Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger’s recently published Force Design 2030 has riled up both the “old guard,” who fear for the service’s future, and industry lobbyists, who fear for the future of contracts for amphibious ships and F-35s. The document rationally outlines the changes necessary for the Marine Corps to play its role as the nation’s naval expeditionary force-in-readiness while meeting the modernization and operational requirements laid out in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. Overall the proposal has been positively received, but critics have expressed concern that the proposed force does not hedge for the sorts of wars fought in contingencies like Vietnam, Korea, and Iraq.
Yet is it clear that the Marine Corps planning team specifically examined this question. In his recent War on the Rocks interview, Berger noted,
“The last step was a piece of guidance from me that the Marine Corps is this nation’s crisis response force by law, by role, and by function. So whatever we build for the structure, the design for the future of the structure of the Marine Corps, it must be capable of responding to any crisis, anywhere in the world, without any notice. That was the first step in framing the problem in our vernacular.”
Did Berger’s planning team fulfill this guidance? It did. And it positioned Marine forces to respond more effectively against each of the five threats identified in the National Defense Strategy as well as other lesser contingencies. While it makes clear choices and trade-offs, the design maintains the service’s noted versatility, a valued force design principle. Thus, this proposal is both strategy-driven and risk-informed. Further, this design also deals with two realities that the Department of Defense is struggling to accept.
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