Transforming the Marines for an Uncertain Future

Transforming the Marines for an Uncertain Future

The Marines may not be prepared for the challenges of the future if Force Design 2030 is allowed to run its course.

Informally organized under the banner of “Chowder II,” critics of Force Design 2030 have exhaustively and convincingly made the case that the end product of this second transformation will yield a Marine Corps that is less operationally and tactically capable and less strategically relevant than the one that has emerged from the first. Honoring the institutional precept that one who poses a problem or contests an idea is obligated to proffer a solution or alternative, the members of Chowder II have published a four-chapter alternative to Force Design 2030, titled Vision 2035. Among other things, Vision 2035 addresses dominant issues associated with the ability of the Corps to sustain its role as a global response force now and in the future. Specifically, it identifies requirements for the Marine Corps to remain a mobile, multi-mission, offense-oriented force able to engage fully in the single battle—deep, close, and rear—in the age of precision weapons, and shows that the Corps must capitalize on new technology to deal with emerging threats in ways that are both combat- and cost-effective.

Few will challenge the assertion that, while the nature of war is immutable, its character and content are subject to fluctuation. Again, calling into question the wisdom of a China-centric approach to force design, we must accept the reality that Chinese fingerprints cover the globe and competition with China may be one for influence rather than conquest. It’s entirely possible that the dominant stratagems for dealing with China may lie not in the military but in the diplomatic, informational, and economic realms. Sun Tzu’s axiom that “the supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” merits our attention.

With the midterm elections decided and the 218th Congress seated, scores of new members are receiving their committee appointments and are turning to their responsibilities to govern the nation. These new members and committee heads are undoubtedly eager to assume their legislative roles and make their presence felt on matters of urgency to the United States. Now, as in the past, the security of the nation will be at or near the top of the list. The future role of the Marine Corps in meeting existing and looming security threats is a matter of the highest urgency. The Corps is at a crossroads. It’s imperative that this crucial element of the national security apparatus is prepared for the challenges of the future, which may not be possible if Force Design 2030 is allowed to run its course. Our elected officials have the power and duty to intercede. They should do so.

Gen. Charles Wilhelm is a career infantry officer. His last assignment was Commander, United States Southern Command.

Image: Flickr/U.S. Navy.