New top Marine Corps general releases plan to shake up the service

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Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., testifies during a U.S. Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, July 17, 2014. Dunford, who became the 36th Marine Corps commandant in October 2014, released his planning guidance on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)
Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., testifies during a U.S. Senate hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday, July 17, 2014. Dunford, who became the 36th Marine Corps commandant in October 2014, released his planning guidance on Friday, Jan. 23, 2015. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)

New top Marine Corps general releases plan to shake up the service

by: Dan Lamothe | .
The Washington Post | .
published: January 24, 2015

The new top general in the Marine Corps released a 16-page plan on Friday detailing his vision for the service, emphasizing a realignment of troops to meet demands in the Pacific and Africa, better coordination with Special Operations units, and new psychological testing to assess resiliency in recruits.

Commandant Gen. Joseph F. Dunford’s planning guidance is intended to outline how the Marine Corps “will set the conditions to fight and win against future enemies,” he wrote. He took over as the service’s top officer on Oct. 17, replacing the retiring Gen. James F. Amos.

Dunford, who previously served as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in his planning guidance that the need for Marines is strong, citing recent operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Liberia and South Sudan. He outlined broad changes, including a new plan that will provide each four-star geographic combatant commander with a “properly tailored and effective Marine component.

“This will include changes to General Officer assignments and organization/manning of the staffs,” Dunford wrote. “The sources realigned to our components will come from other headquarters elements… The desired end state is the effective employment and support of assigned, allocated and apportioned Marine Corps forces.”

The service will focus heavily in 2015 and 2016 on preparing to fight from the sea in an “anti-access, area denial” environment, military-speak for an area in which enemies can contest U.S. troops reaching it with a variety of weapons. Fighting from the sea has long been considered a Marine Corps mission, but the service did much less of as it deployed tens of thousands of troops at a time to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The commandant also signaled a desire to have Marine units work more closely with Special Operations troops — something Maj. Gen. Joseph Osterman, the top general overseeing Marine Special Operations, also indicated was coming in a recent interview with Checkpoint. Marines and Special Operations units are “highly complementary,” Dunford wrote, making it “only natural” that the service should improve its ability to operate with U.S. Special Operations Command.

“To strengthen interoperability in the future we will experiment with new concepts and technologies to achieve integrated effects on tomorrow’s battlefield through the complementary capabilities of the Marine Corps and SOF,” Dunford wrote, using an acronym for Special Operations Forces.

With fewer Navy ships available than there once was, the Marine Corps also will aggressively develop plans to use “alternate platforms,” Dunford said. He does not elaborate in the plan released Friday, but the service has been exploring deploying troops from new, smaller vessels rather than just the amphibious assault ships that traditionally carry Marines.

In particular, Dunford prioritized developing a plan for the deployment of Marines designed to help in times of crisis in Africa and a unit that deploys on a rotational basis each year to Darwin, Australia.

“We will begin to implement a plan in 2015, the results of which will inform subsequent operational deployments, capability development and doctrine for alternative platform employment,” Dunford wrote.

Dunford also calls for changes at home. While attending boot camp “changes a person forever,” he said, the service should explore adopting new psychological testing for recruits to make sure they are capable of not only becoming a Marine, but successfully completing their time in service.

“We will quickly assess the efficacy of available psychological screening tools currently used by special operations forces, law enforcement organizations, and industry,” the general said. “The end state is to enhance the quality and resilience of the force – thereby making us more combat ready.”

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