Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos

Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos ()

WASHINGTON — Tasked to redefine the future of the Marine Corps, Commandant Gen. James Amos has pledged to aggressively experiment with unit sizes and the Corps’ overall structure in a rebalancing effort he says will make the Marines a lighter force, ready to fight anywhere they’re called.

Amos’ “planning guidance,” issued Wednesday, is his formal answer to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who this summer asked Marine Corps leaders to determine what kind of service they want to be. In recent years, Gates and the previous commandant, retiring Gen. James Conway, have worried the Corps has strayed too far from its amphibious roots and were used too long as a second land army in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Where Amos, who assumed command Friday, decides to steer the Corps will affect everything from the types of combat for which the Corps trains to how big it will be and what equipment it needs.

“While we remain focused on combat operations in Afghanistan, leaders at all levels must consider the likely challenges of the next two decades and how the Corps will meet them,” said Amos.

Amos’ priorities begin with preparing Marines for Afghanistan, followed by reorganizing, resizing and equipping the Corps, providing better education and training for Marines fighting in complex geopolitical environments, and keeping the promise to care for Marines and their families.

The commandant set several deadlines early next year for the Marines to complete tasks or studies that change its structures and missions, all of which would make the Corps more flexible and mobile. His targets include consolidating and boosting training elements such as special operations, foreign advisory units and irregular warfare training organizations, as well as decreasing the size of deployed expeditionary units.

Amos said he also aims to institutionalize “values-based training,” adding that “the objective is to markedly reduce incidents of illegal/immoral/indecent acts among Marines.”

Additionally, the Marines must decide whether to continue pursuing key procurement items such as the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the only viable new amphibious landing craft the Pentagon is considering purchasing.

“The Marine Corps is wedded to the capability,” said Maj. Joseph Plenzler, Amos’ spokesman. “We need to have the ship-to-shore capability that projects power from the sea, over shore, and into another county.”

The next assessment of the EFV is due early 2011.

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