Happy Birthday, Marines! After 18 years of operating largely as a land force in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, the Marine Corps is returning its focus to naval integration. Our Marine Corps coverage starts with this month’s Need to Know—a graphic explanation of the emerging Marine Corps concept called expeditionary advanced base operations. Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger follows with a call for the Navy and Marine Corps to design the future force together.
General Berger shook things up in recent months with his Commandant’s Planning Guidance. “We will no longer use a ‘2.0 MEB requirement’ as the foundation for our arguments regarding amphibious ship building . . . We will no longer reference the 38-ship requirement memo from 2009, or the 2016 Force Structure Assessment, as the basis for our arguments and force structure justifications.” With those words, the new Commandant signaled a significant course change.
He went on to write, “Our MEFs need not be identical. III MEF will become our main focus of effort, designed to provide U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the commander, 7th Fleet, with a fight-tonight, stand-in force capability to persist inside an adversary’s weapon systems threat range, create a mutually contested space, and facilitate the larger naval campaign.” I think you’ll be hearing the phrase “stand-in force” a lot in the coming years.
In October, the Congressional Budget Office released “An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2020 Shipbuilding Plan.” It strongly suggests a 355-ship Navy is not affordable. “The 2020 plan would require . . . appropriations that are 50 percent larger than . . . average funding for shipbuilding over the past five years.” So now the question is, what naval force design can meet the peer-adversary challenge at an affordable price? The Marine Corps is leading a significant effort to imagine, study, wargame, and experiment with a variety of options to answer that question. I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s remark, “We have run out of money; now we have to think.”
The winning essay from this year’s Marine Corps Essay Contest directly supports General Berger’s force-design imperative. Major Brian Kerg’s “What Does the Navy Need from the Marine Corps?” argues that the Navy must join the Corps’ efforts to define the future now, or the two sides of the Department of the Navy risk moving apart instead of toward an integrated future together. This issue also features the winner from the Naval Intelligence Essay Contest. Commander Mike Dahm’s, “Needed: A Design for Achieving Maritime Information Superiority” describes very well how China and Russia have “informationized” warfare, elevating information above platforms. This challenge demands the attention not only of the Navy’s Information Warfare Community but of the entire Navy–Marine Corps team.
Finally, thousands of U.S. service men and women and veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of combat action. Dr. Sean Mulvaney, a former Navy SEAL and now retired Army Medical Corps colonel, describes a new PTSD treatment he helped pioneer, study, test, and perfect. This article on the stellate ganglion block is a must read for all, and if you know someone who suffers from PTSD, please share it.
Captain, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Life Member since 1993