COMMANDANT OF THE MARINE CORPS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
In many ways, the Quadrennial Defense Review revalidated the Marine Corps as the Nation's Expeditionary Force-in-Readiness. Several separate studies to include the Marine Corps' Force Structure Planning Group effort, the Bottom Up Review, and now the Quadrennial Defense Review essentially all came to the same conclusion, that the Nation requires "a versatile Expeditionary Force-in-Readiness . . . A force to be most ready when the Nation is least ready."
If those words sound familiar, it's because they were written by the 2d Session of the 82d Congress to describe the capabilities the Nation needs in their Corps of Marines. The 82d Congress went on to structure the Corps to include "not less than 3 Combat Divisions and 3 Air Wings and other Services organic therein." Congress further stipulated that the Corps be kept always at a high state of combat readiness and to hold aggression at bay while the American Nation mobilizes. It recognized that the Corps must never orient toward one specific threat, such as the Soviet Union, but be ready to fight across the whole spectrum of warfare.
Before Desert Shield/Storm, we began to trim personnel, equipment, and structure. Immediately after Desert Storm and before the Bottom Up Review, we made even deeper cuts--reducing our armor by 50 percent, our artillery by 40 percent, our infantry by 26 percent, and our aviation, both fixed and rotary wing, by 26 percent. We did this in order to rapidly reach the "Base Force" level mandated by the Department of Defense. Soon thereafter, the Bottom Up Review validated the relevance and value of a strong and versatile Marine Corps and held the Corps' end strength at 174,000. With this information as background, let me address the Quadrennial Defense Review.
The Quadrennial Defense Review's difficulty in reassessing America's defense strategy, force structure, military modernization programs, and defense infrastructure hinges on the intractable problem of simultaneously surveying three distinctly different periods in time -- what I call the "Near Battle," the "Mid-Range Battle," and the "Future Battle."
The "Near Battle" is today -- what our warfighting commanders-in-chief around the globe are currently facing. No matter how much we talk about the future, we must be properly manned, equipped, and trained to fight the potential major regional contingencies that exist today in places such as Northeast Asia and Southwest Asia, as well as meet our other global security responsibilities. There is a North Korean Army that is a threat today! There is an Iraqi Army that is a threat today! We have Marines in Albania and Zaire because of our global security responsibilities today! These are all realities we must not forget. To be relevant, any changes that the Quadrennial Defense Review proposed had to address these issues.
The "Mid-Range Battle" is tomorrow-- the 2000-2005 time frame-- when I believe the technology we are experimenting with today will mature. In order to properly position ourselves for the "Future Battle" to come, each of the services is working hard with experimentation, concept development, and capabilities development. The Marine Corps' Warfighting Laboratory and Sea Dragon Experiments are specifically aimed at reaping the benefits of "leap ahead" technology. These experiments, to be carried out in three complementary phases between January 1996 and June 2001, will focus on the development of operational concepts, and advanced tactics, techniques, and procedures for operations in an expanded and dispersed battlefield, in an urbanized littoral, and in conjunction with numbered fleets. The first phase, which culminated in the recent Hunter Warrior Advanced Warfighting Experiment at 29 Palms, focused on operations in a dispersed battlefield. It clearly demonstrated the promise that "leap ahead" technologies have for empowering small, dispersed teams to dominate an expanded battlefield by fire and maneuver.
Unfortunately, some of that technology is not yet available. The Joint Strike Fighter, the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle, the Light Weight 155mm Howitzer, and the advanced fire support command and control system are just a few examples of innovative technologies that are still being developed. But, we know the technology will work and that it's coming quickly, so we are attempting to position ourselves doctrinally and organizationally for the arrival of these new technologies in the 2010-2020 time frame. Not only does this allow us to keep abreast of technology, it also allows us to remain abreast or indeed ahead of the changing threats . . . to be "threat flexible" -- to be capabilities-based, vice threat-based. We are not building to a single threat but to a wide variety of potential opponents -- both symmetric and asymmetric. To afford experimentation on this scale, experimentation that we must do, the Quadrennial Defense Review had to make some hard choices regarding the current force.
The "Future Battle" is the day after tomorrow -- the 2010-2020 time frame -- when we know we will face an asymmetric enemy and may well face a peer competitor. It is then when I envision a Marine Corps newly structured, newly equipped, and capable of operating at great depths across an extended littoral battlefield -- a battlefield that by the year 2020, will contain 70 percent of the world's population.
To get there -- to get that capability -- requires that we face up to difficult choices today. Do we ignore today's threats and, as some pundits want, skip the experimentation stage and move directly to a restructuring of our forces base upon the next generation of technology. Or, do we determine through experimentation, the doctrine, tactics, techniques, procedures, equipment and structure that we will need for the spectrum of conflict in the 21st Century -- and do so with minimum risk to our ability to meet today's and tomorrow's threats? We cannot do both. My belief is that we should take the latter path until the experimentation is validated and the "leap ahead" technology is available. A move now would not be a Revolution In Military Affairs (RMA) because the technology for that revolution is not yet available. So, instead of a "leap," we would end up building a "bridge" to the future. This would be far more costly and would not address the realities of today's "Near Battle."
To get to the force and capabilities I believe the Nation needs in its Corps of Marines -- to meet the anticipated threats of the next century -- we must generate the money necessary to conduct experiments and develop the technology required. For the Marine Corps, the Quadrennial Defense Review directed manpower reductions to save money for investment elsewhere. At my request, the Secretary of Defense directed that these reductions come only out of our infrastructure or supporting establishment and not from our trigger pullers (our Fleet Marine Forces). By focusing exclusively on infrastructure, we are "fencing" our operating forces and are, therefore, able to continue to meet the Nation's requirements for their Marines. At the same time, by allowing us to keep the dollar savings derived for the manpower cuts, your Marine Corps will be able to boost its procurement and modernization efforts. This reduction will not commence until a thorough plan has been developed to ensure fairness to our Marines and "Civilian Marines." The reduction will be completed in 2003.
The replacement for the CH-46, an aircraft that has been in service for over 35 years, has been one of my biggest concerns. I am very pleased that the Quadrennial Defense Review shares that concern. By increasing the MV-22 buy rate to 27 in the FYDP, leveling at 30 aircraft per year in FY04,Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and now the Quadrennial Defense Review have all acknowledged the value of this aircraft. The MV-22 brings the Nation and the Marine Corps a tremendous capability. I am convinced that once the world sees the capability, operational reach, and versatility of this aircraft, interest in procurement will grow significantly.
Each of the services has struggled for years with personnel reductions and downsizing. This will necessarily continue as we implement the Quadrennial Defense Review. The result within our manpower processes is turbulence and on the individual Marine, soldier, sailor and airman is uncertainty. At a point in time, and I believe we are very close to that time now, the services need a floor -- a certain end-strength and structure -- to which we can plan, program, recruit, promote and retain.
While the services have done their part to position themselves for the future, far more can be done to position our defense infrastructure to embrace and exploit the "revolution in business affairs." I applaud the Secretary of Defense's decision to form the Defense Reform Panel, charged with applying the same level of scrutiny and analysis to the Defense Agencies, OSD and Joint Staffs, and defense infrastructure that the services were subjected to in the Quadrennial Defense Review.
I look forward to working with the follow-on National Defense Panel to further refine our plans for the future, and to address possible longer term challenges that we have yet to consider. In this regard, I am especially anxious to hear their views on the problem of diminishing global access, and possible asymmetric strategies by potential adversaries to deny us access into a theater. You have my assurance that your Corps will retain its core competency of forced entry...from the sea -now, and in the future.
The Quadrennial Defense Review could not have been completed without the timely infusion of vision, commitment, and energy of Secretary Cohen. His biggest accomplishment during the entire process was his ability to build consensus. The Service Chiefs were consulted at every step -- full participants in the Review. The Quadrennial Defense Review could have failed in many different places -- it didn't due to the leadership of the Secretary.
Finally, I am continually pressing upon my Marines that now is the time for innovation, experimentation, and change. The Corps cannot afford to wait until the next century to react. We must continue to move forward or suffer the consequences of the status quo. The Quadrennial Defense Review process, the questioning, the challenges, the justifications, and the rigorous analysis that the services have been subject to and participated in has served to remind us of what Abraham Lincoln said, "Just as our situation is new, we think anew and plan anew." The Quadrennial Defense Review has helped us to start to think and plan anew. Now, those who are tasked by the Constitution to "raise Armies and maintain Navies," must decide whether the correct balance between the three battles I described earlier has been reached. In the case of the Marine Corps, I believe that the correct balance is there!