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Marines stopping redux, looking to grow force again

Recruits meet Parris Island drill instructors who will train them throughout Marine boot camp
(Photo by Cpl. Octavia Davis)

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD: The wants to stop shrinking and start growing. Legislation being considered on Capitol Hill would reverse ongoing cuts to the smallest service’s ranks. What’s more, the No. 2 officer in the entire Corps, Assistant Commandant Gen. John Paxton, made clear this afternoon that he hoped the force would ultimately grow beyond the 186,800 target set by a study under then-Commandant Gen. James Amos.

“186.8 was our optimal number four years ago,” Gen. Paxton told reporters after a speech to the annual Sea-Air-Space conference. “That was before Ukraine, before Syria, before South China Sea, before WikiLeaks. So to us 186.8 is about the floor….The number may be north of there.”

Under current plans, “we’re on our way to 182 now. There is language in at least two of the committees about buying back 3,000 there,” Paxton said. “But we’d like to get more of the 186,8[00]. We believe that that’s the number we need and that will allow us to retain the conventional force capability — which we have to have to go into Afghanistan to do the counter-ISIL fight, to be around the world — and also simultaneously develop some of those new skills and capabilities” such as cyber warfare.

Similar legislation has been introduced for the Army, a much bigger service with, arguably, a much bigger shortfall. The smaller ’ smaller needs are much more affordable, however, and the Marines are historically much more effective on Capitol Hill than the Army. Unlike the Army, the generally gets what it wants — which means Paxton’s proposed numbers may actually materialize.

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