US Marine Corp Facing Critical Decisions

It can be said that the Marine Corps is now at a serious junction where important decisions will simply have to be made and not put off until later. The issues are many and some are grounded in what the DoD is doing to the Navy, which, of course, affects the Corps. In this article I will take a look at how the Marine Corps is being affected by shortages of ships, longer deployments, and less maintenance on vessels.

The second half of a newly released report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) entitled “Deploying Beyond Their Means”, some interesting and concerning facts were presented. In terms of the Marine Corps specifically…

The Corps has announced that it intends to go back to a renewed effort concentrating on amphibious operations, now that its role as a large-scale ground attack force has ended in the Middle East.

The Marine Corps is set up to normally deploy as a MEB (Marine Expeditionary Brigade), with a task force of about 17,000 Marines within a Regimental Landing Team. To do this, Marine planners estimate that one MEB would need 17 amphibious ships, and that the total ships needed for the whole force would be 38 (this is with 10-15 percent of available ships being in maintenance). Because of fiscal issues, the Marines say they can get by with 30 ships (overall 33 with a percentage in maintenance docks).

Overall manpower, which is shrinking in the Corps, is what generally limits its forward presence capabilities. Due to budget cuts, the Corps is reducing its force from a high of 202,000 to reach a force of 182,000 by 2017. Some Marine leaders are concerned that future budgetary cuts may result in the Corps going to as low as 174,000. At this level, the Corp may be forced to shed many global commitments, or be faced with a very high deployment-to-dwell (D2D) ratio.

USMCWorldwide, there were about 32,400 Marines deployed as of February 2015. Of these, roughly 6,800 were at sea with MEUs; 25,600 were not at sea and were participating in rotational missions, overseas exercises, and contingency response, including operations in Iraq. Most of these were active duty Marines.

The Marines have reported that the lowest acceptable D2D ratio for the operating forces is 1:2; this comes out to 14 months in garrison for every 7 months deployed. When ratios fall below 1:2, problems start to arise due to the added strain on both Marines and their families.

If no additional commitments are made to the current forward posture the Corp is handling, the Corp would need to keep at least a force of 100,000 Marines to just support and maintain the global requirements it has while being able to maintain a 1:2 D2D ratio. If another global emergency occurs that requires the presence of the Corps, the D2D will drop to critical levels. If total force were to expand to 184,000, some units such as KC-130 tanker squadrons, infantry battalions, and MV-22 Osprey squadrons would be greatly affected.

Although a D2D ratio of 1:2 is considered to be adequate for short-term purposes, the ideal ratio is 1:3. This level allows for non-deployed Marines to participate in training exercises, allows for more maintenance time especially for advanced systems such as aircraft, and allows for more time for Marines to have with families.

To hit the ratio of 1:3, the Corps would have to increase the size of its operating forces to roughly 120,000 and the overall size of the force to 200,000.

With the Corps having a hard time maintaining a total active strength of about 182,000, there are some serious questions that need to be addressed concerning the Corps’ ability to meet this long-term sustainability level and its current rotational requirements.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Robert Partain

Robert Partain has been a professional writer for over 25 years. He spent ten years on active duty in the Army working as a medic and training NCO. While he covers any topic associated with military life, he specializes in writing about legislation that can affect active duty service members and veterans. Robert currently lives in the small town of Arab, Alabama.
Robert Partain
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