There is an acronym that I have found to be useful in describing
where we are in our defense planning machinery. It also keeps me on
track about what to say. The acronym is RAMBURFTS -- Roles and
Missions, Bottom-Up Review, and From the Sea. I will even make it
longer -- RAMBURFTSRES -- because I want to finish up by talking
about resources and the Corps.
But before "acronymizing" you, let me begin by talking a little
about the strategic landscape that confronts us at the end of the
20th century. We have set aside the grand calculus of containment.
The bipolar dynamic that dominated all our defense planning is
obsolete, and it became obsolete virtually overnight. Four things
have happened in the past five years that cannot be rescinded:
The fall of the Berlin Wall;
The end of the Warsaw Pact as a coherent alliance;
The disintegration of the former Soviet Union; and
The birth of democracy in Eastern Europe.
But the post-containment world is more confused, at least as
violent as the bipolar one, and it is one that will require
continued United States engagement overseas. Regional threats have
replaced the "evil empire," but as we have seen in Kuwait, even
regional threats can be very dangerous to world stability. This is
the backdrop against which we have to talk about current and future
military strategy and force structure. So let me now turn to my
acronym and its first segment, "RAM."
As many of you know, in the spring of this year the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as mandated in law, issued a
comprehensive report on the roles, missions, and functions of the
Armed Forces. Let me describe these roles and missions.
Roles are the broad and enduring purposes for which the services
were established by Congress. For the Army, it is the continental
defense of the United States and land warfare; for the Navy, it is
war at sea; and for the Air Force, it is aerial warfare.
The Marine Corps is "roled" to cut across these lines. Our role
is to conduct littoral operations, those operations at the point
where the land and sea come together, as part of a naval campaign
-- in other words, to conduct land operations, but to do them from
our bases at sea. Since this role logically carries us ashore to
open the littoral door if land warfare is to be waged, our role
assigns us also the responsibility to conduct sustained combat
operations alongside the Army in a joint environment.
The functions of the respective services are to provide
capabilities to accomplish the roles I have just outlined. These
functional capabilities enable our warfighting commanders to
accomplish missions assigned them by our National Command
As part of his review, the Chairman looked at the capabilities
of the services and concluded that, on balance, we have a fairly
well balanced "family" of complementary capabilities. While there
are some obvious redundancies, for the most part, the overlap is
not excessive, and ensures us of a desirable "seamlessness," as our
joint family of military "tools" works together to meet the mission
The bottom line is that while those who do not understand roles
and missions delight in ascribing the word "fight" to every
reference of this term, those who do understand are fairly content
that the spread of responsibilities among the services is pretty
well balanced. That was the conclusion of General Powell's
And now to the next part of my acronym: the BUR. The process of
shaping strategies and forces has gotten off to a thoughtful start
under this Administration with the Bottom-Up Review. The
methodology is excellent, the interface between the uniformed
military and the team at the Office of the Secretary of Defense
unparalleled, and the product we have gotten from it has been very
useful. Actually, the BUR force structure derived from the earlier
"Base Force," as a refinement based on experience, and a slightly
clearer focus on our future security needs than we had four years
ago, in 1989, when the Base Force was crafted.
The BUR was not a zero-sum effort -- no service or agency
"lost," and no service "gained" at the cost of another. Instead,
the process looked at capabilities, and sought to maximize the
complementary strengths of the four services.
Unlike the Base Force, the BUR was more than an essentially
across-the-board reduction. It more clearly assessed, and balanced,
the functions and capabilities we believe we will need as we now
view the future, and shifted programming and funding emphasis to
better align our joint capabilities and to emphasize the unique
contributions and capabilities of individual services.
Now, to complete my acronym, "FTS" -- From the Sea. In
realigning our perspective of the future, no service had to make a
larger intellectual adjustment, a more extensive change of focus,
than the United States Navy. They have had to shift from a global
blue- water outlook -- classic "war at sea" carrier operations and
hunting Soviet boomers in the bastions -- to a regional war
outlook. It is a tribute to the Navy that they have been able to
adopt a new service focus based on littoral operations.
Operations "From the Sea" is the Navy-Marine Corps strategic
concept for this new world. It is an evolutionary process by which
we are now re-emphasizing amphibious forces, mine warfare forces,
and other capabilities that were of lesser priority during the long
Cold War. "From the Sea" stresses what we can do ashore by using
our control of the oceans, and by basing and operating our forces
from sea bases, rather than on our steadily receding overseas land
Because of our ability to operate from the sea, from the
amphibious and tactical aircraft platforms that are small moveable
islands of our national resolve, unencumbered by basing requests or
overflight problems, we can conduct subtle and controlled
engagement across the broad spectrum of diplomatic and military
interaction. Because of this, Marines can come ashore rapidly for
humanitarian purposes, as we did in Bangladesh, Northern Iraq, and
Somalia, and, when needed, we can move into rapidly planned and
executed combat operations from low - to medium-intensity
Maneuver warfare is the heart of "From the Sea." It is a
warfighting style that emphasizes our strengths: the synchronized
use of rapid maneuver, quick decisionmaking, and the inherent
flexibility of seabasing. The rapid seizure or securing of ports
and airfields by forward operating Marines can enable the entry of
Army and Air Force elements, as necessary.
Now, I want to become parochial, and finish up here by talking
about the Marine Corps and how we fit into all of this. The Corps
of tomorrow is going to be smaller. Today, we are about 180,000,
down from a Desert Storm high of 196,000. When we reach our
congressionally assigned end strength in the mid-170,000s by the
end of this year, we will be smaller than at any time since 1950 --
the eve of the Korean War. This reduction of 20,000-plus Marines is
coming from a force with a two-to-one "tooth to tail" ratio; and
that means that without much of a "tail," our cuts have come almost
entirely from teeth -- our operating forces.
It was recognition of this fact, and of the reality that while
the extent of some functions and capabilities in our Armed Forces
may have derived from the Cold War, virtually none of these
associated with the use of Marines over time did, that resulted in
the BUR decision to hold the Marine Corps at a more capable force
level than that envisioned in the Base Force.
Marines also offer an economical choice in defense structure.
Long credited with a lot of "bang for the buck," under the BUR's
guidance, with an operating budget that's about 5 percent of the
DOD budget, the Corps will provide:
12 percent of active Armed Forces personnel;
20 percent of active divisions;
13 percent of all active Tactical aviation assets; and
14 percent of reserve division equivalents.
This a good deal for the American taxpayer -- a force of
Many of you -- particularly those on the Hill -- see these
frugalities, but you frequently remind me that the Corps seems
often underfunded. In part this happens because, unlike the other
three services, the Corps does not totally control its own
programming and budgeting. As the smaller of the two services in
the Department of the Navy, we must compete for scarce resources
not only externally, but also within our mutual Department. This
process is improving, and will further, I believe, as our Navy
shipmates continue to focus increasingly on littoral warfare.
The key is that we must allocate the scarce resources available
in such a way to emphasize those capabilities that are most
relevant today, those capabilities articulated in "From the
This, then, is our future as I see it: an era where Marines are
going to be used more and more frequently, for diverse and
challenging tasks -- from major regional contingencies to
peacekeeping to deterrence and everything in between. We will
continue to provide what some have termed, the most general purpose
of the general purpose forces with strategic agility, on-scene
presence, self-sustaining, and high flexibility, for a variety of
crisis response demands.
As the RAND Corporation's Fred Frostic said recently, "In crisis
situations we use a little bit of the Army, Air Force, and Navy --
and every Marine we can get our hands on!"
Our ability to rapidly position two Marine Expeditionary Units
off Somalia is illustrative of this point. We have got two powerful
self-contained air-ground task forces sitting on the horizon there
-- where they can be seen but not touched by clan violence. They
have no logistic or political footprint ashore, but in minutes they
can respond with an overwhelming combined arms team consisting of
anything from attack helicopters to armored vehicles -- launched
from the sea.
In summary, even though we have fewer resources to call upon, we
are also confident that we have the vision -- in "From the Sea" --
to be a key element of this and future national military
The Marine Corps will continue to carry out the intent of the
82nd Congress "... to be most ready when the nation generally is
least ready," to do more with less, and to do it well.
© 1995 Persimmon IT, Inc.