Better than a year ago, Armchair Generalist asked “What Does The Marine Corps Want To Be?” Today, in a speech at CSIS, Navy Undersecretary Bob Work offered a little more on that front, but only a little.
Work’s basic point was that the Marines will re-orient towards a sea-based power projection part of the military, moving away from the “second land army” role that they have taken on in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, he seemed to shrink from any suggestion that doing so would actually compromise their ability to function as a second land army/counterinsurgency force/heavy infantry corps. Thus, I got to hear talk about how the Marines would get “lighter,” shedding 10,000 vehicles from their stocks, while at the same time increasing the amount of equipment available for deployment. I heard that the Marines will continue to emphasize their ability to conduct amphibious assaults, but only with 2 of their brigade combat teams. In short, I was left unsure whether the overall strategy was to re-orient the entire Corps, or just feint back towards the sea-based roots of the force while actually continuing to try to provide everything to everyone.
Lest I be accused of being unfair to Mr. Work and Lt. Gen. Flynn, however, I will say that they are speaking about strategies that are still in progress.
I’ll defer to Greg Grant on whether the speech signaled that the EFV program is in deep trouble. I didn’t hear that the same way he did, but he’s been doing this a lot longer and probably reads between the lines better than I do. I would caution, however, against reading too much into the speech.