Force Design 2030

The Commandant’s vision to maintain the relevance of the Corps in the new age of great power competition is on target and well-articulated in the Force Design 2030 report.  The report has already generated several widely published commentary articles including this piece published yesterday (March 31st, 2020) in The Economist  https://www.economist.com/united-states/2020/03/31/send-the-marines, and Colonel (retired) Mark Cancian’s more critical essay here: https://www.csis.org/analysis/marine-corps-radical-shift-toward-china?fbclid=IwAR3Fl1vg8SMaBOt1iaz_ZmV11fymgoNL770NSWD07l48EYWCI530XNXqE94

As a retired Colonel, infantryman, and MAGTF officer I applaud the bold corrections outlined in the report and I caution everyone to bear two factors in mind. 

First, the future of the Navy – Marine Corps team, to include the concept of Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, is not about conducting amphibious assaults against defended beaches with some mix of new weapons and equipment that could allow us to succeed against enemy long-range precision targeting and attack.  For those historically minded, it is not about “Iwo Jima with better gear” but it may be more about the WWII Marine Defense Battalions with better gear and better concept of support. 

Second, there is clearly so much more work to do, and detailed questions to be answered in the ongoing phases of Force Design.  As the report indicates, this is the start of a 10-year evolutionary process and some key questions have yet to be answered in a public forum.  What will this effort mean for any capabilities or formations (units) that “shift” to the Reserve Component?  Will the principal end items = being reduced: tanks, howitzers, aircraft etc. be shifted to the Corps’ war reserves, and if so how will they be maintained at the appropriate condition code/readiness?  What is the risk mitigation concept to provide “legacy” capabilities that may be required by a Geographic Combatant Commander on short notice? In other words, how will the Corps still “do windows” to sustain relevance across the competition- conflict spectrum? 

At this stage, my only critique would be for additional transparency in the design effort and I commend the Association for trying to get a discussion going.

–Burke Tysen

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