JUST IN: Marines' Force Design 2030 Is About the Journey, Not the Destination

By Allyson Park
Marines conduct Force Design 2030 tactics training

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The U.S. Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 modernization program isn’t about 2030 anymore, at least it shouldn’t be, a top official said.

Gen. Christopher Mahoney, assistant — and currently acting — commandant of the Marine Corps, said the 2030 aspect of Force Design is not a goal or ending point, and the service is “kind of getting away from the 2030 moniker.”

The Marine Corps launched Force Design 2030 in 2019 as a roadmap to revise the service’s force structure, weapons systems, equipment and training to pivot from decades of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations to address peer threats in the Indo-Pacific. The service has been issuing annual reports and updates based on research and experimentation and changes made under the plan.

“I say we drop the 2030 because once again, that was a waypoint. Force Design, I think if you look back at least at the history of the Marine Corps, is a continuum,” he said during a talk hosted by the Hudson Institute Jan. 25. “We don’t drop the mic and walk off stage in 2030 because we’re done. The security situation will change, new technology will be introduced, other changes will happen underfoot that we will have to continually refine our assumptions and the things that go into Force Design.”

While the 2030 year was “a pretty good” element to include in the initial program name, the program has now been through six budget cycles of organizational, functional and structural change, Mahoney said. Force Design, which is in essence focused on modernization, is a constantly evolving and conceptually vast program with leaders making educated assumptions about what the future battlefield might look like.

“The beauty of the structure of Force Design is as a concept, it’s a little different, or depending on how you look at it very much different, but [we] challenge the assumptions along the way,” he said. “We made a lot of assumptions. We made changes based on those assumptions, and we are going into a refinement process to challenge them.”

While the 2030 date should not be viewed as a goal to be achieved, modernizing the Marine Corps’ capabilities and ensuring enhanced readiness is still the priority of the program. Rapid and complete integration of new capabilities and systems are particularly important to modernizing the force as a whole, Mahoney said.

“If you have something that works, works well, has a demonstrated effect and has the technological edge that we need, if you cannot build that into a training continuum, if you cannot build that into a logistic support and sustainment continuum, if you cannot get that into the field and maintain it, then eventually it will break and break down,” he said.

He argued that a unified network concept will improve rapid integration, as more data isn’t necessarily better if operators don’t know how to identify useful and timely information in the vast data pool.

“We are awash in information in the enterprise, in the naval force, in the Marine Corps, but we thirst for the information that we need at the time and place that we need it,” he said. “There needs to be unified network concept, and there needs to be change in the way we think about hardware. … It’s the software that drives the hardware, not the hardware that drives the software, so that we have a mesh capability where anyone can interface due to their software, irrespective of the iPhone that they’re on or the machine that they’re on.”

Mahoney also noted that four pillars that make up Force Design 2030: modernization, talent management, training and education and installations and logistics. While modernization has been the focus thus far, he said that he aims to renew focus on the other three pillars, particularly installations and logistics.


Topics: Emerging Technologies

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