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USMC Readiness

Just days ago the assistant commandant of the United States Marine Corps told Congress that, if the Marines had to respond to a new threat, they might not be ready for it. This is a startling admission; the USMC has traditionally been America’s highest readiness force – a fire brigade that can quickly deploy and hold the line while less agile but heavier Army units get up to speed. Now, though, General John Paxton says inadequate readiness could cost Marine lives and weaken the Corps’ deterrence value against aggressors.

Paxton’s biggest worry is the readiness of Marine units home-based in the USA. They’re suffering from a lack of training that’s slowly but inevitably eating away at their combat effectiveness, and the main issue behind it is a shortage of equipment. It’s not that the equipment doesn’t exist – it’s just that most of it is deployed on operations, and the rest is in contingency reserves. There isn’t any left available for training, so the training isn’t happening.

MarinesObviously, deployed troops need the latest equipment issued at full scale so that can’t be touched. But is it worth taking another look at reserve stocks? There are some things any competent military needs large reserves of, including ammunition, rations, protective equipment and spare parts, but I’m not so sure that aircraft and electronic warfare gear belong on the list. There’s a steady move towards keeping equipment in storage and only issuing it to troops when needed for training or operations, and while this scheme has its advantages they’re more economic than military.

In the British Army, there’s a more extreme version of the idea. Most major combat equipment, including tanks and other fighting vehicles, is kept in long-term storage. A few unit sets are kept for training, and a few more for deployment. The rest is tucked neatly away in big climate-controlled sheds. It’s called Whole Fleet Management, and it’s a really bad idea.

Military equipment isn’t like a pair of socks. Most of it doesn’t wear out if it’s used regularly. In fact, it’s more likely to go wrong if it’s not used; leave a tank parked up for a couple of years and you’re likely to have a lot of problems with perished seals. Use it regularly and all that stuff is constantly being lubricated, plus it gets replaced when needed.

In the past, the main justification for keeping large war stocks was that they’d be needed in a major war. That’s much less valid now. Any operation is going to be fought with existing troops; the chances of a huge new army being drafted are basically nil. So doesn’t it make more sense to leave equipment in the hands of the troops that will be using it, and just keep enough in reserve to replace battle losses? That might not please the bean counters, but if it increases the readiness of front-line units a few unhappy accountants is a small price to pay.

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.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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