Does Prospective CMC Amos Have a Vision to Save the Marine Corps?

Reports are that the next commandant of the Marine Corps will be career aviator Gen. James Amos; a surprise pick, many thought Joint Forces Command’s Gen. James Mattis had it locked (RUMINT says Mattis’ opposition to repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell sunk him).

If named as the next CMC, Amos will be taking over a service that faces a roles and missions crisis. A crisis you say? Balderdash! Well, if you don’t believe me, take a look at what Defense Secretary Robert Gates said before an Army audience at Ft. Leavenworth last month:

“I am in the process of interviewing potential replacements as commandant of the Marine Corps. And the first question that I am asking each of them is, what is your vision for the future of the Marine Corps?... since the Marines have essentially, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, played the role of second land Army, what differentiates them from the Army? And what is their mission going forward that makes them unique?”

So what is Amos’ vision for the Marine Corps? He provided some answers in a speech at the Naval War College annual strategy forum in Newport R.I. earlier this month, a write up of which was provided to Defense Tech by an anonymous participant:

America’s seapower – specifically the Navy and Marine Corps – is the ultimate guarantor of the international system. The ultimate value of seapower is that it allows the U.S. to influence events on land where people live… without stepping on sovereign foreign soil.

The Marines have long provided the U.S. with a force adept at rapidly and effectively solving complex, nasty and seemingly intractable challenges such that “Send in the Marines” is both a call for action and a presumption of success.

Marines perform a variety of missions but two stand out as immutable and at the forefront of what they do:

First, Marines provide littoral access as part of the naval team by bridging the difficult seam between operations at sea and on land. This is done through a combination of capabilities ranging from military engagement to crisis response to power projection.

Second, Marines fight the nation’s small wars, operations that demand a high degree of adaptability and a willingness to sacrifice and live hard.

Amos’ vision for the Marines appears a bit backward looking, resting on legacy. Outgoing CMC Gen. James Conway tried to push the idea that his Marines were the nation’s “shock troops,” the ultimate door kickers; it was marketing speak that never took hold, as evidenced by Gates’ comments. Amos seems to be pushing more of a littoral engagement, Marines as vital connector between sea and land role.

The problem for the Marines is that the ever expanding special operations forces is taking over many of their roles, and SOF arguably does many of them better, certainly with a lower signature and a smaller footprint, and that's the way of future military operations.

-- Greg Grant

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