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Let me begin by thanking you for the opportunity to appear before this distinguished committee to talk about the overall health of your Corps of Marines. Your continued support over the years is not only deeply appreciated, it has also been instrumental in preserving our ability to answer the Nation's "911" call. Your Marines know of the support you have provided them ... whether that support was in the form of Goretex rain gear or a new weapon system. Those Marines are grateful for all you have done for them! They thank you and I thank you.

In the final year of my tenure as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, you will find that the theme of my testimony concerning our posture remains consistent with that offered during my previous three appearances before this committee. I know that I speak to an informed audience in the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) when I repeat that our present defense budget does not adequately meet the requirements of today's Marine Corps. We are ready today but, in order to maintain readiness under the current budgetary shortfall and those of previous years, we are effectively mortgaging the readiness of tomorrow's Marine Corps.

Since the demise of the Soviet Union and the end of the bipolar world toward which our national security strategy had long been oriented, we have witnessed a new era in world violence. The disintegration of the former Soviet republics and Yugoslavia, the tragedies in Somalia and Rwanda, and the conflict in Liberia, all signify the trend toward nations "splintering" along ethnic, religious, and tribal lines. This trend suggests not just crises between nations and within nations, but also a greater degree of general instability -- a time of asymmetry -- a time of chaos.

This is not just "Chuck Krulak's view of the world." The Joint Strategic Review (JSR), the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), and the National Defense Panel (NDP) all painted the same picture of tomorrow's strategic environment. The threat of the early 21st Century will not be the "son of Desert Storm;" it will be the "stepchild of Chechnya." Our opponents will not be doctrinaire or predictable. They will not try to match us tank for tank and plane for plane in an attempt to fight the kind of Industrial Age war to which we are accustomed. Instead, they will seek to fight us where we are least able to bring our strength to bear. As recently seen in the bombing of our east African embassies, they will not limit their aggression to our uniformed military. Today we are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg. Combined with the proliferation of high-tech weapons and weapons of mass destruction -- which further empower both "third world" nations and non-state entities -- this complex, dynamic, and asymmetric conflict might well be as lethal as a clash between superpowers. One thing is certain, this 21st Century threat will be far more difficult to manage.

If, as our current National Security Strategy indicates, managing this instability is a key to the success of our national policy, then we must place a premium on general purpose forces capable of rapidly responding to crises or potential crises anywhere in the world. Even during the Cold War, your Marine Corps always provided these forces. We have never been focused on the "Soviet Bear." Instead, in compliance with the intent expressed by your predecessors in the 82d Congress, we have focused on being the Nation's "versatile, expeditionary force in readiness ... ready to suppress or contain international disturbances short of war ... most ready when the Nation is least ready."

As validated by the JSR, QDR, and NDP, that role is even more relevant today than when your predecessors assigned it to us during the Korean War. In fact, throughout the Cold War, Marines responded to crises on an average of once every fifteen weeks. Since 1990, we have responded to crises on an average of once every five weeks -- three times more frequently. Today, your Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) are continuously forward deployed aboard "sovereign American territory" -- the Navy's Amphibious Readiness Group (ARG) shipping -- ensuring U.S. presence, signaling our national resolve, and often responding to crises ranging from disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to combat operations. They do so without dependence on politically sensitive forward bases. The 993 enlisted Marines that make up your Marine Security Guard (MSG) detachments are on watch around the clock at 122 embassies and consulates world-wide. The terrorist bombings of the embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi highlight the vulnerability of U.S. activities overseas, and the fact that force protection will be a critical prerequisite to future American troop deployments.

Your Marine Corps' Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams (FAST) are ready to respond, at a moment's notice, to oppose this growing terrorist threat worldwide and to provide crucial force protection to our Marines and sailors and their ships and facilities around the globe. They have deployed four times this year alone; most recently to assist in managing the results of the Kenyan embassy bombing. Thanks to the sponsorship of the Congress, the Nation now has a Chemical, Biological, Incident Response Force (CBIRF) that is manned, trained and equipped to manage the consequence of the growing chemical-biological threat to our security. The CBIRF has deployed to support the Olympic Games in Atlanta, the Presidential Inauguration, and the Summit of Eight in Denver. Your Marines are part of Mobile Training Teams (MTTs), Joint Planning and Assistance Teams (JPATs), and Riverine Training Teams (RTTs) serving throughout the world. Those in Colombia and Peru have garnered attention for their efforts to help these nations reduce the drug trafficking problems on their rivers. Today, over twenty-three thousand Marines are forward deployed, away from home and loved ones. They are ready to respond to any crisis, and if necessary, to fight and to die in our Nation's cause. They do so without complaint. They do so seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. They have never failed us. These Marines are performing the very functions envisioned by the members of the 82d Congress ... the same functions you demand of them today and will continue to demand of them tomorrow.

Thus, despite a dramatic increase in operational tempo, your Marine Corps of today remains ready! We have complied with Secretary Cohen's Defense Planning guidance. In that document, he left little doubt about how a service chief would prioritize the allocation of his resources when he stated that "maintaining the readiness and sustainability of U.S. forces is the number one priority of the Department of Defense." Unfortunately, without raising the top-

line on the defense budget the price of maintaining this degree of readiness, given our aging equipment and increasing operational demands, has been paid for out of our modernization, base infrastructure, and quality of life accounts. Because we continue to short change these important programs, readiness is becoming increasingly difficult -- and increasingly expensive -- to maintain. Daily, your Marines are required to spend more and more time and money to maintain aging equipment.

I am, therefore, greatly concerned that the current debate over readiness not miss the central point. If we choose to focus solely on the symptoms of degraded readiness today and pour money into our Operation and Maintenance (O&M) accounts, I am afraid that we will merely "scrape off the skin cancer" of near-term readiness in 1999 and allow our long-term readiness cancer to metastasize; that is, we cannot cure our 21st Century readiness disease by focusing on "quick fixes" to today's symptoms. The difficulties we are now experiencing stem from a problem that will only get bigger and cut deeper into the readiness of the force in the 2000-2010 time frame -- a lack of funding for modernization.

Our problems today are caused by the fact that we are, and have been, plowing scarce resources -- Marines, money and material -- into our old equipment and weapon systems in an attempt to keep them operational. We have been forced to do this because of insufficient funding of the Corps over time. In short, we have been forced to make withdrawals from our modernization and infrastructure accounts in order to maintain our near-term readiness. Money that should be dedicated to procuring new equipment is now going into maintenance and spares for our "must have," but legacy equipment. Each successive year this equipment, much of which has exceeded its projected service life, breaks down more often, and must spend more time awaiting and undergoing repair. It is lost to the unit for training. The associated maintenance costs continue to rise, leading to increasing investments in O&M. To comply with the Department of Defense guidance and our Congressionally mandated role, we must take money from our procurement, research and development, military construction, and quality of life accounts in order to fund these near-term readiness requirements. In many cases we have passed the point where this equipment has consumed more dollars in spare assemblies, time, manpower, and service life extension programs (SLEPs) than would be spent in procuring new equipment. Even within our O&M accounts themselves, money which would normally be dedicated to training and training support functions is currently being spent to maintain this aging equipment. It is a vicious cycle, and one that becomes increasingly expensive to stop with time. As the commercial says, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later!"

Many of you, and many of your staff members, have visited Marine Corps installations and spoken with our operational commanders and their Marines. While I am confident that you witnessed high morale at all levels, and heard few, if any, complaints about the increasing operational tempo, I am just as sure that you have heard them speak about the increasing time needed for corrective maintenance. While our Marine families expect and understand deployments, they do not understand why their Marines are working in excess of fourteen hours each day, and often for six days a week, to maintain their aging equipment when they are at their home station and theoretically in the "recovery" portion of their deployment cycle. A motor transport chief in the II Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) recently summed it up well when he stated, "We're spending too much time on corrective maintenance and not enough time on preventive maintenance ... our things are just plain old."

Figure 1

Figure 1 depicts what is happening with seven of our major ground equipment end items. In this figure, the red bar represents the average age of each equipment item. The green bar

symbolizes its original expected service life, and the blue bar represents a SLEP. The numbers above each bar have been added to clarify the bar's exact length in years. Where there is a planned program replacement, it is indicated below the present program in parentheses. The planned dates for each of these replacement programs to reach their initial and full operational capabilities (IOC and FOC) are listed at the bottom of the chart in yellow print. Factor the IOC and FOC dates to the average age of each item and it is obvious how desperate our modernization concerns have become.

In each case we are, at best, rapidly approaching the planned service lives of our current systems. In the cases of the Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV), the Reverse Osmosis Water Purification Unit (ROWPU) and our power generation sets (GENSETS), we have exceeded them. One of our MEU Service Support Group (MSSG) Commanders at Camp Lejeune recently told a member of your staff that, "During our deployment we replaced half of the AAV engines." We have been forced to invest $309 million in the "Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability" (RAM) rebuild to standard program for the now 27 year old AAV in order to keep it operational, at an affordable level, until the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) is fully fielded in 2012. Similarly, we have been forced to plan a SLEP for our versatile Light Armored Vehicle (LAV) at a cost of $180 million through FY05. Since we commenced an "Inspect, Repair Only as Necessary" (IROAN) program on the LAV in FY95, we have incurred a 25 percent rise in the cost per LAV and a 46 percent increase in the number of vehicles requiring the repairs. With only modest investments currently possible in R&D, a replacement for the LAV is not yet on the horizon.

Figure 2

Figure 2 shows the rising costs associated with these aging ground equipment items. It captures the number of operating force requisitions for depot level reparable (DLR) assemblies in comparison to consumable repair parts (that maintenance performed by the owning unit). Increasingly, the nature of today's breakages necessitates repairs that are beyond the using unit's resident maintenance ability. Instead, they must evacuate the equipment to the depots. The average equipment repair order (ERO) cost has escalated 104 percent from $92 in FY95 to $188 in FY98 to date. It has more than doubled in less than four years and is continuing to climb! We are no longer replacing simple component parts on our major end items -- we are replacing entire assemblies! Since the equipment is so old, we often have to contract out to single bidders to find replacement parts. There is little competition, and we are often paying the added expense of tooling up entire new assembly lines for these parts or actually manufacturing them ourselves. It not only costs us more to maintain our equipment, but the using units are losing the equipment for longer periods of time when it is shipped away for major repair work. This, in turn, adversely impacts the losing unit's training program.

The aforementioned problems are not unique to our active force; our reserves also suffer the same readiness cancer. Our reserves continue to be an integral part of our total force, as they have so capably demonstrated -- when we go to war, they go to war. Using current mobilization plans, overall Marine Forces Reserve war time readiness is presently at 81 percent. This figure, however, is not totally revealing when you consider that only 70 percent of the engineer assets and 61 percent of the motor transport assets -- two major reserve contributions -- are ready. Additionally, the total readiness of our reserve high mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWVs) is a woeful 52 percent. It is alarming that these percentages are so low considering our total force concept. It is critical to our future success that we maintain the readiness of our reserves equal to that of our active force. Modernization of our reserve force must parallel the modernization of our active force to ensure our total force is ready, when called upon, to fight and win tomorrow's battles.

Figure 3

Figure 3 illustrates what undercutting our modernization accounts is doing to Marine aviation. It depicts four models of aircraft, presently in our inventory, that are critical to our capability. Like figure 1, this figure provides comparison graphics of equipment age versus program service life with any SLEPs. Even with their SLEP, our CH-46Es have nearly met their planned service life. The other three airframes have already exceeded that service life. We are transporting Marines and equipment in CH-53Ds that we had expected would leave our inventory seven years ago, and at current replacement rates, we will be flying them for another 10 years! By the time we completely replace the CH-46E with the MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft, we will be flying airframes that are 47 years old. While the QDR allowed us to procure 11 more MV-22s within the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) than originally planned, we still need to ramp up to the maximum economical production rate. Our fleet of KC-130Fs is approaching 40 years of age -- almost twice the planned service life. Congressional plus-ups in FY97 and FY98 have allowed us to procure five KC-130Js, but DOD topline constraints have precluded our budgeting for additional required replacement aircraft. The KC-130F's forecast service life, therefore, is indefinite. The FY99 budget allows for the necessary R&D to upgrade our UH-1Ns and AH-1Ws; however, actual procurement of this critical upgrade program does not begin until FY02. 

Figure 4

As shown in figure 4, because of the age of our aviation assets, we have seen a 49 percent increase in our average cost per flight hour (CPH) in the last three fiscal years -- from $2,341 per hour in FY96 to $3,481 per hour in FY98 to date. This is a result of decreasing mean time between failures and increasing charges for older components with fewer spare parts competitors to keep costs down. During each of the last few years, maintenance dollars have been so limited that our air wings are deferring repairs on equipment that is not being forward deployed. The amount of time that our fixed wing aircraft are down while awaiting maintenance has increased from 9.1 percent in FY94 to 15.3 percent this year. The amount of time they remain down while awaiting parts has increased from 9.5 percent to 16.4 percent during the same time period. Although they are not as dramatic, we are seeing the same trends with our rotary wing aircraft.

In short, we have sustained equipment readiness to the maximum extent possible within our budget. Maintenance costs are increasing and our Marines are working longer hours to maintain aging equipment. While our equipment readiness rates remain sufficient to fully support our prioritized forward deployed forces in their crises deterrent and crises response postures, they have come at the expense of modernizing the force. This continued, "Catch 22" reliance upon our present, aged equipment at the expense of modernization, is the readiness problem.

Figure 5

The cost of failing to properly invest in modernization is also being seen in our infrastructure. We have focused our infrastructure maintenance and recapitalization efforts on training facilities, environmental and safety compliance requirements, and DOD mandated elimination of inadequate barracks spaces. After addressing these priorities, there is very little left for other infrastructure needs. By law, I am forced to invest more in environmental compliance this year than I can in formal schools training. As figure 5 indicates, our unfunded backlog of maintenance and repair (BMAR) continues to grow by $60 million each year and will surpass $1 billion by FY03 -- far exceeding our goal of reducing the backlog to $100 million by FY10. Attainment of this goal would require approximately $500 million per year, or approximately $125 million per year above current funding levels.

Our austere military construction program also remains seriously underfunded, allowing us to focus only on meeting our most immediate readiness needs (installation operations and training facilities), complying with safety and environmental standards, and maintaining our commitment to bachelor quarters construction. The numerous Members of Congress and their staff who have visited multiple DOD installations are quite familiar with where the Marine Corps' housing, BEQs, and work spaces rank among those of our sister services. While the generosity of the Congress has kept us above the "poverty level," our military construction budget remains significantly underfunded. At current funding levels, our plant replacement cycle exceeds 190 years, compared with an industry standard of 50 years! Our goal is to replace our physical plant every 100 years by investing one percent of the plant value in new construction. Attainment of this goal would require an additional $75 million each year across the FYDP. If we attempted to achieve the industry standard, it would require an additional $275 million per year. We have a family housing deficit of 10,000 units which is not corrected under the current FYDP, and there are 12,000 houses which require revitalization. The Department of Defense goal is to eliminate all substandard housing by FY10. At current funding levels, we will not attain that goal until FY15. Essential rehabilitation as required by Department of Defense guidance would necessitate an additional $940 million.

In our reserve forces alone, base support costs have increased 20 percent in less than three years. That increase, in conjunction with current minor construction projects exceeding $15 million, and a BMAR of $3 million, exceed the annual resources programmed for training. A trade off between training and infrastructure is inevitable without funding relief. Ultimately, these shortfalls will translate into increased maintenance expenses and a lower quality of life. Again, we are mortgaging the readiness of our forces in the 21st Century.

Figure 6

Figure 6 depicts how we have paid some of the readiness bill. For more than seven years now, we have sacrificed our procurement accounts to help fund the growing cost of current readiness. This can be seen in the "trough" in figure 6. During this time we have deferred roughly $3.6 billion of much needed ground equipment modernization alone in order to fully fund near-term readiness. Although we have consistently testified to a requirement of $1.2 billion in procurement, that only reflects the "steady state" needed to avoid additional protraction of the timeline from research and development to Initial Operational Capability (IOC) to Full Operational Capability (FOC). This level of funding does not restore the modernization dollars that were spent on near-term readiness over the past seven years. As equipment maintenance costs continue to escalate, recovery from the trough will be impossible unless more resources are applied to meet our stated requirements. To attain the required modernization at the originally planned rate, the actual procurement requirement is $1.8 billion each year for the next five years. This means that we would need to double the planned Procurement Marine Corps funding of approximately $900 million in FY99, and would require an increase of between $500 and $650 million each year over the next five years. While annual procurement reaches the $1.2 billion historical level by the end of the FYDP, we are never expected to approach the $1.8 billion a year required to recover from the multi-year funding "drought" and to ensure the future readiness of your Corps ... yet this is the level we must reach.

Another pressing equipment readiness concern is the Year 2000 (Y2K) information systems problem. We have made substantial progress in identifying the systems and software impacted by this important issue, but still have much to do. We are working very closely with the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy, and the other services to achieve Y2K compliance in the most cost effective manner possible. We believe we have addressed our most critical needs. But as we continue toward the year 2000, there is no question that we will encounter additional challenges that will require us to reprioritize within our limited resources.

The Marine Corps has aggressively pursued every opportunity to mitigate the impact of the funding shortfalls outlined in the preceding paragraphs. We have implemented improved business practices; bought used items instead of new ones, such as recapped tires; and we have remanufactured major aviation end items such as the AV-8B and the AH-1W/UH-1N. We are pursuing the most cost effective options for replacing our ground equipment to include the 5-ton truck, the HMMWV, and the 155 millimeter howitzer. In support of the QDR recommendation for a modest reduction in force structure, and with the consent of the Congress, we cut 1,800 active duty Marines and 3,000 reserve Marines in order to free up modernization funds -- and we made these cuts without eliminating a single _trigger puller_ from our operating forces!

We must continue our commitment to "equip the man" vice "man the equipment." Thanks to the support of the Congress, our most important "weapon system" -- the individual Marine -- is now receiving the new infantry combat boot, the second generation cold weather clothing system (ECWCS), the Modular, Lightweight, Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) system, and the new combat tent. Continuing support for these individual clothing and equipment programs is critical.

But we must take this commitment a step further. Your Marines have risen to the challenges of today's fiscal realities by doing everything humanly possible to maintain the readiness of their aging unit equipment and weapon systems. We have sought out and employed every "efficiency" possible, and have maintained our well known reputation for frugality and caring for the equipment that the American taxpayer provides. But quite frankly, we are on the brink of substituting extensive maintenance hours for warfighting skills training. Providing our young men and women the skills necessary to successfully fight the Nation's battles and return home safely to their families is our primary responsibility. We cannot do that if the maintenance burden has become so onerous that repair efforts begin to replace training and field time. At the dawn of an age where, increasingly, the actions of the individual Marine can have strategic implications, we cannot afford this risk.

Quite simply, we are ready today because of your Marines' tremendous commitment; their high, uncompromising standards; and their selfless sacrifice on behalf of their Country and their Corps. They are our greatest success story and we must vigilantly guard the quality of our Marines. Through Herculean effort, our recruiters have successfully "met mission" for thirty-eight consecutive months, exceeding every DOD and Marine Corps recruiting goal in the process. The fact of the matter is that we raised our recruiting standards and made our recruit training longer and tougher, and we are still surpassing our recruiting mission requirements in both quantity and quality. We need to reinforce our recruiters' success by providing them with the resources to continue recruiting bright men and women of character from today's extremely competitive and challenging market.

Although we are presently successful in our recruiting efforts, our manpower outlook is not completely promising. The increasing demands we are placing on our Marines and their families, coupled with our Nation's lucrative, private sector economy, are beginning to threaten our retention efforts. Although we currently have no retention problems, the growing disparity between our Marines' quality of life and that of their civilian counterparts is making retention of the highest quality Marines for our career force more and more challenging. In the 21st Century, our individual Marines will increasingly operate with sophisticated technology and will be required to make tactical and moral decisions with potentially strategic consequences. Retaining our very best Marines to serve as leaders in this challenging environment is critical. Your support for this goal is clearly evidenced in the 3.6 percent pay increase for 1999. I believe, however, that we need to take additional measures to preserve the quality of tomorrow's leadership. We must further address the civilian-military pay gap, now estimated at 14 percent, as well as the degradation of military retirement pensions and health benefits, the deterioration of military housing, and the psychological impact of working extremely long hours to accomplish a mission with scant resources. Your support in these areas will make a significant difference and will send a very positive signal to our men and women. It is vitally important to maintaining the health and quality of our all volunteer force.

Thanks to the vision and support of the Congress in creating and funding the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL), we have a good idea of the technologies needed to "equip" the 21st Century Marine and maintain his advantage. As a military applications laboratory, the MCWL also serves as the cradle and test bed for the development of new operational concepts, tactics, techniques, and procedures for fighting future battles. The MCWL has laid the foundation for long-term readiness by providing us with a cogent, common sense picture of an effective, efficient, and affordable 21st Century Marine Corps. The longer we delay investing in this force, however, the more expensive it will become.

Meeting the growing readiness challenges of today must occur simultaneously with solving the major readiness problems looming in the future. We need the additional resources necessary to prevent modernization funds from migrating into near-term readiness. We must forego investments in "bridging technologies" and relatively minor improvements to existing platforms, and instead put our limited resources into accelerating programs such as the MV-22 Osprey, the AAAV, and the revolutionary Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) -- platforms which promise full utility on tomorrow's diverse battlefield.

The future of Marine Corps aviation -- and therefore our ability to field expeditionary, combined arms task forces -- is inextricably linked to the JSF program. The Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of this aircraft will provide the Marine Corps with a superior performance, stealthy, state-of-the-art technology, multi-mission jet aircraft that can operate with full mission loads from amphibious class ships or austere expeditionary airfields. The JSF will be a top line fighter, a superior attack aircraft, and an escort for the MV-22 -- all in one platform. It will replace the F/A-18C/Ds and AV-8Bs in our inventory, surpassing the combined strengths and capabilities of both these aircraft. The JSF program promises not only to fulfill our fixed wing aircraft replacement needs, but also the requirements to replace our Air Force's F-16s, our Navy's F/A-18C/Ds, and the Royal Navy's AV-8Bs. This approach will result in optimal commonality between variants and minimize aircraft life cycle costs. We are absolutely committed to the successful development of this vitally important leap ahead technology.

As a superpower, the Nation has never before been in the position in which we find ourselves today -- unchallenged by a military peer-competitor, and unlikely to be challenged within the next decade or more. Yet those who have studied history -- and those who are attentive to what is presently developing in the Asia-Pacific region -- know that this cannot last indefinitely. The Information Age with its fragmenting societies and high-tech weapons proliferation has also brought the military services to a "strategic inflection point" -- a time when emerging technologies, if exploited, will fundamentally alter and substantially increase our warfighting capability. Simply adopting new, improved technology that remains oriented at winning yesterday's fight, however, will not win tomorrow's. To the maximum extent possible, given the imperative for current readiness, we must leverage "leap ahead" technologies which promise a warfighting edge well into the next century, while minimizing expenditures on procuring evolutionary technologies and maintaining old systems that do not promise a significant advantage on tomorrow's battlefield. Importantly, though, these advanced or modernized weapons systems are just so much armor or so many wires and electrons without the people to wield them. In this, the Warfighting Lab is playing a crucial role in modernizing the mind of our Marines as we modernize the equipment with which they will fight.

The equipment we procure must support new operational concepts that are focused on winning in the 21st Century battle environment. The cornerstone of tomorrow's Marine Corps doctrine, Operational Maneuver From the Sea (OMFTS), is one such concept. But turning this concept into operational reality cannot happen without equipment such as the MV-22; the AAAV; the JSF; LPD-17; LHD-8; the improved Landing Craft Air Cushion; and sea based, sustained logistics platforms to include those envisioned in the Maritime Prepositioning Force 2010 and Beyond concept. We cannot stand still. Doing so will eventually force us to abdicate our global responsibilities. Simply put, if we are to remain a superpower in the next century, we must leap ahead ... embrace change and use it to our advantage.

At present, in the "big picture" of national defense, we may be wasting this valuable opportunity by investing in repairs to weapons and equipment that were designed to win on the Cold War battlefield ... an environment that we are not likely to see again after the world witnessed our success in Southwest Asia. We need to seize the advantage offered by the strategic inflection point and the lack of a near term military peer-competitor. We must invest in our experimentation programs, and pursue the concepts, technologies and operational techniques they produce in our research and development and procurement strategies. If we focus on long- term readiness, our near-term difficulties will gradually resolve themselves -- before we are face to face with another major military rival.

The bottom line is that we are ready today, but our readiness has come at the expense of investment in our modernization, infrastructure, and quality of life accounts. We must "keep our eyes on the prize" of 21st Century warfighting capability, and avoid the temptation to pour resources into our legacy equipment and weapons systems, as a one-time fix, in 1999. The difficult readiness problems of today will pale in comparison to those of tomorrow if we do not begin the modernization process now and see it through to completion. As I have pointed out, the next century offers a great challenge -- a dynamic, volatile and asymmetric threat. Those same years, however, also offer a great opportunity. There is no one out there who can beat us. Now is the time to put our money towards the future -- towards tomorrow's threat. As the demands on your Marine Corps only promise to increase, we need your help so that we can be of help. As the Nation's, by law, expeditionary force in readiness, we know that we must continue to pay the price of near term readiness. Only your support in providing for our modernization, however, will keep us the Nation's "911" force into the 21st Century.

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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias