The Marine Corps enters the Quadrennial Defense Review process confident that examination will show the Marines’ trajectory is on the right track, the Marine Corps’ representative to the process said March 25.
At a Defense Writers Group roundtable, Maj. Gen. Kenneth F. “Frank” McKenzie Jr. noted that the Marine Corps is a naval force and said that capability will become even more important in the years and decades ahead.
The review – due to Congress in February – already is shaping up. Because much remains unknown – such as budget factors – the services are focusing on a range of possibilities in looking at the review, Pentagon officials said. Another unknown is whether the strategic defense guidance announced in January 2012 remains viable, with sequestration cuts almost doubling the spending cuts Pentagon officials had planned for over the next decade.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered a strategic choices management review co-chaired by Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Their conclusions will go to the secretary May 31. The conclusions will be used to set the terms of reference for the Quadrennial Defense Review, Pentagon officials said.
Whatever the terms might be, McKenzie said today, he believes the capabilities the Marine Corps brings to the joint battlefield will be valued.
“We think the shift to the Pacific, the national strategy that we’re following, [includes] all natural things for the Marine Corps,” he said, “and as we go into the process, we want to accentuate the capabilities we bring for the nation.”
The Marine Corps touts itself as the nation’s expeditionary force, but since 2001, that term has, perhaps, been overused, the general said. “‘Expeditionary’ has been eating bagels and steak on a [forward operating base] in Afghanistan, and that’s not quite the way the Marine Corps sees expeditionary,” he said.
The Marines’ definition of the term means moving fast and light, McKenzie said. It “is sleeping on the ground, living in a tent, living in a very austere environment,” he added. “We’re going to emphasize that.”
Expeditionary also means being a forward-deployed or rotationally deployed force. The best area in the spectrum of operations for the Marine Corps, the general said, is “on the left end, … shaping activities — assurance activities, deterrence activities. Our capability is going to be on the early end. We can buy time, we can serve as a hedge force, we can provide a variety of services to deter potential foes, and we can also act this afternoon, not next week.”
The Marine Corps is not a second land Army, “and the country doesn’t need a second Marine Corps,” McKenzie said.
“Marine Corps capabilities are already bought and paid for,” he added. “They are not a dream of the future. They are a fact today.”
The Marine Corps continues to work closely with the U.S. Army, the general said. With the Army and Special Operations Command, the Marines have established a strategic land power office. This is still new, McKenzie said, but it could be an important factor ahead for both services.
Reiterating that the Marine Corps is a naval force, not a land force, the general said the service will emphasize that distinction during the Quadrennial Defense Review process.
Past QDRs have been incremental, but this one could be significant, McKenzie said.
“You’ve got the fiscal pressures. … You have a new strategy in effect, and, most importantly, you’ve got a new secretary of defense,” he added. “The timeliness is there for a consequential QDR.”