The Marine Corps continues to take justifiable
pride in its reputation of being the finest fighting force in the world
and America's 9-1-1 force. The Corps also has been, throughout much of
its history, the most innovative and 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 Quantico, Va., in the 1930s. In
the 1940s the Marines perfected the close-air support capabilities that
have become a cornerstone of Marine Corps operations ever since. The
Marine Corps also blazed the trail, in the post-WWII era, in the use
of helicopters to enhance battlefield mobility and in 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
Gen. James L. Jones Jr., the 32nd commandant, assumed the leadership
of the Corps on 30 June 1999, succeeding Gen. Charles C. Krulak, whose
programs endeavored to "steal a march" on the 21st century
by "institutionalizing innovation." Krulak implemented initiatives
to improve team integrity and unit cohesion. He established the Marine
Corps Material Command and the Marine Corps War-fighting Laboratory,
which is specifically responsible for "investigating new and potential
technologies and evaluating their impact on how [the Marine Corps] organizes,
equips, educates, and trains to fight in the future."
In the equipment area, the Marine Corps has told Congress it needs a
minimum of $1.2 billion annually in "green" (Marine Corps)
dollars for procurement--that funding is in addition to "blue" (Navy)
dollars used for the acquisition of amphibious ships and landing craft.
Whether the Marine Corps will receive all the funding it needs is debatable,
though significant relief has come with the signing of the fiscal year
2000 defense budget. The Marine Corps continues to maintain excellent
credibility with Congress, fortunately, and its record of frugality is
unmatched by any of the other services. A few specifics:
The Marine Corps "consumes" only six percent of the overall
Department of Defense budget, but provides 12 percent of the nation's
active forces, 23 percent of the active ground-forces divisions, and
14 percent of the U.S. tactical aviation capability.
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: Air Force, one-to-four; Army and Navy,
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 civilian
employee for every two active-duty personnel.
The Corps is reducing, or "necking down," the number of different
types and models of aircraft that are needed to execute the still-evolving
OMFTS (Operational Maneuver From the Sea) 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
Training has begun in the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, which is
going through operational evaluation. The prototype of the Advanced Amphibious
Assault Vehicle (AAAV) was delivered in 1999 and is going through initial
testing. When they reach their initial operational capability, 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 OMFTS warfighting doctrine. Late in the next decade they will be
joined by the STOVL (short takeoff/vertical landing) Joint Strike Fighter
now being developed. Remanufacture of the AV-8B V/STOL attack aircraft
continues, new KC-130J tanker/transports are being procured, and upgraded
versions of light helicopters--the UH-1Y and AH-1Z--are being developed.
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 lightweight howitzer, which is programmed to replace the
The "individual Marine" always has been, and will continue
to be, the Corps' most important combat weapon, though, and in the Corps'
short- and long-term budget plans is not neglected in favor of high-cost
platforms and advanced technologies. Individual warfighting equipment--from
a new infantry combat boot to Gortex parkas, new combat tents, and modular
body armor--soon will be standard issue for all Marines.
In the personnel area, the Marine Corps entered FY 2000 with 172,628
active-duty Marines--17,884 officers and 154,744 enlisted personnel.
This was slightly under the force level of 174,000 established by the
1993 Department of Defense Bottom-up Review and subsequently approved
by Congress. A force level of 172,800 active-duty Marines was established
by the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) in 1997 for fiscal years 19982003.
The active-duty force level will stabilize at 172,570 Marines in FY 2000.
Of the Corps' active Marines, approximately 106,017 are assigned to
the operating forces and another 4,198 serve in external security assignments.
Approximately 32,000 are assigned to non-FMF units. Another 3,720 are
assigned to various joint duties, and 30,000 are in the "trainees
and transients" category. The end strength of the selected Marine
Corps Reserve will drop to 39,966 in FY 2000.
The Corps continues to be the most youthful of the military services.
It also has the highest percentage of enlisted personnel in the grades
of E-3 and below--47.8 percent, compared to 26 percent for the Army,
25 percent for the Air Force, and 22 percent for the Navy. The average
age of Marine privates through lance corporals is 20.7 years, and 95
percent of them are high school graduates. The Corps plans to recruit
31,337 men and 2,250 women for the active forces in FY 2000.
The Marine Corps' combat forces are organized into three Marine Exped-itionary
Forces (MEFs), each totaling approximately 46,000 Marines and Sailors
and composed of a Marine Division, a Marine Aircraft Wing, and a Force
Service Support Group (see table page 188). 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, Italy, and Turkey
in support of joint forces.
More than 1,100 Marines will continue to serve as security guards at
approximately 140 U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. The heroic
performance of the MSG (Marine Security Guard) detachments assigned to
the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, following
the terrorist bombings in 1998 confirmed the value of a Marine Corps
presence at the embassies--and led to State Department requests for the
formation of 37 additional MSG detachments, requiring about 300 more
Marines, to be phased in over the next five-to-six years.
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. With
myriad missions performed throughout 1999 and the additional requirements
for Marines in support of operations in Kosovo and East Timor, the need
for forward-deployed ARGs and carrier battle groups--on short tethers
in the Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and Persian Gulf--seems likely
to continue well into the 21st century.
Perhaps the Corps' proudest boast, though--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 crisis area overseas--are the flexibility,
mobility, and versatility of both the legendary "individual Marine" and
the Corps' highly trained MEU(SOCs)--Marine Expeditionary Units (Special
The MEU(SOC)--pronounced "mew-sock"--is a relatively compact
MAGTF (Marine air-ground task force) 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 with 15 days of supplies for
Examples of MEU(SOC) versatility include:
24th MEU(SOC)--After assisting displaced Kosovar refugees by erecting
tent cities and distributing supplies in Macedonia in March 1999, Marines
of the 24th MEU(SOC) reboarded the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship
USS Nassau and sailed to waters in the Adriatic to participate in air
strikes against Serb forces in Kosovo in support of Operation Allied
Force, NATO's air operation against Serbian forces in Albania and Yugoslavia.
26th MEU(SOC)--Upon relieving the 24th MEU(SOC), Marines of the 26th
MEU joined NATO forces again. This time, elements of the MEU also developed
refugee camps in Albania and later were used to patrol Kosovo as part
of the enabling force that allowed implementation of the peace agreement
brokered between the Serbs and the Kosovars in June 1999. The Marines
were among the first U.S. troops on the ground after the bombing campaign
had ended. Upon relief by follow-on forces of the U.S. Army, Marines
reboarded the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and provided
timely humanitarian relief to Turkish citizens who were devastated by
a powerful earthquake in August. Marines erected tent cities and shuttled
supplies to those areas that were hardest hit.
31st MEU(SOC)--Marines aboard the Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship
USS Belleau Wood were called to action in October 1999 to assist the
U.S component of the international forces in East Timor in Operation
Stabilise. Marine CH-53E heavy-lift helicopters flew 55 sorties and lifted
more than one million tons of cargo in support of the Australian-led
peacekeeping mission. On 26 October, the 31st MEU(SOC) was replaced by
the 11th MEU(SOC) to continue the support.
In 1952, when the 82nd Congress was writing into law the Marine Corps'
role in the national-security infrastructure, it had much more than cost-effectiveness
in mind, of course. 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
"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 the expectation of the American people. The Marine Corps
is dedicated to meeting that expectation.