Report: Marines need to adapt to today’s warfare
August 24, 2006
ARLINGTON, Va. — U.S. Marines will be more likely to serve as an occupying force than storm enemy beaches in the future, and the Corps should purchase and manage its equipment accordingly, according to three experts on the military.
A report issued Wednesday says that as peacekeeping missions — such as the current operations in Iraq — become the norm, the Marine Corps will continue to have to provide all Marines with body armor, reinforce all vehicles and train personnel to guard against roadside bombs.
“Iraq has shown extremists around the world the effectiveness of guerrilla tactics against the U.S. military,” the report says. “The United States’ inability to fully secure the cities and countryside, placing U.S. ground forces in continuous danger whenever they leave their guarded compounds, has been a central feature of the Iraq conflict.”
Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, and Max Bergmann and Larry J. Korb at the Center for American Progress co-authored the report.
Marine Corps officials in the Pentagon were asked to comment on the report Wednesday but were unable to respond by deadline.
In the fight against insurgents in Iraq, tanks have proven to be unexpectedly valuable:
“The heavy armor possessed by tanks compensated for limited situational awareness, because tanks are able to absorb enemy fire without being disabled, which exposes the enemy’s position and allows supporting forces to take action,” the report’s authors said.
Furthermore, the Marine Corps needs to replace the Amphibious Assault Vehicle, which lacks the armor and firepower of the Army’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
The report suggests using a combination of the high-priced Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles and Light Armored Vehicles II as substitutes and keeping some AAVs as a “strategic reserve.”
“The likelihood of the Marines storming heavily fortified beaches on the scale of WWII remains remote. Instead, the Marines should maintain a sizable portion of the legacy AAV fleet as a strategic reserve in case there is a need to undertake a substantial amphibious operation.”
The report also says that the Marines are having to borrow equipment from nondeployed units and pre-positioned stockpiles to replace tanks, trucks, armored vehicles and other hardware worn out by more than three years of combat duty in Iraq.
Korb and Thompson reached similar conclusions about the Army in a report issued in April.
The Iraq war also has put unprecedented wear and tear on the Corps’ trucks, tanks and other combat equipment, according to the report.
The war has forced the Marines to keep about 40 percent of its ground combat equipment, 50 percent of its communications gear and 20 percent of its aircraft in Iraq, the report says.
Helicopters fly two to three times more hours than they should, tanks are being used four times as much as anticipated, and Humvees are being driven an average of 480 miles a month, 70 percent of which is off-road.
The harsh desert and combat losses are chewing up other gear at nine times their planned rates. Humvees that were expected to last 14 years need to be replaced after only four years in the extreme conditions of the Iraqi desert, the report says.
“This war in Iraq, in addition to the human cost, has a very heavy equipment cost, and this bill is going to have to be paid for years to come,” said Korb, a former Pentagon official.
“If, heaven forbid, Korea breaks out or something like that, you wouldn’t be able to do as well as you should,” he said.
Korb and Thompson estimate that the Marines will have to spend at least $12 billion to replenish their ground and aviation equipment.
That figure will grow by $5 billion for every year the Marines remain in Iraq.
Information from McClatchy news service was used in this report.