WASHINGTON: The Marine Corps is lean and built for a fight, including the scrutiny of the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review, its commandant said during a military strategy forum here today.
“We think that … as a Marine Corps, we’re going to be scrutinized during the QDR but in the end, we think we’ll be OK,” Marine Gen. James T. Conway said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Military Strategy Forum. The QDR is a study the Defense Department conducts every four years to analyze strategic objectives and potential military threats.
“The Marine Corps pulls down about 6 percent of the department’s budget,” Conway said. “For that 6 percent, you get about 15, 16 percent of the maneuver battalions; you get 15 percent of the attack aircraft [and] you get 19 percent of the attack helicopters. The average Marine costs the country about $20,000 less than the next closest service man in other services.”
The Corps also defines the kind of service Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is seeking: a balanced force oriented toward the hybrid, but able to counter surprises that sometimes develop around the globe, Conway said.
“One hundred percent of our Marine Corps procurement can be used in both the hybrid kind of environment or in major combat,” he said. “It’s a record we’re proud of and we think that’s certainly going to continue on downrange.”
The QDR most likely will bring up three issues involving the Marine Corps, the commandant said. The first is the lay down of forces as it relates to the Corps’ pending move to Guam.
The second is the shortfall in the Corps’ attack aircraft procurement. It hasn’t purchased such a craft in 11 years, but with good reason, he said.
“We chose not to buy the F-18 E and F when the Navy did, so that we could await the arrival of a fifth-generation fighter called the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35B,” Conway said. “Interestingly, we are the first of all the services to get initial operation capacity out of that aircraft.”
That capacity won’t be a reality until 2012. Until then, the Marine Corps has taken steps to make sure its fleet of F-18 A through D fighter jets are viable resources, including extending the jets to 10,000 hours of flight time, Conway said.
The third issue focuses on the need for amphibious capability and how much is necessary.
“That is a major player as far as Marines are concerned, of course … because it talks about that niche capability that we provide,” Conway said. “I would rephrase the question a little bit and [ask], ‘How much does this maritime nation and world superpower need for purposes of security cooperation and theater engagement? If you ask that question of the combatant commanders, they will tell you almost uniformly that’s their No. 1 requirement.”
Conway said he believes the chief of Naval Operations would say the amphibious ships are the best for that particular job.
They provide a great range of capabilities including training, air, medical and dental.
“We think that the value on a day-in and day-out basis is really the engagement that this nation has to be able to accomplish over time and [be able to do it] from the sea,” Conway said.
The military is seeing more nations request the aid the U.S. military has brought them, but they don’t necessarily want them creating a footprint ashore, he said.