U.S. Marine Corps Force Structure: Another Look CSC 1992 SUBJECT AREA Manpower EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Title: U.S. Marine Corps Force Structure: Another Look Author: Major Glen White, United States Marine Corps Thesis: With the elimination of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the Marine Corps will no longer have the rapid response capability of medium, self-sustained, and established forces. Background: To meet its 1997 force reduction limit of 159,100 Marines, the Commandant formed the force reduction planning board, headed by Brigadier General Charles C. Krulak. The planning board using the "bottom up" approach recommended reductions from all parts of the Marine Corps. The bulk of the reduction came from the Fleet Marine Force. Its forces cut from 116,000 to 89,000 Marines. These reductions required that all three divisions, Marine air wings, and Force Service Support Groups be drastically cut. In addition, the planning group disestablished six Marine Expeditionary Brigade headquarters and six brigade service support groups. To economize further, the planning board recommended that one Marine Expeditionary Force be disestablished and two combat-ready Marine Expeditionary Forces be maintained with a joint task force capable headquarters. By establishing the joint task force capable combat-ready Marine Expeditionary Force, the planning board believed it was building organizational flexibility with greater tactical mobility. Only time will determine if they are correct. In disestablishing the Marine Expeditionary Brigades, the Marine Corps lost its rapid deployment capability as the force of choice in crisis response situations. Recommendation: The Marine Corps does not need two combat- ready Marine Expeditionary Forces. It needs smaller forces to carry-out it most likely task of political reinforcement operations. The Marine Corps could better serve the nation if it maintained it two forward deployed Marine Expeditionary Units and one Marine Expeditionary Force, and reestablish two Marine Expeditionary Marine Expeditionary Brigades. U.S MARINE CORPS FORCE STRUCTURE: ANOTHER LOOK OUTLINE Thesis: With the elimination of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade, the Marine Corps will no longer have the rapid response capability of medium, self-sustained, and established forces. I. Force structure planning group A. Purpose for the planning group B. CMC's guidance C. Planning group's recommendations 1. Two-combat ready divisions, Marine air wings, and force service support groups 2. FMF headquarter as service component headquarter during joint operations 3. Joint capable MEF headquarters II. Reductions and reorganization of FMF units A. Combat-ready divisions B. Third division C. Combat-ready Marine air wings D. Third Marine air wing E. Combat-ready force service support groups F. Third force service support groups III. Marine Corps capabilities under new force structure constraints A. Increase in optempo B. General Krulak's comments C. The optimal force structure IV. The combat-ready MEF A. Support to the MEU(SOC)s B. Support to the CAMs C. Question of MEF's deployability 1. Shrinking amphibious-lift capability 2. Limited overall strategic mobility assets 3. Having priority of strategic lift 4. Task organizing to meet strategic lift constraints V. Likely USMC mission A. Forward presence and crisis response B. Political reinforcement operations VI. Elimination of the MEBs A. Reason: to husband limited manpower resources B. Problems 1. Loss of rapid deployability 2. Loss of medium-size self-sustaining deployable force 3. Two large MEFs in CONUS lacks a. rapid deployability b. too slow to respond to a crisis VII. Lessons from Desert Shield A. 7th and 1st MEB as the Fly-in echelon (FIE) B. 4th and 5th MEB as the amphibious forces VIII. Recommendations for improvement A. Eliminate the second combat-ready MEF B. Establish two MEBs for crisis response mission 1. One MEB as an amphibious capable force 2. One MEB as the FIE of the MPF C. Maintain two MEU(SOC)s as the forward deployed force D. Maintain one combat-ready MEF as the 1. contingency force for joint operations 2. reinforcing force during crisis response IX. CMC's question A. Colonel Victor H. Krulak's response B. Colonel Krulak's warning U. S. MARINE CORPS FORCE STRUCTURE: ANOTHER LOOK These are exciting times in the United States Marine Corps. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States is realigning its defense posture. It is reducing its forces and implementing a new national military strategy based on nuclear deterrence, forward presence, crisis response, and reconstitution. For the first time since the inter-war years, between 1919 and 1941, the Marine Corps closely reexamined it force structure by taking a "bottom up" approach. The Marine Corps' goal was to reduce its active forces from 188, 000 to 159,100 by fiscal year 1997 without losing its capability. Under the Commandant's leadership, the Marine Corps took a proactive approach to tailor its forces for the remainder of this decade and into the 21st Century. Shortly after General Carl E. Mundy, Jr. assumed his post as Commandant, he established a force structure planning group headed by Brigadier General Charles C. Krulak. The planning group's task was to study and develop a viable force structure that met the Department of Defense's mandated force reduction and the requirements of the national military strategy. The Commandants guidance to the planning board was . . . to preserve the combined arms force of three divisions and three air wings; maintain special commitments to presidential and national support and Navy security forces; keep readiness, training and education high; protect Marines' quality of life; and avoid creating a hollow force. (4:13) After several months, the force structure planning group presented the Commandant with its recommendation. The planning group proposed that the Marine Corps maintain two combat-ready divisions, two combat-ready Marine air wings, and two combat-ready force service support groups. The planning group recommended that the third division, Marine air wing, and force service support group be maintained at approximately the half-strength of its complementary combat-ready units. In the event of a major crisis, reservists would augment the division, and Marine air wing. Elements of the two combat-ready force service support groups would augment the third force service support group. The planning group also recommended that Fleet Marine Force (FMF)--Atlantic and Pacific--be capable of assuming the role of service component headquarters. This headquarters would handle "component issues" with the theater commander, allowing the tactical commander to plan and fight. The planning board planned to enhance the MEF's headquarters interoperability during joint operations. It would function as a "joint task force-capable headquarters that [could] participate in multi-service joint task force, but also . . . serve as the joint task force within the (Marine Expeditionary Force)." (4:14) In reducing manpower, the planning group gleaned 1400 Marines from training establishments, bases and stations support contingents, headquarters, and active forces-- training reserves. This required the FMF to take the bulk of the reductions. By 1997, the FMF will shrink from 116,000 to 89,000 Marines. The smaller combat-ready divisions will decrease in size from 18,000 to 14,000 Marines. According to General Krulak, the smaller divisions will reorganize to add organizational flexibility and tactical mobility. His goal was to see that, "Every single [sic] man in the division (had) a boat space in some type of vehicle such as amphibious assault vehicles or light armored vehicles." (4: 13) To meet that goal, the planning group added one combined arms regiment (CAR) into each combat-ready division. The CAR will include a light armored reconnaissance company, a tank battalion, and a light armored infantry battalion. The CAR will replace the third infantry regiment in the current division organization. The remainder of the units within each combat-ready division are two infantry regiments with a reconnaissance company and three infantry battalions; and one artillery regiment with three direct support battalions. In addition, one amphibious assault, one combat engineer, and one light armored reconnaissance battalions were also organic to each combat-ready division. The third division will be smaller with only 7,000 Marines and forward deployed on Okinawa. It will not have a CAR. It will have as part of its organization two infantry regiments with a reconnaissance company and two infantry battalions, and one artillery regiment with two direct support battalions. One combat support battalion with an amphibious assault company, a combat engineer company, and a light armored reconnaissance company will also support the division. The two combat-ready Marine air wings will be smaller with a total personnel strength of 12,000 Marines. The planning group recommended that the two combat-ready Marine air wings be organized into two fixed-wing groups and two helicopter groups. One service support group with four support squadrons, and a new Marine Air Defense Battalion with two Hawk and Stinger batteries will support each combat-ready wing. The third Marine air wing like the third division will be be smaller with only 3500 Marines. It will have one fixed-wing group and one helicopter group supported by one wing service support group with one support squadron. For combat service support units, the planning group proposed the elimination of six brigade service support groups (BSSG). In there place, the planning group proposed to establish two combat-ready force service support groups (FSSG) manned by 8,000 Marines each. Each combat-ready FSSG will have a headquarters and service battalion, a landing support battalion, a maintenance battalion, a supply battalion, an engineer support battalion, a motor transport battalion, a medical battalion, and a dental battalion. The third FSSG will be smaller than its two combat- ready FSSGs with a personnel strength of 3,700 Marines. It will have as part of its organization a headquarters and service battalion, a maintenance and supply battalion, a support battalion, one maintenance company, a supply company, a landing support company, two engineer support companies, and two motor transport companies. This smaller Marine Corps, developed by the force structure planning group, will "provide forward presence, maintain global crisis response and rapid reinforcement capabilities, participate in interagency operation and support civilian authorities, and contribute to regional stability." (1:68) During the past decade, the Marine Corps has become the nation's "911 force." Marines have deployed to a number of crisis areas where the United States had little or no permanent military presence--most recently in Southwest Asia, Liberia, Somalia, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. With its forward deployed sea-based forces, the Marine Corps had provided the nation with a number of unique capabilities. It has projected national good-will by providing humanitarian assistance, as well as rapid response to crisis situations with a credible forcible-entry capability from the sea. The force structure planning group closely examined the Marine Corps' capabilities with a force structure size of 159,100 Marines. Taking into account the myriad of possible contingencies to be undertaken by Marine forces, the planning board concluded that the Defense Department's mandated force structure would seriously degrade current Marine Corps capabilities. General Krulak reinforced this view in an interview with the Navy Times. He stated that, "At 159,100, I've got [sic] a Marine Corps which is relevant, ready and capable, but it cannot meet all the requirements of the national military strategy." (4:13) With the force structure limited to 159,100 and the FMF shrinking to 89,000 Marines, the planning group determined that the operating tempo (optempo) would increase deployment time. To meet current demands worldwide, optempo would increase from 43 percent to 54 percent. They concluded that an increase of this magnitude in optempo would eventually effect morale, discipline and retention. At the start of the planning conference, the Commandant instructed the force structure planning group to study the Marine Corps' capabilities under the Defense Department's mandated force structure. In addition, he chartered the planning board to determined the optimal force structure capable of meeting current and future demands mandated by the national military strategy. The planning board determined that the optimal force structure was 175,000 Marines. At a force structure strength of 175,000, the Marine Corps could meet all current and future requirements established by the national military strategy. Optempo would increase slightly from 43 percent to 45 percent. The planning board believed that this increase in optempo was acceptable and manageable to most Marines. The Executive and Legislative Branches of government have not resolved the issue of increasing the Marine Corps' force structure to 175,000 Marines. Plans currently stand to reduce the Marine Corps force structure to 159,100. To make the FMF more flexible in responding to a myriad of contingencies, the force structure planning group tailored the FMF into two FMF headquarters with two combat- ready MEF's. Smaller forces from the third division, Marine air wing, and FSSG will provide additional combat power to the MEFs. The new force structure will minimize changes in how the Marine Corps conducts daily business. Despite force structure changes, the Marine Corps will continue to ". . . conduct day-to-day presence operations and project influence while maintaining the ability to bring significant and sustainable combat bower to bear ashore from the sea at the time and place of our Nation's choosing." (2:25) The Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), MEU(SOC), embarked aboard amphibious ships; will continue to be the heart of the forward presence mission. Specially trained and equipped, they "conduct an expanded range of sea-based expeditionary missions . . . in real world crisis and contingencies." (4:25) Two MEU(SOC)s are deployed at all times. Under the new force structure, each combat-ready MEF will provide the combat units, combat support units, and combat service support units to the MEU(SOC)s. The MEFs will also provide forces to Crisis Action Modules (CAMs). This is a relatively new concept designed to provide the theater commander with tailored force packages. CAMs is the "building blocks" for adaptive planning within the joint planning system. (4:25) Under the concept presented by the planning group, the MEF appears very adept at providing forces to smaller MAGTFs and CAMs. The planning board, however, never addresses how MEFs will deploy into theater. During the next 5 years, the U.S. Navy's amphibious fleet will shrink from 59 to 49 ships. In support of the Marine Corps need for amphibious lift, the Department of Navy "will continue procurement of selected assault ships in order to maintain a 2.5-MEB [Marine Expeditionary Brigade] lift capability into the next century." (1:77) Any future contingency will find that the Marine Corps will have great difficulty in finding enough strategic lift to deploy a 37,000-man force like a MEF into any theater of operations. Under the new force structure plan, the planning board disestablished six Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) headquarters. This, in essence, eliminated MEBs from the Marine Corps force structure. The question that needs answered, is how does 2.5 MEBs equate to one MEF? The answer is "it does not." To deploy one MEF into theater, the Marine Corps will rely on the concept of task organizing its forces. It will have to tailor its forces to meet the needs of a given situation and deploy them by different means of available transportation. The problem with this method is that elements of the MEF will arrive in theater at different rates depending on the mode of transportation and priority given. The sequencing of forces becomes critical at every junction. Every decision, delay, and change can spells potential disaster. The basic rule of joint operations is: "if you can't get there, you don't play." By tradition, Marines have always been able to rely on the Navy to get them to the fight. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the new joint warfare environment. During Desert Storm, Marine units had to compete with other services to get units into the theater. Marine forces did not have priority on their traditional mode of transport, ships. The priority of fast sealift went to the 24th Mechanized Division. How deployable is a MEF? It depends on available strategic mobility assets and the priority given to Marine forces by the theater commander. It is clear from the Desert Storm experience that a MEF can deploy. However, the MEF used in Desert Storm arrived in theater by as MEBs. Later MEBs were composited to form the MEF. This indicates that the more deployable unit is a MEB. Does the Marine Corps need two MEF's? If recent history is an indicator, the Marine Corps has never deployed two MEFs or it equivalent, since the Second World War. During the Korean Conflict, the Marines immediately deployed one provisional brigade and later one Marine division. That small force had a profound impact in that theater. It is improbable that the Marine Corps will ever deploy a second MEF in a post-Cold War. The Marine Corps does not need two large MEFs. It does need a number of smaller forces to conduct political reinforcement operations. If historic precedent has any predictive value, one could conclude that-- Military force is far more likely to be employed for political reinforcement than major conflict; Naval forces will be employed for most political reinforcement operations; If ground forces are committed, they will probably be Marine; and If Marine forces are employed, they will probably be forward deployed. (7:3-12) Political reinforcement operations, authorized by Executive authority, uses a combination of diplomatic action with military support and/or military operations to protect U.S. lives, property, or interest in foreign countries. (7:3-12) The only forward deployed MEF is III MEF on Okinawa and it is being disestablished as part of the force reduction effort. What will remain is one under-strength division, a small Marine air wing, and a very limited FSSG. The only other forward deployed forces which can accommodate most political reinforcement operations are the MEU(SOC)s. Considering these assumptions of how Marine forces will employ in the post-Cold War world, how can the Marine Corps justify having two MEFs? The elimination of all MEBs from the Marine Corps force structure was a bold and brave decision. The purpose was to husband limited manpower resources and form a flexible organization that could quickly task organize to meet a specific mission. It has, however, robbed the Marine Corps of its rapid deployability. Two MEFs in the continental United States (CONUS) have nothing unique to give the nation during a crisis, if they are not capable of getting to the theater rapidly. In all likelihood, if Marine forces are not early participants in the crisis, then probably Marine forces will not participate. To deploy a MEF, the MEF commander would have to task organize his MEF into MEB-size units to conform to the constraints of limited strategic lift. One or two ad hoc MEBs could deploy on amphibious ships and another ad hoc MEB could deploy as the Fly-in echelon (FIE) as part of the Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF). Other units would have to fly in theater on a "space available" basis. This is especially critical, if the whole--needs the sum of its parts--to function optimally. If Marines can't fight because crucial units are missing, then Marines will not fight as Marines but be absorbed by larger formations, portending the "death bell" of the Corps. During Desert Shield, the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade was the first fully operational mechanized ground combat force in Saudi Arabia. The Marines flew into the theater from California and linked-up with it Maritime Prepositioning Ships (MPS). By 15 August 1991, the brigade was unloading it 30-days of supplies validating the Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) concept under combat conditions for the first time. The 1st MEB from Hawaii arrived into the theater on 25 August as part of the second MPF. "On 2 September, I Marine Expeditionary Force, under Lieutenant General Boomer, assumed operational control by compositing or fitting together the elements of the 7th MEB and 1st MEB." (6:55) The MEF's deployment into theater took two months longer to complete. By C+60, during the first week of November, Phase I of the Desert Shield deployment was complete. Nearly 42, 000 Marines, close to one-quarter of the Marine Corps's total active-duty strength and a fifth of the total U.S. force in Desert Shield, had been deployed. More than 31,000 were a shore in I MEF. (6:59) With the elimination of all the MEBs, the Marine Corps no longer has the rapid response capability of medium self- sustained and established forces. In the event of a crisis, the MEF commander and his staff will conduct a mission analysis to determine the size and composition of forces needed. Additionally, if the full MEF does not deploy, the problem of forming a provisional headquarters to command the task organized force can become a serious issue. The MEF will "reinvent the wheel" for every new contingency--wasting valuable time and very limited resources. The lessons of Desert Shield and Desert Storm validated the rapid deployability of MEB's. The rapid response capability of the 7th MEB and 1st MEB into the theater of operation is one. Another is the 4th and 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade on board amphibious ships. They provided the theater commander with an amphibious assault option early in the crisis that fixed a number of Iraqi divisions to the coast. The MEBs role is even more important since amphibious lift will remain limited to 2.5 MEBs for the remainder of this decade. The force structure planning group was correct in assessing that six MEBs were too many. However, none is too few. The Marine Corps does not need two MEFs. Task organizing into MEB-size units is fine, but not at the expense of efficiency and effectiveness. If the MEF must task organize into MEB-size units to meet contingencies, then why does not the Marine Corps retain MEBs in its force structure? The Marine Corps can maintain and enhance its current capabilities by making the changes advocated by the force structure planning group. However, the second MEF is redundant and unnecessary. A possible alternative is to organize into two deployed MEU(SOC)s, two rapidly deployable MEBs, and one deployable MEF. The two deployed MEU(SOC)s could handle the forward presence mission. The two deployable MEBs--one MEB deployable by sea capable of amphibious assault and the other deployable by air as the fly-in echelon of the MPF--could handle crisis response. The remaining MEF can serve as the contingency force capable of joint operations or reinforcing the two MEBs if required. The elements from the second MEF could form the two deployed MEU(SOC)s and two deployable MEBs. The remaining units would fill out a smaller second division, Marine air wing, and FSSG. The composition of the MEB's elements and the organization of the second division could be the subject of another paper. Whatever the composition, the MEB must be capable of deploying rapidly and fulfilling its crisis- response mission. The second division must fulfill its role as the second GCE of the MEF. It must be a warfighting division with credible combat power that enhances the flexibility and "fighting power" of the MEF commander. In addition to the recommendations above, there needs to be a reevaluation of whether the Marine Corps needs two FMF headquarters. One option would be to eliminate one and establish the other as the Fleet Marine Forces Command. It could have one or more service component command cells to serve as the service component headquarters in a joint theater of operations. With today's global communication links, the second FMF headquarters seem redundant and unnecessary, especially with the elimination of a second MEF. Restructuring the Marine Corps began with the Commandant, asking a simple question: "Does the nation need a Marine?" (5:16) It is ironic that 35 years earlier another Commandant, General Randall McC. Pate asked a similar question to then Colonel Victor H. Krulak, General Charles C. Krulak's father. General Krulak's father wrote a very eloquent reply and concluded that, "the United States did not need a Marine Corps . . . [but] . . . wanted a Marine Corps." (3:xv) He explained that the American "grassroots" believe three things about the Marine Corps. First, they believe that when trouble comes to our country there will be Marines--somewhere--who, through hard work, have made and kept themselves ready to do something useful about it, and do it at once. Second, they believe that when the Marines go to war they invariably turn in a performance that is dramatically and decisively successful--not most of the time, but always. The third thing they believe about Marines is that our Corps is downright good for the manhood of our country; that the Marines are masters of a form of unfailing alchemy which converts unoriented youths into proud, self-reliant stable citizens--citizens into whose hands the nation's affairs may safely be entrusted. (3:xv) General Mundy has recognized that the Marine Corps is in a serious transition period. It is transforming into a smaller force. Yet, the expectations of the American public demand that their Marine Corps be more capable than ever to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War world. It is questionable whether the new force structure of two combat- ready MEFs is relevant. The force structure planning group should be commended for a courageous attempt to keep the Marine Corps relevant during a very volatile period in history. Only time will determine whether the Marine Corps will meet the challenges of a "mean and dangerous" world. Regardless, we must heed then Colonel Victor Krulak's warning to General Pate that, " . . . should the people ever lose that conviction--as a result of our failure to meet their high--almost spiritual-- standards, the Marine Corps will . . . quickly disappear. " (3: xv) BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. Cheney, Dick. Annual Report to the President and the Congress. Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1992. 2. Garrett, Lawrence, III, Frank B. Kelso, II, Admiral USN, Carl E. Mundy, General USMC. "Department of the Navy 1992 Posture Statement." Marine Corps Gazette, 76 (April 1992). 3. Krulak, Victor H. First to Fight. Annapolis: Naval Institute, 1984. 4. Longo, James. "The Smaller Marine Corps: Too Many Missions; Too Few Marines." Navy Times, 20 (Feb 24, 1992). 5. Mundy, Carl E. Jr., General USMC. "Remarks of General Carl E. Mundy, Jr.". Marine Corps Gazette 76 (April 1992). 6. Simmons, Edwin H., Brigadier General USMC (Ret). "Getting Marines to the Gulf." Proceedings/Naval Review 1991 (May 1991). 7. U.S. Marine Corps. Headquarters United States Marine Corps. The Role of the Marine Corps and National Defense, FMFM 1-2. Washington, D.C., 1991.
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