The Jungle of the 21st Century
By ARTHUR P. BRILL JR.
At the Winter Extreme Games last year in Crested Butte, Colo., a young
man with purple, orange, and green hair walked up to a Marine recruiting
officer and said, "Hey, dude, you Marines are OK." That remark
sums up today's Marine Corps as it enters the final year of a century
that has seen a once-obscure military service rise to prominence in the
hearts of the American people.
The Corps is riding high today despite modernization and infrastructure
concerns caused by trying to answer all the bells with only 85 percent
of the budget needed to do so. Despite its budget challenges, however,
the Marine Corps is gearing up to meet the challenges of the 21st century,
when it will be needed more than ever.
"It's a good time to be a Marine," said Lt. Gen. James L.
Jones Jr., USMC, senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense William
S. Cohen. From his unique vantage point in the Pentagon, Jones has seen
the Corps wind up on the positive side in virtually all of the major
issues Cohen has faced in the past 22 months.
The Marines fared well in the Quad-rennial Defense Review (QDR), for
example, where production of its number-one priority--the MV-22 Osprey
tilt-rotor aircraft--was accelerated. The Cohen-appointed panel, headed
by former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum-Baker (R-Kan.), evaluated gender training
issues and said that Marine recruit training, including gender-segregated
basic training, should be a model for the other services. Cohen agreed.
In a tough and highly competitive recruiting climate, the Corps has exceeded
its goals for the past 42 consecutive months.
FAST and Flexible
Marines seem to be in the center of most crises overseas, be it an embassy
bombing or an evacuation of U.S. citizens. That high tempo of operations
will no doubt continue, in view of ongoing global instability. And, thanks
to the Corps' strong partnership with the Navy--as well as its flexibility,
adaptability, and rapid-response capability--the service will remain
on the sharp end of the spear for the foreseeable future.
"On the operational side, this secretary [Cohen] is convinced that
the flexibility of naval forces is one of ... [America's] strong assets," said
Jones. "During embassy crises, the Marine security guards have acquitted
themselves with distinction, and we can't produce enough FAST [Marine
Corps Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team] platoons. They are in great
Fifty-man FAST platoons flew in from Cyprus and Bahrain to assume various
security functions after the U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya,
and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, last August. The Corps now has 11 FAST platoons,
consisting primarily of infantry Marines who have received specialized
"This is a force that is ideally modeled for what the future threats
and requirements are going to be," said Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, USMC,
commander in chief, U.S. Central Command. "They are highly ready
and easily deployable. The Marine Corps read the tea leaves and has created
a very specialized force effective against emerging threats to military
installations and U.S. personnel and property overseas. They will be
in even greater demand in the future."
Last year, the Corps formed another FAST company of five platoons in
Yorktown, Va., by stripping 11 Navy carriers of their Marine security
detachments--which had been used mainly for ceremonial purposes. The
FAST units are under operational control of the Navy, however, and three
FAST platoons are routinely deployed for six months to Naples, Italy,
to support CINCUSNAVEUR and the Sixth Fleet, to Bahrain (to support CINCUSNAVCENT
and the Fifth Fleet), and to Yokosuka, Japan, to support CINCPACFLT and
the Seventh Fleet.
After the Nairobi bombing, Zinni requested security help from the Fifth
Fleet, which sent its FAST platoon. The units do not take offensive action
against terrorists--that mission is usually assigned to special operations
units. But they reinforce existing security by getting to a crisis area
at flank speed--often enough, before the problem escalates. FAST units
serve on ships headed to "hot" ports and guard threatened naval
bases; they also recently provided security for a U.S. housing area in
"FAST is another tool in the bag. We'd love to provide more, but
where do we get the people?" said Brig. Gen. Jan C. Huly, director
of operations at Marine Corps headquarters. "There is no shortage
of requests for Marines."
DOS and CINCs Want More MEUs, MSGs
This is a double-edged situation. There are 26,560 Marines deployed
today--3,500 more than before the Gulf War. Deployed units are kept at
a high state of readiness by draining other limited resources. National
leaders have applauded the FAST units, though, and the deployed Marine
expeditionary units (MEUs). Zinni said that he and the other regional
CINCs (commanders in chief) could use MEUs in their areas 100 percent
of the time--but that would take 15 MEUs instead of the 12 currently
In addition, the Department of State (DOS) wants Marine security guard
(MSG) detachments in 37 more diplomatic posts in the next few years.
To avoid taking them out of combat units, the Corps will request an end-state
relief for the 300 additional Marines needed. Today, 1,105 top Marine
NCOs are serving in 122 of the 275 DOS posts worldwide.
The Corps and DOS will celebrate 50 years of close teamwork next month.
MSGs perform a valuable internal-security mission that can expand an
embassy's outer perimeter during crises. In the age of terrorism, rogue
states, and asymmetrical conflict, that role will become more visible.
Another innovative Marine response unit is the Chemical and Biological
Incident Response Force (CBIRF). Its 375 Marines and Sailors--based at
Camp Lejeune, N.C.--"turn victims into patients" following
a disaster, and also are considered a national asset. CBIRF will be a
major player in another new Marine crisis-response force--created following
a discussion between Zinni and Marine Commandant Gen. Charles C. Krulak,
after the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa. Zinni's primary future concern
is the possibility of weapons of mass destruction falling into the wrong
"It was good to get the FAST platoons down there, but once you
secure the area, disaster-relief personnel are critical, including doctors,
dentists, contractors, truck drivers, and engineers," said Krulak.
These specialists come from Force Service Support Groups, the logistical
component of the Marine air-ground teams, and are combined with slices
of CBIRF and FAST units. Krulak said the new response force will be expeditionary.
To avoid being dependent on another service, the Corps plans to use its
own C-130 transport aircraft--which will be on a four-hour tether.
"Basically, this is a special-purpose MAGTF [Marine air-ground
task force] that's focused on incident response for CINCs. It's logistically
oriented with a building-block mode," said Lt. Gen. Peter Pace,
commander, Marine Forces Atlantic (MARFORLANT).
Although the size of the force depends on the mission, an embassy bombing
disaster would require about 50 to 100 personnel. A core of 20 experts
would fly in first to analyze the situation and call back with follow-on
OMFTS Over the Horizon
Looking toward the future, a high-level Operational Maneuver from the
Sea (OMFTS, the Corps' concept for fighting in the 21st century) steering
group is completing a study of USMC warfighting experiments--primarily
by analyzing the requirements for such scenarios as over-the-horizon
maneuver, naval surface fire support, operating in an urban environment,
and sea basing.
"Logistics is a huge part of our total mission," said Lt.
Gen. Michael J. Williams, deputy chief of staff for programs and resources. "Getting
the shooter to the objective is the easy part."
A force-structure planning group (FSPG) will take the findings of the
OMFTS study and begin charting tomorrow's Marine Corps. That will not
be an easy task. Each specialty and system has its supporters; even the
old Hawk missile system had strong advocates before the Corps eliminated
it last year. Ironically, the Corps is now in the process of deciding
if it needs its own modern antimissile system when it fights as an enabling
While it may be difficult, Krulak wants the force-structure issue resolved
as fully as possible before he leaves office--even if it amounts to an
80 percent solution that can be modified by the next commandant. "It
gives my successor 'top cover.' He can change it. But if he wants to
keep it and it's controversial, he can always point at me," said
Krulak. "There's not one of my potential successors who would not
agree right now with doing it that way."
The FSPG will tackle the infantry battalion's structure early. Its size
determines how many trucks, MV-22s, and advanced amphibious assault vehicles
(AAAVs) the Corps needs. Warfighting experiments predict a more mobile,
agile, and streamlined infantry force. But some key officers still question
the removal of a fourth rifle company from the infantry battalion's structure
a few years ago.
The standing joint task force experiment was scrapped last year. The
FSPG will reshape other headquarters. The Corps now has three organizations
performing the combat service support mission so the FSPG probably will
make changes in that area.
Material Changes in Near Future
The Corps' new Material Command starts up in September 1999 at Albany,
Ga. The repair depot there and the Marine Corps Systems Command, which
will remain at Quantico, Va., will have one boss. This structure should
result in more carefully designed equipment with lower maintenance requirements.
"Material Command will be the material life-cycle agent for the
Marine Corps. It will manage gear from the time we want it to when we
get rid of it," said Maj. Gen. Geoffrey B. Higginbotham, deputy
chief of staff for installations and logistics, who oversees several
promising privatization and outsourcing initiatives expected to achieve
significant cost savings.
In the past, the "old Corps" often would tread water during
the months prior to the nomination of a new commandant. Favorite candidates
would have their "camps" of supporters. Those days are long
past, but today's Marines still wonder who the next (32nd) Marine commandant
will be. A decision is expected soon, possibly as early as February.
"There are one-stars so good that they could be the commandant.
I'm not sure there aren't sergeants major, gunnies, and captains, too,
who are up to the job," said Krulak. "I'm going to sit down
with the secretary of the Navy and first ask him if he would like one,
two, four, or five names. I'm going to encourage him to allow me to write
up every single person and let him interview them."
The secretary will forward his recommendations to Cohen--and Krulak
said he will strongly encourage Cohen himself to interview the candidates
before he makes a choice. Normally, in nominating a new service chief
Cohen sends one name to the White House; that person is interviewed by
President Clinton, who makes the final decision.
The leading candidates agreed months ago to fully support, and present
a united front for, the nominee. The Marine Corps' senior leadership
meets regularly in "off-site" sessions to discuss important
issues, as happened when Gen. Carl E. Mundy Jr. (Krulak's predecessor)
was in his final year as commandant. Krulak may have taken the Marine
Corps by surprise by issuing his Commandant's Planning Guidance soon
after he assumed office--but there were no problems because the Corps'
other senior leaders had the same vision of the future.
That should happen again this year. "Everyone will be on board
no matter who becomes commandant," predicted Lt. Gen. Carol A. Mutter,
who retired two months ago as the Corps' deputy chief of staff for manpower
and reserve affairs. "The Marine Corps will continue to march without
major rudder changes."
The Marines Are the Message
The Corps is getting the recruiting numbers it requires and is even
exceeding the DOD (Department of Defense) quality standards--the DOD
goal is 90 percent high school graduates and the Corps has 96 percent.
On 1 January, Marine recruiters already had 60 percent of their 1999
goal enlisted in their recruiting pool. The principal reason for such
success, Krulak says, is that the Corps understands "Generation
X" and appeals to them with a challenging message that sells not
money or job skills, but the Marine Corps itself.
"We are successful because the recruiters on the street are making
it happen month after month," said Lt. Gen. Jack W. Klimp, the Corps'
former recruiting czar, who relieved Mutter. "They are accomplishing
it by plain old-fashioned work."
According to DOD statistics, Marine recruiters work in excess of 60
hours a week--13 percent above the DOD average. In 1997, the Corps' recruiting
goal was similar to that of 1995, but it took 2,000,000 more phone calls
and 150,000 more area canvass visits, just to enlist 33,000 regulars
and 7,000 reservists.
Like the Corps' drill instructors and master sergeants the Corps' recruiters
are top-quality Marines, and recruiting duty is career-enhancing--the
theory is that "quality begets quality." Recruiters get strong
support from top leadership. Krulak, known as the "number one recruiter," insists
that he and his top officers visit recruiters when they travel. Krulak
often randomly calls them saying, "This is the number one fan of
"It is a tough environment out there. Employment is high, the propensity
to enlist is low, and many companies are looking for the same quality
people we are," said Mutter. "Still, we have the right elements
in place. I'm confident we'll be able to continue to attract top-quality
young men and women."
One of Krulak's longest lasting accomplishments may be "transformation"--the
process of turning civilians into Marines. It starts the moment they
are recruited, continues through a toughened-up boot camp, and stays
with them afterwards during their revamped combat and military occupational
specialty (MOS) training. The transformation culminates when they become
full-fledged members of their tactical units.
"Boot camp is much tougher. The statistics prove it. There's absolutely
no comparison," said Krulak. "They march more, run more, hike
more, and there is more physical fitness training."
The entire process is strengthened by "cohesion," another
Krulak innovation, which postulates that members of the same MOS will
serve in the same units from boot camp through their first enlistment.
The cohesion concept is designed to foster togetherness and team spirit.
Working on the largest MOSs first, Marine trainers have incorporated
all 24 infantry battalions and about 55 percent of newly enlisted Marines
into the program.
"It makes sense to do this," said Mutter. "We are already
into artillery and aviation and we expect to finish all the MOSs that
can be 'cohesed' by next summer."
Meeting the high expectations of their new Marines, who up to then have
been highly regimented and supervised, is a big challenge for Marine
tactical units. To ease the transition to the "real" Marine
Corps, field command representatives now attend graduation exercises
and bus the new graduates to their units, where they are introduced and
"Our job is to sustain the high expectations of what these young
Marines will experience," said Klimp. "From what I'm seeing,
the commands are doing the right things to make that happen."
The Flavor of Future Battlefields
Experiments being carried out by the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory
("the Lab") provide an interesting insight on the Marines of
tomorrow. Future battlefields will require more versatile, agile, flexible,
and responsive Marines.
"We think our Marines will be more multitalented and perhaps there
will be fewer MOSs," said Mutter. "The people coming in today
are not necessarily looking to spend a 30-year career with one employer.
We need to offer them different flavors, perhaps sabbatical policies
where they go off for two years, do something unique, and come back
Because the future will require light and mobile forces with less ground
support, Mutter envisions a "reach back" capability for administrative
support that could extend outside the Marine Corps to get the "duty
experts" in other walks of life. "We need to facilitate these
partnerships," she said.
In a similar vein, Krulak, Lt. Gen. Martin R. Steele (deputy chief of
staff for plans, policies, and operations), and a small staff are quietly
encouraging what they call "the elements of national power" to
work together formally in a "preventive defense" mode to help
prevent future crises. If and when a crisis does occur, the "national
power" group, instead of starting from square one, could use lessons
learned from previous U.S. responses. Sometimes economic and diplomatic
responses are needed as much as military ones.
"The Corps is concerned because of the power-projection role naval
forces play," said Steele. "We'll be involved well into the
21st century in shaping the geopolitical environment around the world."
Steele envisions a structure involving government agencies (the National
Security Council, DOS, DOD, the Commerce Department, and other national
agencies and organizations), as well as appropriate nongovernmental and
private-venture organizations--and America's military allies--to collaborate
and provide oversight.
"There are a lot of Herculean efforts going on around the world,
but they operate on their own. World Food Aid, for example, does a great
job--but, lacking power, it can't influence the action," said Steele,
who thinks that the United States needs to draw on the expertise and
enlist the aid of individuals, such as American businessmen, and groups
overseas who are familiar with local issues. He is optimistic that such
an organization eventually will be formed. "The need for this collaborative
pool of resources is no longer debated," he said. He does not think,
though, that a defense agency is necessarily the appropriate agent to
lead such an organization.
The Riverine Highways
Riverine warfare also is gaining in importance in the U.S. national-security
strategy. Pace's MARFORLANT staff identified nine of the most likely
locales where Marines may be fighting in the future; most of them are
served by rivers that could be used as highways during an urban conflict.
For that and other reasons the Corps is taking a hard look to determine
how much emphasis to give riverine warfare in developing the USMC's overall
The subject was a major topic at the Corps' general officers' symposium
last fall. "We think riverine is going to be a growing capability
and an increased requirement from the CINCs," said Pace, whose MARFORLANT
headquarters has returned to Norfolk, Va. Two years ago, when the Marine
Corps was authorized to increase its general officer strength, Krulak
assigned one general to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to command the II Marine
Expeditionary Force (the East Coast air-ground-logistic team under MARFORLANT).
Freed of his direct warfighting responsibilities, Pace returned to Norfolk
with a staff of 250--half its former size, which he says is adequate.
Pace still wears six "hats," though, and reports to several
CINCs, two Navy component commanders, and Krulak. "My dance card
is full," Pace said.
On any given day, about 11,600 of Pace's Marines are deployed worldwide.
(Last fall, over 40 percent of the 2nd Marine Division was away from
its home base, Camp Lejeune.) Pace has a MEU deployed in the Mediterranean;
a rifle company on security duty in Panama; air units flying in support
of Northern Watch in Incirlik, Turkey; Marine teams in Haiti, at Guantanamo
Bay in Cuba, and in various countries in South America; and an infantry
battalion and fixed-wing unit in Japan (as part of the Corps' Unit-Deployment
Program). Marine aircraft also will be operating in Europe again this
year in support of U.N. forces in Bosnia.
"While it is a healthy tempo, that is what Marines join to do.
When they come home, they and their families expect to have some down
time," said Pace. "Instead of getting a break, they are devoting
large amounts of time fixing old equipment."
The High Price of Future Readiness
Pace's counterpart, Lt. Gen. Carlton W. Fulford Jr., commander of Marine
Forces, Pacific (MARFORPAC), echoes the same concern. His 72,000 Marines
are just as busy training in California and Hawaii and deploying to Japan,
Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Arabian Gulf area.
Like Pace, Fulford is concerned that aging facilities and obsolescent
equipment are hurting the quality of life of his Marines and their families. "The
Marines out here could go fight and win today, but it requires a lot
of work and effort to keep their gear combat-ready," said Fulford. "The
age and condition of our equipment means that it takes increasingly more
time and money to keep it operational. Our focus needs to be on modernization
to replace the old gear."
Krulak emphasizes, as did Mundy, that Marine readiness is critical to
national defense. Both commandants told Congress, though, that the Corps'
high state of readiness today comes at the expense of future readiness--and
that there eventually will be a day of reckoning. Today, the bill collector
is knocking at the door.
"Since readiness is our number one priority, we pay our Marines
and fully finance the direct readiness things first," said Lt. Gen.
Jeffrey W. Oster, who recently retired as Krulak's finance and programs
boss. "If there isn't enough to go around, we'll defer modernization
for the future in three key areas: ground equipment, new construction,
and the maintenance of facilities."
When Marine MEUs deploy for six months, they get the best weapons and
field gear the Corps can provide. But the barracks they leave behind
has a leaky roof, the sinks stop up, and many of the Marine families
also left behind must pay expensive rent in town because there isn't
enough base housing available.
Some of the Corps' warfighting gear is ancient by modern standards.
The amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) is 27 years old, seven years beyond
its projected service life, but another 14 years will pass before it
is fully replaced by the AAAV. Most Americans change their automobiles
every few years--but Marine five-ton trucks are now 18 years old on average,
and have another three to seven years to go before they are replaced.
The CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter, with a life span of 30 years (with
all extensions included), will be at least 45 years old before it is
fully replaced by the MV-22. The KC-130F Hercules transports--which have
a projected 20-year life span--are 37 years old, and have another two
to 11 years to go.
On the facilities side, the maintenance and repair backlog will exceed
$1 billion in two to three years without additional funding. At present
funding levels, the Corps will be able to replace its buildings every
190 years. To get that figure down to 100 years would require $75 million
additional for at least the next six years. Marine family housing is
10,000 units short, and 12,000 more units are in need of major repairs.
Budgetary Fix Urgently Needed
During critical readiness hearings in late September 1998, the Corps
told Congress it also needs $2.5 billion in additional procurement funds,
including $1.3 billion for Marine aviation. Krulak said he was optimistic
that the Corps would receive a sizable "fix" from Congress
in extra "readiness" funds. "We've been slowly and surely
getting better by QDR actions and better business practices," said
Krulak. "We've got our procurement up a bit, but I want to walk
out of this job knowing procurement is right."
The Corps' major big-budget programs do seem to be on track. The expensive
AAAV comes aboard in 2004. To afford it, the Corps is trying to speed
up procurement of 7,500 five-ton trucks and other vehicles, to carry
out SLEPs (service-life extension programs), and to modernize its command-and-control
The Corps is experiencing some major problems with its lightweight 155mm
howitzer, though, primarily because of design problems encountered in
efforts to reduce the gun's weight below 10,000 pounds. Initial procurement,
originally expected in 2000, is now scheduled for 2002. Marines are concerned
about the $80 million program, but they say the problems are fixable. "We're
working with the contractor and they want to get it on track," Williams
said. "We want the gun and we don't want to recompete this."
In the meantime, Marines continue to maintain the 16-year-old M198 155mm
howitzers, which weigh 16,000 pounds. The M198 has a 20-year life, but
it will be five to eight years before the lightweight howitzers are completely
On the aviation side, the vital MV-22 program is on track. Thanks to
the acceleration recommended by the QDR, the Corps will receive 30 aircraft
a year starting in 2004, with the final aircraft delivered in 2014. Four
test aircraft are presently surpassing expectations at Naval Air Station
Patuxent River, Md., and sea trials are scheduled to begin in early 1999
aboard various Navy ships. In addition, 49 Marine pilots--all with CH-46,
CH-53E, and C-130 backgrounds--and two Air Force pilots already have
been selected for the op-erational evaluation testing phase that starts
in October. The first Osprey MEU is scheduled to deploy with the MV-22
in 2003 from the East Coast.
The next critical Marine Corps development, following the USMC's rejection
of the Navy's F/A-18 Super Hornet, is the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
A short takeoff/vertical landing (VSTOL) version of the JSF is considered
the key to the Corps' aviation future. Combining the best qualities of
the AV-8B Harrier and the F/A-18 at a cost estimated at one-half that
of the Super Hornet, the VSTOL JSF will deploy with MEUs. Plans call
for 12 VSTOL JSF aircraft to be built for the Corps in 2008, 24 in 2009,
and 36 per year after that until 2023. "The secretary of Defense
and the Congress are committed to it," said Krulak. "It is
the fighter of the future."
Although it will be a challenge sustaining the existing aircraft in
the Corps' inventory until the MV-22 and JSF arrive, it is a challenge
Marines will gladly accept. The new aircraft systems are considered absolutely
vital for the 21st-century fight.
"I don't foresee a major theater war against a near-peer competitor
anywhere in the future. We may get into another Iraq-type situation,
but the results will be the same," said Krulak. "Those countries
will fight us asymmetrically."
Krulak says that today's terrorism and ethnic, tribal, and clan warfare
are just the tip of the iceberg--the future threatens to be even more
volatile. He wants Marines to develop plans and procedures now to counter
future threats in unstable regions of the world.
For the past year--in its "Urban Warrior" program--the Lab
has run urban warfare experiments on the East Coast. Thus far, the Corps
has learned, to no one's surprise, that street fighting is chaotic and
there are no easy answers. The "bad guys" are not readily identifiable,
civilian casualties and collateral damage are major concerns, CNN's TV
cameras will capture every move, friendly aircraft are vulnerable, and
communications, resupply, and fire support are difficult.
"The United States can level a city, but there are a lot of good
guys stuck in there, too," said Lt. Gen. John E. Rhodes, commander
of the Marine Corps' Combat Development Command, headquartered at Quantico. "If
the bad guys are in certain rooms of a tall building, how do we take
them out? Lasers don't work around glass or reflective surfaces, and
we don't have five-pound bombs. We have 500-pound bombs."
Under Rhodes's supervision, the Lab conducts the urban experiments through
a special MAGTF headquarters that uses average Marines--the people who
will use the tactics and equipment that are developed, and who will serve
in any new organizations that may be formed. "We have learned that
Marines can handle even more than we thought and demanded before," said
Rhodes. "We also have to flatten the chain of command, at least
operationally. We can't continue to get approval at every level if we
operate from the sea."
The Lab has worked closely with police and fire departments, search-and-rescue
teams, electric power companies, and mass transit experts in carrying
out various experiments in such major metropolitan areas as Chicago,
New York City, Jacksonville, Fla., and Charleston, S.C.
Urban Warrior moves to the West Coast in March 1999, using new troops
and experimental equipment in humanitarian, terrorist, and WMD (weapons
of mass destruction) scenarios--all of which will be commanded from the
sea in the Monterey Peninsula and San Francisco Bay areas. The final "testing
ground" will be the tall buildings, where much of the communications
will be carried out via in-terminal units with small computers.
The Lab also is looking at several potential operational areas: ground
level, subterranean level, air space, and moving between multistory buildings. "We
stress the systems more than the people," said Rhodes. "We
look at various tactics and use situational awareness. Patrolling in
a city calls for different rules of engagement than in the jungle or
The Series After Next
When Urban Warrior concludes, sometime later this year, the Corps will
move to the next major project: Capable Warrior, which, beginning in
2000, will involve Navy and Marine Corps testing of OMFTS on the West
Coast. Capable Warrior will end a five-year cycle of such experiments,
but Rhodes already is planning the next series. The first experiment
in that series could be Informational Warrior, which is being designed
to capitalize on situational awareness.
"In combat, we make decisions amid uncertainties in the fog of
war. What's critical information to me may not be to you," said
Rhodes. "We will fight a breathing enemy with a will of his own.
We had total information superiority in Somalia, but we never found Aidid
[the notorious Mohammed Farah Aidid]. We failed to understand how they
used information. The Somalians rallied to the sound of guns and they
used drums. We were on different wavelengths."
In less than four years, the Lab has become a valuable looking glass
into the Corps' future. Krulak dismisses concerns that joint experimentation
efforts threaten the Lab's future. "Whoever follows Chuck Krulak
as commandant will not allow that to happen," he said. "Each
service must conduct its own experiments. Then they should come together
in the joint arena to see what doesn't fit. USACOM's effort is designed
to attack the seams and is under review. Joint experimentation is necessary,
but it is absolutely not in lieu of service experimentation."
One of the Lab's biggest success stories is the Dragon Drone, an experimental
UAV (unmanned air vehicle) that just returned from a six-month deployment
with the 15th MEU in the Arabian Sea. The Dragon Drones were the first
tactical UAVs ever deployed at sea by the Marine Corps; an East Coast
MEU is scheduled to deploy soon with 10 drones. Although the Corps is
testing what works best aboard ship, the drones also could be used in
a contingency to give a real-time picture of the enemy to ground-force
The Navy-Marine Corps team also hopes to field a tactical VTOL (vertical
takeoff and landing) UAV system by 2003 to replace the aging Pioneer.
It is assumed that each Navy amphibious ready group (ARG) will receive
the tactical VTOL UAV for missions at sea, but the Corps also wants some
assigned to its deployed MEUs for operations ashore.
"The UAV will support Marine efforts in urban warfare," said
Maj. Gen. Dennis T. Krupp, USMC, director of expeditionary warfare in
the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. "The VTOL UAV will
land on every ship that has a helicopter deck. It will have a speed of
135 knots and a 110-nautical- mile range, with three to four hours on
The Toughest Mile
While some good minds are working on sea-mine countermeasures (MCM),
the last mile is still the toughest. The very shallow-water (VSW) area,
particularly the surf zone--the last 10 yards to the beach--remains treacherous.
Although explosive systems designed to blow gaps in the surf zone will
be fielded in 2002, there is skepticism about the accuracy that can be
achieved by firing the charges from a bobbing LCAC (landing craft, air
cushion). There is some promising research and development going on in
the field of VSW surveillance, particularly with UAVs, but nothing yet
can see through the turbulent, murky, and cluttered surf zone.
The Marine Corps supports the Navy's organic MCM plan. The semisubmersible
RMS (remote minehunting system), originally earmarked for deployment
only to carrier battle groups, is now penciled in for the ARGs as well.
ARGs steam alone most of the time, and the several ships assigned to
each ARG often split up. ARGs also will receive three CH-60 MCM helicopters,
as part of the overall package to fly MCM, search-and-rescue, and resupply
missions. The RMS and CH-60 are ineffective against mines close to shore,
so some major MCM problems still must be resolved.
The LDP-17 San Antonio class of amphibious transport dock ships are
in good shape. The first two ships in the program will be delivered in
2003, and will be available to deploy with Marines in 2005. The Tarawa-class
LHAs (big-deck amphibious assault ships) now in the fleet reach the end
of their service lives beginning in 2011, and Krulak is opposed to a
$1.2 billion per ship SLEP option that would extend the life of each
ship for 15 to 20 years. He pointed out that $300 million more will build
a more capable new-construction ship that will last 40 to 50 years.
Extending the life of the Tarawas at such a high cost is "not being
fair to the American people," said Krulak. "The answer is an
LHD-8 [Wasp-class big-deck amphibious assault ship] and an LHX follow-on.
When a problem happens, the national command authorities ask 'Where are
the carriers and the amphibs?' Well, you'd better have the right type
The Scale of Interdependence
Despite the unusually explosive Pentagon budget battles expected this
year (because of scarce resources), the Navy and Marine Corps have a
strong, cooperative partnership, and each service needs the other more
than ever before. The relationship used to be more one-sided, but the
focus on expeditionary warfare in the littorals has leveled the naval
playground considerably for the Corps. One senior official said that
the Corps used to be a "2" on a scale of 10; now it is a 6,
headed toward an 8. To doubters, Krulak points to the enormous sums the
Navy is spending in preparation for the littoral battles of the future. "I
tell them to look at the money," he said.
"Out here, the relationships with Navy leadership are as good as
I have ever seen. You also see it in the ARGs and MEUs," said Fulford.
His MARFORPAC combat units are manned at about 90 percent, a reflection
of the Corps' decision last year--when combat units were manned at 85
percent--to transfer 7,000 Marines from support units to tactical units.
Because of the ongoing economic crisis in Asia, the entire Pacific area,
from the Korean Peninsula to Malaysia, is a tinderbox. Although the Korean
situation worries Fulford the most, a peaceful resolution there would
not necessarily affect the Marine Corps' "presence" role in
that part of the world. Even if North and South Korea were to reconcile
this year, U.S. forces would be required in Korea for at least another
10 years if only to monitor the peace.
"People who live in the Asia-Pacific region want American presence
out here to maintain peace and stability and to be the honest broker," said
Fulford. "It is not the same to be days and weeks away. You need
constant presence to build the face-to-face contacts and the relations
that are so very important."
The Challenge of Forward Thinking
Okinawa also continues to be a challenge. Although the United States
is returning unneeded land back to the Okinawans, the local government
thinks that the American presence is hurting economic development--but
many Okinawans disagree. The planned relocation of the Marine Corps Air
Station at Futenma to the northern part of Okinawa is on hold because
of the Japanese economic situation. Now that a conservative pro-U.S.
governor has been elected, there should be some movement to revisit the
options--including one to use a floating offshore facility to replace
"Our Marines are being supported in good fashion by the Japanese
and our training there is OK," said Fulford. "Our training
opportunities elsewhere in the region are limitless. It's part of the
desire of those nations to make sure we remain in the Pacific."
MEUs deploying across the Pacific from California usually train in Hawaii
for a few days, then steam to Australia for a final readiness tune-up
before continuing into the Arabian Gulf area. Each of the three training
areas in Australia available to the Marines is larger than the state
of Rhode Island. Shoalwater Bay is the best, but it has weather concerns
part of the year. The other two are in the Darwin area.
The Asia-Pacific area is likely to be the foremost potential hotspot
in Krulak's mind when he leaves office on 30 June. He will be known to
future Marines as the "transitional" leader who prepared his
Corps of Marines for the 21st century--and quite possibly will win a
place in history as one of the great commandants of the post-WWII era.
The Corps was in good shape four years ago, but is in even better shape
Krulak raised the Corps' ethical standards at a time when the nation
was headed in the opposite direction. His honesty before Congress, although
creating heartburn in some sectors of the Pentagon (and possibly in the
White House as well), gained the Corps continued respect on the Hill,
not to mention better field clothing for his Marines and more of the
hardware needed for them to fight the conflicts ahead. Krulak also won
his share of the Pentagon battles. His forward thinking shaped more overall
DOD policy than many know.
While proud of its past, the Corps is, as always, still looking ahead,
and recognizes that innovative thinking will be needed more than ever
in the challenging years to come. If Krulak had his way, Marines would
be in the middle of every future conflict and crisis in which the nation
finds itself. Thanks in large part to the changes he instituted, they
LIEUTENANT COLONEL ARTHUR P. BRILL JR., USMC (Ret.), is a feature writer
based in Washington, D.C., who commanded a Marine rifle company in Vietnam,
served as a Marine Corps public affairs officer and, later, as a spokesman
for the State and Justice Departments and for President Reagan's Organized
Crime Commission. He writes frequently on national security issues for
Sea Power and other defense publications.