The Marine Corps continues to take justifiable pride in its reputation of being the finest fighting force in the world. The Marine Corps also has been, throughout much of its history, the most innovative and most forward-thinking service. The amphibious doctrine and tactics that led to victory in World War II in the Pacific had their genesis in the classrooms of the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va., during the 1930s. During the 1940s the Marines perfected the close-air-support capabilities that have been a cornerstone of Marine Corps operations ever since.
The Marine Corps also blazed the trail, in the post-WWII era, in: (a) the use of helicopters to enhance battlefield mobility; and (b) the overseas prepositioning of ships loaded with the supplies and equipment needed for a large-scale rapid-response capability in the "come as you are" wars of the 21st century.
Gen. James L. Jones, the 32nd commandant, assumed the leadership of the Corps on 30 June 1999, succeeding Gen. Charles C. Krulak, whose programs were designed to "steal a march" on the 21st century by "institutionalizing innovation." Krulak implemented initiatives to improve team integrity and unit cohesion. Jones has implemented measures to eventually return approximately 4,000 Marines from support roles to the operating forces, in part by identifying billets across the Corps that are or will soon either be eliminated or filled by "civilian Marines" or contract personnel.
In March 2000, Jones testified to the qualities of the naval expeditionary forces and the Corps' commitment to preserving its four pillars of readiness: (1) leading Marines; (2) maintaining operational readiness; (3) contributing to the common defense; and (4) connecting to society.
The Marine Corps is usually allocated approximately 14 percent--$14 billion--of the budget of the Department of the Navy.
The Marine Corps continues to maintain excellent credibility with Congress due, in large part, to its record of frugality, which is unmatched by any of the other services. A few specifics:
The Marine Corps "consumes" only about six percent of the overall Department of Defense budget, but provides: (a) 12 percent of the nation's active forces, including 23 percent of the active ground-forces divisions and 20 percent of all active U.S. ground-maneuver battalions; (b) 14 percent of the overall U.S. tactical aviation capability, including 20 percent of the active fighter/attack squadrons and 17 percent of the nation's attack helicopters; and (c) approximately one third of the U.S. active ground combat service support capabilities.
The Corps has, by far, the lowest officer-to-enlisted ratio of any of the nation's armed services--one officer to nine enlisted personnel. The ratios for the other services are: Air Force, one-to-four; Army and Navy, one-to-five.
The Corps has an even leaner ratio in terms of civilian support personnel--one civilian employee per 10 Marines. The ratios for the Army, Navy, and Air Force all hover at about the one-to-two level--i.e., one full-time civilian employee for every two active-duty personnel.
In late 2001 there were approximately 172,500 Marines on active duty. Of that total, more than 114,000 were in the operating forces and approximately 30,500 of them were forward-deployed, forward-based, forward-stationed, or deployed for training around the world. There also are 39,000 men and women in the Marine Corps Reserve, which makes up the balance of the Corps' Total Force.
The Marine Corps is the most youthful of the armed services, with an average age of 23, seven to nine years younger than the average age of the members of the other services. It also has the highest percentage of enlisted personnel in the grades of E-3 and below--approximately 48 percent, compared to 26 percent for the Army, 25 percent for the Air Force, and 22 percent for the Navy. The Corps' force structure is organized so that at any given time approximately 68 percent of Marines are on their first term of enlistment. To maintain its force structure, the Corps must recruit 39,000 men and women each year.
Today, the Corps is in the process of reducing, or "necking down," the number of different types and models of aircraft that are needed to execute the still-evolving "Operational Maneuver From the Sea" (OMFTS) doctrine developed to complement the post-Cold War Navy/USMC "Forward ... From the Sea" strategy that shifted emphasis from "blue-water" operations to near-shore or littoral missions. Most of the aircraft now in the Marine Corps' active inventory are more than 25 years old.
Although fielding has been delayed approximately two years because of various mishaps and engineering problems, the Marine Corps is proceeding with development of the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, which completed its operational evaluation in July 2000. Limited production is ongoing, and a decision for full-rate production is expected in 2003. The prototype of the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) was delivered in 1999 and three AAAVs are going through developmental testing. When they both reach IOC, the MV-22B and the AAAV will, along with the Navy's LCAC (landing craft, air cushion), form the "mobility triad" that will enable the Corps to implement its future OMFTS warfighting doctrine.
These three platforms will be augmented in 2010 by the STOVL (short takeoff/vertical landing) version of the Joint Strike Fighter now being developed by a team led by Lockheed Martin. Meanwhile, remanufacture of the AV-8B V/STOL attack aircraft continues, new KC-130J tanker/transports are being delivered, and upgraded versions of the Corps' light helicopters--UH-1Ys and AH-1Zs--are being flight-tested.
Several new weapons are being introduced to the Marine Corps' divisions. The Javelin anti-armor weapon entered the Corps' inventory in 1999 to begin replacing the Dragon missile. Development continues on the prototypes of the XM777 155mm lightweight howitzer, which is programmed to replace the heavy M198. The Corps also plans to procure the High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to remedy a shortfall in fire support.
The "individual Marine" always has been, and will continue to be, the Corps' most important combat weapon, though, and is not neglected in the Corps' short- and long-term budget plans. Individual warfighting equipment--from a new infantry combat boot to Gortex parkas, new combat tents, modular body armor, and a new design and pattern of camouflage utilities--soon will be standard issue for all Marines. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps' Materiel Command has significantly improved both the acquisition process and the Corps' ability to address the challenges posed by aging equipment.
The Marine Corps' combat forces are organized into three Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEFs), each totaling approximately 46,100 Marines and Sailors and composed of a Marine Division, a Marine Aircraft Wing, and a Force Service Support Group (see MEF table on page 187). Four Marine fighter-attack squadrons--which fly F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters--are permanently assigned to four Navy carrier air wings. Marine tactical electronic warfare squadrons--which fly EA-6B Prowlers--regularly deploy overseas to Japan and Turkey in support of joint forces.
In 1999, the Corps reestablished the Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEBs) to augment the smaller Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) and to enhance the larger MEF, a move that has enhanced the Corps' overall expeditionary warfighting capabilities. Three MEB staffs are embedded within the headquarters of the three MEFs. The versatility of the MEB is emblematic of the unique scalability of the Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs). MEBs can either deploy on amphibious shipping or be airlifted into a theater of operations to join up with the equipment and supplies carried by maritime propositioning ships.
Following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Jones created the 4th MEB, an antiterrorist brigade that encompasses the Marine Security Force Battalion (including Fleet Antiterrorist Support Teams), the Marine Security Guard Battalion, the CBIRF (Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force), and a new infantry battalion. This led to a request to increase the Corps' end strength by 2,400 Marines to a total of 175,000 Marines on active duty.
More than 1,200 Marines now serve as security guards at approximately 130 U.S. embassies and consulates in 117 countries worldwide. The heroic performance of the MSG (Marine Security Guard) detachments assigned to the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and in Nairobi, Kenya, following the terrorist bombings of those embassies in 1998 confirmed the value of maintaining a Marine Corps presence at U.S. embassies and led to State Department requests for the formation of 37 additional MSG detachments--requiring a collective total of about 300 more Marines--to be phased in over a five-year period.
Perhaps the Corps' proudest boast--particularly important in an era when forward-deployed Navy carrier battle groups and Navy/Marine Corps ARGs are, in many areas of the world, the only combat-ready U.S. forces on or near the scene of a potential crisis area overseas--are the unique capabilities of both the legendary "individual Marine" and the Corps' highly trained MEU(SOCs)--Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable).
The versatile MEU(SOC)--pronounced "mew-sock"--is a relatively compact MAGTF trained to carry out any of a long list of complex and highly demanding missions ranging from conventional amphibious operations to peacekeeping to the rescue of American citizens and other civilians endangered by civil insurrections.
The typical MEU, commanded by a colonel, usually deploys as the forward-edge fighting component of an ARG, and takes with it 15 days of supplies for sustained combat.
With myriad missions already being performed throughout the world and additional requirements for more Marines to support new and/or ad hoc missions, the need for forward-deployed ARGs and carrier battle groups--always on short tether in the Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and Persian Gulf--seems likely to continue. Marines, both active and reserve, performed superbly last year in operations in Afghanistan and East Timor, and in the skies over Iraq. The Marine Corps demonstrated versatility, flexibility, mobility, and capability across a broad spectrum of operations.
The Corps' leaders have expressed continuing concern about the operational demands placed on Marine Corps personnel. On average, 26 percent of the Marine Corps is deployed at any given time, and Marines assigned to the operating forces spend about 41 percent of their time deployed.
In 1952, when the 82nd Congress was writing into law the Marine Corps' role in the national-security infrastructure, it recognized that the cost of maintaining a ready combat force is insignificant compared with the much higher cost of military unpreparedness. What Congress wanted--with the near disasters of the first years of the Korean War still fresh in mind--was to create a national "force in readiness." And it had the Marine Corps specifically in mind: "American history, recent as well as remote," the 82nd Congress said, "has fully demonstrated the vital need for the existence of a strong force in readiness. Such a force, versatile, fast- moving and hard-hitting ... can prevent the growth of potentially large conflagrations by prompt and vigorous action during their incipient stages. The nation's shock troops must be the most ready when the nation is least ready ... to provide a balanced force in readiness for a naval campaign and, at the same time, a ground-and-air striking force ready to suppress or contain international disturbances short of large-scale war."
Acting on that precept, Congress passed legislation to ensure "the maintenance of a Marine force in readiness for the purposes of: (1) conducting land operations essential to a naval campaign; (2) suppressing minor international disturbances; and (3) such other duties as the President may prescribe."
"The need for Marines as a ready force is paramount," the Congress also stated. The continued emphasis on readiness that is the hallmark of today's Marine Corps--as Marines are quick to point out--is much more than just the law. It is what the American people expect from the Marine Corps.
Today's U.S. Marine Corps is dedicated to meeting that expectation.