Allen B. West

Marine Corps Cuts Make No Strategic Sense

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Cuts to the Marine Corps as mandated by sequestration are bringing the force to dangerously low levels. In 2011, the Marines announced they hoped to “right-size” the force after a decade of war from 202,000 to 186,800. But last month, Commandant General Jim Amos announced the Corps would need to reduce the Marine force to a “minimum acceptable” level of 174,000 as a result of sequestration budget cuts.

This week, while speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Major General Frank McKenzie addressed speculation that the force might have to be cut even deeper.

“Based on our review of the existing requirements today and our best-case projection for 2017, 150,000 would be an unviable number for the Marines,” McKenzie said.

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While cuts to 150,000 are not likely, the reduction to 174,000 still means a cut to the fundamental unit of the Corps, the Marine Infantry Battalion. Since the Marines have already cut their end-strength (the maximum level of personnel authorized at the end of the fiscal year) from 202,000, which included some 27 infantry battalions, the 174,000 figure would require a reduction to 21 infantry battalions, as well as cuts to armor and towed artillery formations.

It is a strategic failure to base force structure on budget rather than threat assessment, which has been the issue with US military force development over the years. We regularly find ourselves cutting the “trigger-puller” in our forces so the military can pay the bills for greater domestic spending junkets, like Obamacare.

In my early days in uniform we will never forget having to deal with toilet paper rationing, while President Bill Clinton pushed through a large crime bill that included a “midnight basketball” program for inner city youth.

When you consider that the majority of countries where radical Islamists seek sanctuary have large stretches of coastline, we need strong maritime forces –and that’s coming from a career Army officer.

I served a three-year joint exchange assignment at Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, now on the chopping block. There I learned the importance of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) and expeditionary operations. This is exactly the type of capability we should be bolstering, not cutting, as we move towards strike operations and away from nation-building.

As we reported earlier, Chief of Staff of the Army General Ray Odierno admitted the Army has not trained for the past six months and has only have two trained and ready combat Brigades. That news, coupled with this report, indicates we are degrading our land combat capability at a very serious time for our national security.

We need more of our retired Senior General and Flag Officers to stand up and speak out against the decimation of our fine fighting force. Contrary to claims by President Obama, Al Qaeda has certainly not been decimated, and they represent only a fraction of the total Islamist threat.

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