 31 amphibious assault and transport dock ships.

“The smaller ships — which we know we need — they enter a process in the Pentagon of, ‘Okay, what is it you need, what capability do you need?’” he said during a Brookings Institution discussion May 23. “By the time it comes out the other side, everybody's piled on all kinds of extra things on there that you don't need, and it comes out to be super expensive and beyond what you want.”

Then, the service war-games it, “and you have discussions, and six months later, you end up doggone pretty close to where you started from. You lost a year,” said Berger, who is in the final months of his four-year tenure as commandant.

“So, my frustration is: I could not find a way to navigate through that process any faster,” he continued. The solution is to “put a check” on an initial requirement to prevent people from adding on expensive and unnecessary weapons and defensive systems in the acquisition process.

However, as National Defense has previous reported, the Marine Corps and Navy are still at odds over what mix of sizes, shapes and capabilities of amphibious ships the services need. That debate will continue to play out once Congress begins marking up the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act.

In the meantime, the Marine Corps needs to up its logistics game, Berger said.

“It's very clear to me that logistics, among the warfighting functions, is the one that we need to make the most progress on right now,” he said. “It's not fires. It's not intelligence. It's not command and control.”

The problem isn’t that the military is bad at logistics, he said. It’s that the military has been able to rely on secure logistics for decades.

“We haven't needed to protect our lines. Now, we assume they will be contested. My number one focus: logistics, logistics, logistics,” he said.

That requires a complete relook at the global pre-positioning network on shore and at sea, he said. It also requires moving as fast as possible on artificial intelligence, autonomy and unmanned systems.

“That will help us from predictive maintenance to distribution to forecasting, all the way back in our supply chain, all the way back to the United States, linking stitching all of that together,” he said.

Critical is viewing it as a supply web rather than a supply chain, he added.

"If you wanted to disrupt the U.S., you wouldn't go symmetrically head on head with us, you'd go after the soft spots,” or perceived soft spots, he said. And adversaries would be likely to view logistics as where they can “pinch” or hurt the U.S. military.

“We have to have a balance of both ashore nodes … and afloat and air — all of it,” he said.

The commander of Transportation Command, Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, is heading in that direction, he said.

“She clearly recognizes single points of failure — not good, need a lot of resiliency, a lot of redundancy,” he said. “That will not be cheap. To build in that resiliency and redundancy will not be cheap.

“But we can't go for efficiency and hope that we're going to be resilient enough to survive the first few weeks when they can test it,” he said.

Berger said he is hopeful that Congress will continue to support Marine Corps modernization efforts. In his first three years in charge, the service submitted a flat budget, and each year Congress increased the service’s funding.

“I don't think they would have given us more if they didn't have confidence in the direction we're going,” he said, adding that the 2024 budget proposal is an increase over previous requests.

He added that the service has demonstrated fiscal responsibility and stretched its funding by divesting.

“Nobody told us to do those things,” he said. “But I think you have to prove that you're frugal before you go ask for more allowance.”

In addition to giving the Marine Corps a raise, Congress needs to help speed up the acquisition process, he said.

“The speed of innovation in the private sector, to some degree is driven by concepts like venture capitalism,” he said. “But that doesn't exist in the Department of Defense. In fact, it's whatever the opposite of that is, that's what we have.”

Congress needs to free up funds for combatant commanders to invest or use more quickly, he said.

“Adjust some regulations to enable innovation to happen at speed [and] understand the risks,” he said. “But if we keep the same framework in place — that was put probably for all the right reasons when their oversight wasn't to the degree it should have been — if we don't change that, we will fall behind. But it comes with risk.”

Topics: Marine Corps News

Comments (4)

Re: Amphibious Ships, Logistics Most Pressing Needs for Marine Corps, Commandant Says

To quote General Bradley (and many others) "Amateurs talk tactics, Professionals talk Logistics". So for someone to come up with a "new" way of taking the fight to an enemy (much like the Defense Battalions of WWII frankly) and equip the force as such...only to realize that the logistics piece was not addressed just reeks of the hallmark of amateur-ism.

CoffeeJoeJava at 12:14 PM
Re: Amphibious Ships, Logistics Most Pressing Needs for Marine Corps, Commandant Says

A prudent commander wouldn't adopt an operational concept (Stand-in Forces) and divest critical capabilities until he had figured out the logistical means and methods needed to support that concept. General Berger was not prudent and now the Marine Corps is unprepared to execute that concept and because of the structure and systems he divested not able to fulfill its Title 10 responsibilities as the Nation's 911 Force able to respond rapidly as an air-ground-logistics task force with robust combined arms capablites.

Paul K. Van Riper at 11:34 PM
Re: Amphibious Ships, Logistics Most Pressing Needs for Marine Corps, Commandant Says

Since the United States Marine Corps has shifted its Mission from amphib to Coastal artillery, why do they need so many amphibious ships.? Why can't they make do with the littoral ships which are supposed to go close to the coast? As you know now is the time that we have to squeeze according to Congress they cannot increase any budget they need to decrease. I do believe that still besides being Coastal artillery the Marine Corps largest component is aviation. They spend a lot on that it might not utilize the Navy and its Air Force to give support to this Coastal artillery

TeXan1111 at 12:25 PM
Re: Amphibious Ships, Logistics Most Pressing Needs for Marine Corps, Commandant Says

There is a conflict of beliefs and communications here in that not everyone is on the same page and "joint effort" isn't "joint forces effort." The efforts to save money is getting to the point where DoD people are talking in different angles and that increases the confusion and frustrations.

* MUSV...US Navy thinks it is unnecessary to build and acquire, but from what USMC Gen. Berger said, logistics is key and vital so MUSV is needed as another ship to supply logistics. Conflict.
* USSOCOM wants an amphibious seaplane and the US Navy and USMC can use one but no joint effort is being made in terms of new seaplane logistics funding and acquisition. Conflict.
* The USMC wants more large amphibs and the US Navy wants a study on the cost of more large amphibs. Conflict.
* The USMC wants a LAW with light armament that is cheap and the public and the US Navy want a LAW with more armament, armor, survivability and features that is more expensive. Conflict.
* The USMC divested itself of tanks and Legacy systems and pundits think that this is wrong. Conflict.
* The US Navy divested itself of the small and fast Mark VIs and retired the Patrol Coastals with no replacements in sight except the USCG FRCs. And yet the USMC is going smaller and more distributed in boats. Conflict.
* The Number 1 priority of the US Navy is the new SSBN Columbia-class which does nothing in terms of amphib lift and logistics for USMC. Conflict.
* Naval unmanned vehicles are ISR, long-range strike, aerial refueling, and MCM with little emphasis on long-range logistics. Conflict.
* The US Navy's ESBs and EPFs are unarmed and vital for logistics support and the Navy wants to decommission the ESDs to save money. Conflict.
* The US Merchant Marine Fleet and Ready Reserve Fleet are aging and not strong enough in quantity. Conflict.

So all this discussion and the emphasis on naval logistics and amphib lift is correct; however, I am not seeing a concentrated DoD "group effort" to address these issues and Commandant Berger is retiring in a few months. Commandant Berger speaks true sayings.

Trisaw at 6:52 PM
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