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Commandant: Marines who lose jobs in the new force plan will have other opportunities

Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, receive fuel from Finnish soldiers with 2nd Logistics Regiment, Logistics Command, during exercise Arrow 2019 at Niinisalo Garrison, Finland, May 4, 2019.

SCOTT JENKINS/U.S. MARINE CORPS

By CAITLIN M. KENNEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: April 1, 2020

WASHINGTON — Tank crews, military police or bridge builders in the Marines who saw their jobs eliminated in the new 10-year plan to restructure the force will not be kicked out of the service right away, the commandant said Wednesday.

“No one's getting a pink slip saying time to go home. And we deliberately, intentionally set a timeframe a decade out,” Gen. David Berger told reporters.

Last year, Berger initiated a review of how the Marine Corps needs to transform into a force that will be needed in 10 years. The new plan released last week lays out what Berger and naval officials and civilians concluded are the needed units and capabilities for the Marine Corps.

During the next 10 years, the force plan has the Marines getting rid of all their tanks, bridge building companies and law enforcement battalions, as well as a reduction of about 12,000 troops. Also, the number of artillery and helicopter units will be reduced.

Marines who are affected by cuts or changes will be able have a choice in their next step, Berger said.

“They can choose another military specialty to go into. They can, in some instances, make a transfer to another service. We are fielding new capabilities that we don't have right now so we will need Marines in specialties that we … either don't have at all or we don't have nearly in the numbers that we're going to need,” he said.

Berger said the cuts are designed to reduce duplication of abilities across the military.

“Going forward, we need to do less duplication of a second sort of a land force and more provide the nation the unique capabilities that an amphibious maritime and expeditionary crisis response force provides,” he said.

In the next 10 years, the Marines will invest more in rocket artillery, unmanned systems, and work to make infantry battalions smaller and more mobile.

These changes stem from the Pentagon's 2018 National Defense Strategy, which shifts the military’s focus from counterterrorism operations to “great-power competition” with China and Russia. The economic policies of China and its militarization of the South China Sea and Russia’s efforts to undermine NATO and its nuclear arsenal are major concerns for the U.S. military, according to the National Defense Strategy.

For the Marine Corps, its primary focus within that strategy is in the Indo-Pacific region and working more closely with the Navy.

“Some have taken that to mean very myopic, narrow, only China, only the Pacific. I certainly -- we don't read it that way at all. But that's the bar we need to measure the force against,” Berger said. “But if somebody decides to do something today that's going to jeopardize our national security that same force can quickly … execute whatever tests are given.”

The new force plan was the first step in the process towards change, he said.

“So this isn't the final report, the end state. I think the second part is great feedback from Marines, from writers, a lot of people that have really informed the direction we're headed,” Berger said. “…When you're really trying to fundamentally change an organization, an open dialogue is very helpful.”

Kenney.Caitlin@stripes.com
@caitlinmkenney

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