As the Military Is Cut, America Still Needs the Marines

Report Defense

As the Military Is Cut, America Still Needs the Marines

January 13, 1992 24 min read Download Report
Bryan Johnson
F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy
(Archived document, may contain errors)

871 Jawary 13,1992 As MILITARY Is CUT AMERICASTILLNEEDSTHEMARINES fie U.S, For every Army soldier in a combat position, one soldier is behind the lines in such supparting roles as administration and supply; for Marines the ratio is two com batants to one administrator or supplier? As a result, the Marine Corps delivers the most firepower in the quickest time when responding to a crisis.

Americas three active and one reserve Marine divisions will cost U.S. taxpayers 19.7 billion this year, or about 3.5 percent of the $271 billion fiscal 1992 military bud Let At a time when rapidly changing superpower relations have reduced the threat of a Soviet strike on American interests, reductions in the size of Americas defense estab lishment are prudent. The Marine Corps, however, should be left l argely intact. The rea m: the Marines are the best equipped and organized among the sewices to deal with just the sort of Third World conflicts America is likely to be faced with in the 1990s and beyond. To protect these abilities, George Bush should inst r uct Secretary of De fense Dick Cheney to 4 4 Maintain three Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF In wartime, the largest fighting unit in the Marine Corps is a MEF that is likely to have up to 40,000 men. To accomplish all of their missions, the Marines need t o be able to field three such MEFs. In peacetime, MEFs serve as three geographi cally dispersed reservoirs of all combat and non-combat Marines. To-sustain the Marines global mission each peacetime MEF will require approxi mately 59,000 men, for a total M arine Corps force of at least 177,000, the number now planned by Congress for 19

95. They are needed at approxi mately this size to support overseas deployments, provide sufficient num bers of combat troops to fight when needed, and to ensure that the figh ters are supported with supplies and equipment 4 4 Purchase the V-22 Osprey and meet the Marines other advanced equip ment needs. Operution Desert Storm against Iraq proved that advanced technology saves lives. The Marines, like the other services, need m o dem equipment. Top of the list should be the V-22 Osprey, a multi-purpose air craft made by a consortium of the Bell HelicopterDextron and Boeing Heli copter companies, that takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane. Pen tagon planners have tried for years to cancel the V-22 over the objections of the Marine Corps and Congress. Another high priority should be a new am phibious assault vehicle that will allow the Marines to attack beaches from safer distances offshare. The Marines also need advance d versions of their eight-wheeled, lightly amored, troop-carrying Light Armored Vehicle LAV most of which should be equipped with new thermal night vision sights. Some new LAVs should be amed with a 105 mm gun, while others 1 This assumes that a full Marin e Expeditionary Force 0 and its attendant supplies are called upon 2 Authors interview with Major Pete Keating, Army Public Affairs 0ffice.The Pentagon, Washington, D.C..

December 12.19

91. As of 1990, the ratio of combat to nonambat farces for the entire Army is 58 percent combat 42 percent support 2 should be outfitted as air defense vehicles with Stinger missiles and auto matic cannons Reduce the size of the Marine Corps Reserve. The Marine Corps great est advantage over other services is the speed and muscle with which it can respond to a crisis. As the Marine Corps is reduced, the first cuts should come from the Reserves, which can be duced.selectively from 43,000 to 16,0

00. The res erves can be cut because they will never be as responsive as the active duty Marine Corps and therefore will see combat only when fat ing major contingencies like Deserr Stonn Eliminate the Marines Norway mission. Since 198 1, the Marine Corps has been re s ponsible for helping to defend Norway from a Soviet attack. Ob viously the Marines no longer are needed for this. The Marines equipment in Norway should be returned to the U.S Increase shiptoshore firepower. To support amphibious operations, the Marines n eed ship-to-shore fmpower to pound enemy coastal positions This is done best by the Navys battleships, with their 16 inch guns, by far the most powerful in the fleet. The last American battleship, the USS Mis souri, is to be retired on March 31,19

92. It s hould remain in the fleet Keep a strong naval amphibious fleet. Marines cannot conduct amphibi ous operations against defended positions without ships outfitted to cany troops, assault craft, and attack aircraft from sea to shore. The Navy now has 62 amph i bious ships. This number will drop to 53 by 1995.3 Sixty is the minimum needed to respond to two different theaters of war at the same time as required by Navy and Marine Corps planners Improve Marine Corps riverine warfare capabilities. Inland waterways a re major transportation routes for narcotics and illegal weapons. Yet, the ca pability of the U.S. to fight on and from rivers has languished since theViet nam War In the past two years the Marine Corps has begun to rebuild these capabilities, but it stil l needs more river patrol boats to transport Marines and more trained coxswains, who pilot the boats, to fight enemies located along inland bodies of water Increase Marine Corps civic action activities. While the Marines are mainly a combat organization, t h ey also have engineering and heavy con struction units which can build roads and schools. This capability could serve an important goodwill function that facilitates operations with local armed farces, acculturizes Marines to the local environment, and al l ows them to tap local populations for intelligence information 3 Authors interview with Lt. Mark Walker USN, October 29,1991, U.S. Navy office of Public Affairs, Washington D.C 3 a Since its cmtion on November 10,1775, the U.S. Marine Carps has allowed Am e r ica to project power far from its shores. Against the Barbary pirates off the coast of Tripoli, Libya, the Marines, from 1801-1805, launched a series of punitive raids in re taliation for attacks on U.S. ships. The attacks ceased. Then, when Sadda Husse in sent his farces into Kuwait in August 1990, the Marines rushed to the region, arriving just seven days after Bush ordered U.S. farces to respond. The Marines brought the first heavy tanks and artillery to prevent Husseins advance into Saudi Arabia.

The Marines are part of the Department of the Navy and operate in close coopera tion with U.S. naval farces at sea. Maine units are deployed continuously on ships at sea and on standby at U.S. bases, as well as on U.S. military bases on the Japanese is land o f Okinawa, at Subic Bay in the Philippines, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. All Ma rines can move on short notice to match up with equipment stored on floating bases in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. This gives the Marines a better ability than any ot her service to Iespond rapidly with great firepower to contingencies worldwide.

Serving Near and Far. In the post-Cold War world, this remains an essential capa bility for the U.S. Near home, the U.S. has an intemt in protecting the Panama Canal l fighting the drug war, and possibly countering guerrilla movements in Latin America.

Marines serve as advisors to local counternarcotics troops and take part in military training with friendly farces throughout the hemisphere. Example: Marines are or have l been involved in training operations in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and El Salvador. It would be Marines who would rescue U.S. citizens in Haiti if threatened by the military junta that ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide last September WHY THEMARINES Marin e Corps Expeditionary Forces and US. Oilobal Interests Legend: Marine Expedltlonary Force (MEF) 0 Meritlme PrePO8itlOninO Shlpa (ips StrateOic Sea Lanes of Communication 4 Farther away from the U.S the Marines help keep sea lanes open. The loss of Clark Ai r Force Base and the impending loss of Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philip pines could make it more difficult for the U.S. to project power in the critical Pacific Rim, an area where U.S. businesses now conduct over $280 billion worth of trade4 In the fum, s hipborne Marines will be the Presidents clear choice in crises that require a quick American presence on the ground in Southeast Asia deter tenmists operating out of Libya, Syria, and elsewhere in the region, and can re spond to terrorist acts against Ame r icans. Marines also could reinforce some of the Arab states, such as Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, if it served U.S. inmsts to protect them from an attack by, say, a fundamentalist Iran In the Middle East, Marines are on station in the Mediterranean Sea, w h ere they help SELF-CONTAINED FIGHTING FORCE The Marines are the smallest of the four sexvices with a strength of approximately 194,040 active-hnd 43,000 reserve troops. Unlike the Army, the Marines with the help of the Navy are arganized as a self-contain ed fighting force, able to operate, if neces sary, for up to sixty days independent not only of other services but of supply lines back to the U.S.

Ground Task Forces (MAGTF-pronounced maw A MAGTAF varies in size and strength, ranging from a Marine Expedit ionary Force (MEF) of 40,OOO Marines with helicopters and jet aircraft, tanks, amphibious assault craft, and medical units, to a Special Purpose Force of under 100 Marines.

Fully-Equipped Forces. The most commonly deployed expeditionary farce is the Marin e Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) of up to 16,000 troops quipped to fight for thirty days. This is considered the minimum force needed to face the annies of even a small nation. MAGTFs in the form of two Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) of ap proximately 2,50 0 men each are stationed continuously afloat in the Meditemean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. These MEUs axe outfitted with helicopters, landing craft, ar m& assault vehicles, and other equipment.

The Marines are organized into three standing expeditionary far ces based at Camp Pendleton, California, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Okinawa, Japan. Much of the equipment they would need to fight overseas is placed on what axe called Maritime Repositioning Ships (MPS which are floating storage lockers, each squa d ron of which carries the tanks, guns, ammunition, and other supplies to outfit up to one Ma rine Expeditionary Brigade. These are deployed at the island of =ego Garcia in the In dian Ocean,.along the U.S. Atlantic coast, and at Guam in the Pacific Ocean. I n addi tion to Marine farces that conduct typical military operations, approximately 11,OOO Marines serve as embassy guards, with security detachments on naval ships and bases and in antitenorism squads called Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams (FAST Mari n e ground, and logistics units are organized into what are called Marine Air 4 Kenneth J. Conboy, ed U.S. and Asia Sfansrical Handbook (Washington, D.C The Heritage Foundation, 1991 5 Marine Corps Operations: 1982-1992 Legend Crisis Response 0 Disaster Rel i ef and Hurnanltarian Assistance In all, almost two-thirds of the Marine Corps is structured into some type of combat related uniiwith 30 percent of these Marines always deployed outside the U.S. in peacetime. All of these Marines give America a global pre s ence and capability to in tervene quickly in a crisis. In peacetime, this not only can help deter potential aggres sors around the globe, but help in such missions as disaster relief, military training counter-narcotics operations, peacekeeping farces, an d humanitarian assistance.

Crisis Response. Responding to limited military crises such as in the Mayuguet Res cue Operation off Cambodia in May 1975 is one of the signature capabilities of the Ma rines. Another example of crisis Iesponse was in Grenada in October and November of 19

83. Marines can also evacuate U.S. diplomats and civilians in an emergency, as they did in Liberia in Operation Sharp Edge from May 1990 to January 1991 and in Operu tion Eartern Exit in Somalia in January 4 to 6,19

91. Securing embassies, as was done in December of 1989 during the coup attempt to overthrow Carau>n Aquino of the Philippines, is another mission for the Marines.

In more severe crises, the Marines can supply large numbers of forces for sustained counter-insurgency operations, as in the Vietnam War, or large-scale operations with the other seMces, as in Operation Desert Sronn. Their ability to threaten attack from t he sea played a key role in Desert Storm by tying down about eight divisions of SAilAllm Hussein's foxes, even though a seahe assault never was launched. In any almost any situation, the Marines can conduct assaults from ships onto a defended 5 "Marine Ai r Ground Task Force: A Global Capability U.S. Marine Carps, FMFRP 2-12, April 1991, also "u.S.

Marine Carps: Concepts and Issues 1991 I 6 beach and helicopter assaults from the sea to points inland. Only the Marines can oper ate independently of such shore facilities as bases and airports, at a safe distance from coastal defenses.

The soldiers, sailors, and airmen of the Special Operations Command, the Armys Xvm Airborne Corps, and other light fighters are the only other U.S. forces capable of responding t o most of these missions with the same speed as the Marines. But these other forces do not have the firepower of the Marines, the ability to sustain themselves in combat without resupply from the U.S or the ability to fight their way onto a beach or heavi l y defended territory. The reason: they are not integrated with transport ships and mostly use aircraft to get to battle zones Slow Moving Army. Before most Army or Air Force troops can be moved, for ex ample, their units must be brought together, loaded o n to ships and planes that may not immediately be available, and they must find a secure runway or port near the fighting from which to disembark. A C-5B Galaxy, the Air Forces largest cargo plane, is capa ble of carrying only two of the Armys frontline MlA l tanks and must land on high quality runways at least l0,OOO feet long, which are found infrequently in theThird World6 The proximity of such an airfield to a battle zone is also a potentially limiting feature. To move even the Armys loth Mountain Divisio n , a light infantry force without tanks, would require from 500 to 600 trips by the smaller C-141 Starlifier, its main transport aircraft? While fast sealift ships might also be used to augment these flights, it can take days to load each ship, a week or m ore of sailing time to get the troops and ships to port, and then one or two days to unload each ship. It took the Army roughly two months to move its first tank-heavy division to the Persian Gulf to counter Iraq in 19

90. The Marines, by contrast, always have some forces loaded and ready to go, and hquently are within seven to ten days steaming time to many poten tial hotspots.

In a major crisis, the Marines are not intended to take the place of the Army. In any large-scale conflict, only the Army has the tank-heavy divisions, large numbers of troops, and logistical support needed to sustain forces over time and defeat a large well-equipped enemy. But the Marines have enough artillery firepower and air support to secure footholds long enough to await heav i er and more numerous Army and Air Force units, as they did in conjunction with the Armys 82nd Airborne Division in Op eration Desert Storm BUDGET CUTS AND THE MARINES The Marine Corps budget surely will be cut in coming years. According to the De fense De p artments Overview of the Changing Department of Defense: Strategy, Bud get, and Forces, released last October, the Marines by 1995 are slated to drop to 6 Authors interview with Air Force Captain George Sillia, Air Force Media Relations, Washington, D.C a n d Air Force Master Sergeant Chuck Jones, Air Force Military Airlift Command Public Affairs Office, Springfield, Illinois October 21,1991 Drum, New York, October 30,1991 7 Authors interview with Major Hiram Bell. Public Affairs Officer, 10th Mountain Divis i on (Light Infantry Fort i 7 17 1,0oO troops from a current strength of 194,M. The Defense Department projects that by 1997, the Marines could be down to 159,100 troops, or enough to support o two and a half wdighting Marine Expeditionary Forces instead of the current three Many important weapons programs also have been canceled. These include: a Light Arm& Vehicle (LAV) armed with a 105 millimeter gun and the V-22 Osprey air craft.

The Marine Carps uses manpower efficiently. Far every Marine officer there are nine enlisted men; by contrast, for every Army officer there are seven enlisted men. In the Marines thm are two combat troops for every non-combat Marine. This compms with a ratio of approximately 1 to 1 for the Army. Because of the high ratio of Mari ne Carps combat farces, cuts in troop strength likely will cut directly into fighting capabil 9 ity my than in the other ser vices.

At its current strength of 194,040, the Marines com fortably can accomplish all of the missions assigned to them by the Pres ident. These include sustaining a military presence overseas, peacetime missions such as evacuating embassies and U.S. citizens and maintaining the capabil ity to respond to two over seas region conflicts at the same time If manpower strength is re duced t o 159,100 by 1997, as planned by the Pentagon, this would farce the Marines to do two things. First: Marines would have to be afloat or abroad for 54 percent of the time assigned to combat-re lated duties, in contrast to 43 1 ll 900 1 a0 180 170 1 SO 160 1 40 Chart 1 Marine Corps Manpower Planned Cuts Are Too Deep Thouaandr of &ti- Duty lroopr I Ylnlmum ROOD atnnmth 1 89 '00 '01 909 'as '94 *as 'as '07 Fiscal Mars 8wroma Planned troop lernla from Daoartmant of Defanea needed troop levels from HerltaQe analy o lo. Hmrltrgo Datahart 8 The three standing MEFs are peacetime aqanhtions that do not accurately reflect combat power. According to the Marine Chps, a standard, fully equipped warlighting MEF includes a total of 38,387 men including air, ground, and logist ics personnel. MEFs can, however, include up to l00,OOO men 9 The Marines have 174,287 enlisted men and 19,753 officers, for a ration of 1 to

9. The officer to enlisted ratio for the other services are: Anny, 1 to 7, Navy, 1 to 7, and Air Force, 1 to

4. These figures afe based on active duty strengths as of June 19

91. Part ofthe discrepancy between the officer toenlistedratios among the Services is explained by the fact that the Marines rely on the Navy for all medical services which are always heavily staffed with officets. The Army and the Air Face have their own medical services 10 The requirement far the Marine Corps behg able to respond to two concurrent regional contingencies is set by the pentason 8 percent .today. This will take its toll on men and equipment, diminishing the Marine Corps fighting capability and discouraging Marines from re-enlisting when their terms expire. Second the potential response time to crises overseas would be slowed This cuts to the heart of the Marines mission, to pro j ect power with little warning time to crisis spots anywhere on the globe Equipment Deficiencies. Budget cuts also could deny the Marines the weapons and equipment for their missions. Such cuts already have forced the Marines to cancel the V-22 Osprey prog m m. The Ospreys main Marines mission would be to ferry troops into battle from points offshore, well out of the range of most coastal defenses. With out the Osprey, the Marines will have to extend the serviceable life of its troop carry ing helicopter flee t of Vietnam War era CH-46E Sea Knights and other craft. And with out the Osprey the Marine Corps will not have the aircraft to rush large numbers of troops quickly to targets well behind shore defenses A lack of airlift is not the Marines only transportat i on problem. The mission for which the Marines are most famous, the hit-the-beach amphibious assaults conducted in the Pacific in World War II, may no longer be achievable unless the Marines obtain a new and modern Amphibious Assault Vehicle, which is an a rmored troop canier that swims.The current assault vehicle, the AAV-7A1, was designed in the 1960s and will reach the end of its serviceable life .in 2004.

The Marines now have on the drawing board a new AAV that will move faster and farther than the old AAV-7A

1. And while the old assault vehicle can be launched from ships no further than 4,000 yards from share, the new AAV could be launched from as far away as 25 miles. However, budget cuts could slow development of the new as sault vehicle and cut the n umber of vehicles eventually purchased. With fewer dollars in its budget, the Marines may have to choose to retain men to fight and farego the ex pensive process of testing new vehicles.

The Navys future amphibious ship fleet is another potential weak spot for the Ma rines. Because of budget pressures, the Navy is planning to reduce the number of am phibious assault ships in its fleet to 53 from todays

62. Some 50 ships are needed to carry out the initial deployment of a single warfighting MEF (approximately 40,OOO men) to one high threat crisis. Assuming that about 10 percent of all amphibious ships in the fleet are always in overhaul or otherwise not operational, and that some ships will have to be kept in reserve for other missions, the U.S. could find itself short on ships for a major amphibious assault.

Heavy Firepower. Other key equipment problems for the Marines include a lack of ship-to-shore fir epower and insufficient defenses against mines in the shallow water of coastal regions. Befare Marines assault a coastal position, heavy firepower must soften defensive positions. Such bombardment is best delivered by the huge 16-inch guns on the Navys ba t tleships, which can fire a 2,000 lb. shell. Four of these ships the USS Iowa, the USS Missouri, the USS New Jersey, and the USS Wisconsin were 11 11 Ihe Marine Carps in the 1980s had planned on being able to use a Navy amphibious fleet of 72 ships in 1998 .

Furthermore. the Marine Corps needs 20 to 25 amphibious ships just to put a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB assault force intobaule 9 recommissioned during the Reagan Administration. In the past two years, three of the ships have been retired, this yea r the USS Missouri is scheduled for retirement In place of the battleships, the Navy plans to provide coastal gunfire support with air bombardment and the 5-inch guns, delivering 70 lb. shells, that arm the rest of the fleet. Using these smaller guns with their shorter range will force ships to come danger ously close to coastal defenses and still will not provide firepower needed Light Armored Vehicles. Another concern for the Marines is whether they will be able to improve their Light Armored Vehicles (L A V which are eight-wheeled ar mored fighting vehicles and troop carriers that are the mainstay of light arm& Ma rines infantry units. Some LAVs were to have been equipped with a 105 millimeter gun, similar to the gun on an M-60A1 tank, to improve the Marin e s ability to defend themselves against enemy light armored vehicles and some tanks. The LAV now car ries only a 25 mm Gatling gun. The 105 mm gun program was canceled on October 25 because of a lack of funds Two other LAV improvement programs, also threat e ned by budget cuts are even more crucial to the Marines fighting ability. The first would equip the LAV with nightfighting thermal sights similar to those now used by Iran, Iraq, Syria, and many other Third World armies. The second improvement would outfi t the LAV with air de fense missiles and guns to-protect fast moving Marine units from air attack. Both these programs could be dropped if the Marines are forced to decide between maintaining ad equate manpower and modernizing their equipment PREPARING THE MARINES FOR NEW THREATS TO AMERICA The post-Cold War world will be an uncertain place, in which violent conflict could erupt with little warning in areas vital to Americas global interests. While the Army with its tanks and other heavy forces, was the wea pon of choice for combating a heav ily-armed Soviet threat in Europe, the Marines, with their flexibility and global reach are Americas weapon of choice to meet the main threats of the 1990s.

Some Marine response may be relatively small-scale operations li ke the December 1989 invasion of Panama; some may be larger conflicts like the Persian Gulf War. The Marine Corps is designed specifically for deterring, responding quickly, and helping to defeat these types of threats. Unlike the other services, the Mari nes m already organ ized and equipped to project American power into practically any kind of conflict. Ma rines can act without creating whole new doctrines, specialized forces or equipment depots overseas.

This may make the Marines, along with the militarys special opera tions forces the pivotal forces in Americas post-Cold War arsenal.

A modern and well-armed Marine Corps will be essential if America is to meet the global military challenges of the 1990s. George Bush should instruct Defense Secre tary Dick Cheney to Maintain three Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEF).

Based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Camp Pendleton, California and at Oki nawa, Japan, Marine air, ground and logistics troops from these expeditionary forces quickly can be dispatched to f lashpoints in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For there to be enough troops to sustain three Marine Expeditionary forces, the Marine Carps as 10 a whole needs a minimum of 177,OO active duty troops. Anything short of this will re quire individual Marines to be deployed overseas longer; this creates considerable mo rale and retention problems A force of 177,000 Marines already is approximately 17,000, or one Marine Expedi tionary Brigade, smaller than the current force. The Bush Administration should ensur e that nothing more is cut. Thus, the Pentagon should draft, and Bush should submit to Congress an amendment to U.S. CodeTitle 10 of 1952, which outlines the mission and farce structure of the Marines. This amendment should establish that the active duty s t rength of the Marine Corps should not drop below 177,OOO.Title 10 now says only that the Marines should have a minimum of three ground and three air divisions, but does not set a specific manpower level, leaving the law open to broad interpretation Purcha se theV-22 Osprey and meet the Marines other advanced equipment needs.

To get troops into battle quickly and safely in the future, the Marines will have to project power to an intended landing site from a point over the horizon. Future air borne assaults w ill requh that the entire fleet of Vietnam era CH-46E Sea Knight and CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopters be replaced by the faster, longer range, V-22 Osprey vertical take off and landing aircraft. The Marines will need a total of 500 of these Os preys, which are now undergoing testing The Marines amphibious assault craft, the AAV-7A1, also must be replaced soon.

For the past decade, the Marines have been developing the advanced amphibious as sault vehicle; this would have increased range and speed at sea and tougher armor and improved armaments for operations on land. This vehicle eventually must be pur chased if the Marines are to retain an over-the-beach amphibious assault capability.

Budget cuts, however, could threaten the program, still in its research phase.

The Pentagon also should revive the progmm canceled on October 25 to equip 154 Light Armored Vehicles (LAV) with the 105 mm guns needed to defend Marine units against many of the medium and light tanks found in the Third World. This program is neede d to augment the Marines force of aging M-60 tanks and newer MlAl Abrm tanks, to provide lightly armored forces with more firepower. Much of the LAV farce should be equipped with thermal sights for night operations, a capability now enjoyed by many potent i al enemies in thew World, including Iraq. Since the Marines now are without an effective air defense system capable of moving with quickly advancing farces, an additional anti-aircraft LAV should be pured and armed with Stinger mis siles and a 25 mm air d efense cannon.

Other equipment priorities for the Marines include electronic navigation equipment that uses the Pentagons Global Positioning Satellites which allow U.S. military units to pinpoint their location within 16 meters accuracy. The Marines also n eed sensors and protective kits for detecting and protecting men and equipment from nuclear chemical, or biological threats Reduce the Marine Corps Reserve to a crisis. Yet it can take reservists at least a month to gear up to fight. If the Marine Corps i s to be reduced in size, then the first cuts should come from the Reserves The Marine Corps greatest asset is the speed and strength with which it can mspond 11 Ideally the Army should serve as reinforcements for the Marines. Larger, outfitted with more eq uipment, and slower to respond, the Army and its reserves are better suited than the Marines for extended conflicts against heavily armed foes.

The current Marine Corps reserve strength of 43,000 should be reduced to about 16,000, roughly the size of one M arineExpeditionary Brigade. This MEB should be structured to emphasize infantry, artillery, light armored infantry, and combat engi neers. This will allow the Marines to replace front line battle losses. This will also keep the combat strength of the Mari ne Corps at a relatively constant level if they should be called upon to respond to other quick rising contingencies.

The Marine Corps Reserve should retain its civil affairs units which administer cap tured municipalities and keep refugees from interfering with military operations. The Reserve also should develop a psychological operations capability, which the Marines n ow lack, Psychological operations use radio, TV, and publications to weaken an enemys morale and encourage them to surrender. A Marine Corps Reserve manned at about 16,000 men will save approximately $280 million. l2 Eliminate the Marines Norway mission T h e Marine Corps has been responsible for helping to defend Norway from a Soviet attack since the early 1980s. The threat of such an attack, of course, has disappeared al most completely. Thus the Marines equipment in Norway, which includes armored ve hicle s, guns and ammunition, should be returned to the U.S Increase ship-to-shore firepower.

Naval gunfire support always has been critical to Marine Corps amphibious landings and other operations because it clears enemy defenses and harasses enemy gunners. To ensue that the Marines continue to have such gunfire support, the Navy should keep the battleship USS Missouri in the fleet. The Navy also should continue exploring fu ture long-range gunfii support systems so that its ships, armed with 5 inch guns, will not have to move dangerously close to enemy shore emplacements. These new guns will need a range in excess of 25 miles and must be capable of delivering sustained, ac curate fire onto targets ashore Keep a strong naval amphibious fleet.

The Navy has 62 amphibious ships in its fleet, nine of which are expected to be re tired by the year 19

95. The Navy must continue replacing enough aging amphibious ships to keep at least 60 in the fleet. At least seven new ships thus must be built by the end of the decade. Among these ships should be the last of five scheduled Waspclass multi-purpose amphibious assault ships which can carry 1,900 Marines, helicopters AV-8B Harrier attack jets, and amphibious assault vehicles. The Navy also should ac quire the new USS Harpe r s Ferry-class cargo ship, which will cany large amounts of ammunition and vehicles to support amphibious landings. Finally, the Navy should continue planning for the LX, an amphibious ship that will carry 700 Marines and several aircraft. It would be used to respond to small-scale crises 12 Authors interview with Marine officials in Marine Carps Budget Office, December 11,1991 12 Improve Marine Corps riverine warfare capabilities Inland waterways in the Third World are used to transport illegal drugs, guer rilla in surgents, and terrorists. To improve the U.S. ability to fight on rivers and lakes, more riverine assault craft (RAC) are needed. Nineteen of these boats should be purchased.

The Marines now have fewer than 50 small boat pilots to operate all their riverine craft; the number of these pilots should be increased, as should the number of Marines uainedin riverine warfare.

The Marines together with the Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land) have devised a riverine warfare strategy for small scale raids, reconnai ssance missions, counternarcotics opera tions, and larger-scale riverine assaults. To put this plan into action, the Marines will have to train ma with foreign forces and expand the number of Marines qualified to teach riverine warfare skills. Because Cen t ral and South America will be the primary area of operation for Marines and SEALs conducting riverine warfare training mis sions, and since local guerrillas and drug ualckers make extensive use of rivers for transport and para-military operations, the Mar ines and Navy SEALS must expand their limited Spanish and Portuguese language programs Increase Marine Corps civic action activities.

The Marines are, ofcourse, a combat force, but they also can perform non-combat missions. Examples: humanitarian assistanc e provided in the wake of the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in Operation Fiery Vigil and the Bangladesh typhoon of April 30,1991 in Op eration Sea Angel, and to Kurds in the months following the Persian Gulf War in Oper ation Provide Comfort.

While such activitie s demonstrate Americas generous willingness to help others in distress, these activities also help America. Marine humanitarian actions create good will abroad and serve as training missions for the Marines, allowing them to practice logistical operations , amphibious assaults, engineering, and other skills needed for combat gather intelligence and familiarize themselves with possible combat areas. Marine training deployments in Third World countries should include civic action such as building roads, and s c hools and providing potable water. Navy corpsmen and doctors that deploy with the Marines also can be used more fully to teach preventative health techniques and improve local health conditions In addition, Marines in such areas as Northern Iraq on humani t arian missions can CONCLUSION America has won the Cold War and thus safely can reduce those elements of its armed forces that have been geared mainly to the Soviet threat. These include strategic nuclear farces, Army heavy forces, the large tactical Air F orce, and even some ad vanced Navy ships and submarines.

America cannot afford, however, significantly to reduce the Marine Carps. The world after the Cold War will be an uncertain and in many ways still an unsafe place for America. Regional tyrants threat en access to critical resources in the Middle East and elsewhere. Anti-American guerrillas and drug traffickers plague Latin America 13 P I And conflicts continue to simmer in East Asia, home to Americas major trading part ners. The Marines, posted around the world and able to respond quickly to unexpected crises will be needed probably more in the 1990s than they were during the Cold War.

When American forces are brought home from Europe and elsewhere, the Marine Carps may be the only American military fo rce stationed overseas, ready to respond quickly and forcefully to protect American interests around the globe. The Marines are best equipped to rush to defend friendly governments, keep open sea lanes, protect American lives and property, evacuate Americ ans from war zones, and maintain a con tinuous military presence to deter potential aggressors.

Major Responsibility. Right now, the Marines shoulder a major shm of Americas crisis response capability. To meet this responsibility, the Marines need their th ree Ma rine Expeditionary Forces, modem equipment like the V-22 Osprey aircraft, and a new amphibious assault craft. To support the Marines, the Navy must deploy at least 60 am phibious ships and keep in service at least one battleship. To improve operati ng skills in the Third World, the Marines should expand their riverine warfare capabilities and their civic action and other humanitarian missions.

To help meet defense budget reduction goals, the Marines can give up roughly 17,000 active duty forces and 2 7,000 reserve forces-or two-thirds of all Marine re serves-and should give up the waning mission of reinforcing Norway in the event of a Soviet assault.

The Marine Carps adds an important dimension to Americas overall military pos ture, including the abil ity to strike quickly from the sea. If America gives up these ca pabilities, through neglect or by choice, its ability to defend its vital interests overseas will suffer. While Americas other services can take major cuts in the wake of the So viet collaps e and still fulfill their missions worldwide, the Marines cannot. As Americas smallest farce, it is most vulnerable to the budget cutters. The U.S. still needs the military capabilities that only the Marines can offer. They should be spared the budget knif e.

David Silverstein Policy Analyst 14


Bryan Johnson

F.M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy