The incoming President of the United States wants to increase the size and strength of the Marine Corps- to the point where they can win two wars at the same time.
“We will build a Marine Corps based on 36 battalions, which the Heritage Foundation notes is the minimum needed to deal with major contingencies,” President-elect Donald J. Trump said on September 7th, as he laid out his plans to expand the military.
The current administration’s drawdown plans will likely be halted, as the current strategy involves keeping 24 active-duty infantry battalions, two tank battalions and countless units that support the combat units’ ground mission.
The Trump administration will likely seek to bolster the Marine Corps to 36 infantry battalions, as well as increasing the Army to 540,000 personnel in active service.
Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller said he could certainly use more funding for the Marine Corps.
“It would be great if we could have the resources to have 190,000 Marines, but we’re not assuming that,” Neller said back in August. “That’s a decision that’s not in my job jar. So we’re going to operate under the assumption that we’re going to have 182,000 Marines because that’s what we’ve been resourced for. So we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to reshape this Marine Corps.”
Retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Dakota Wood of the Heritage Foundation think tank suggested that the USMC grow to 36 battalions of infantry and three tank battalions in order to be at peak effectiveness.
“We say that the United States needs to have the ability to handle two wars- not that we’re saying that we’re going to be in two wars simultaneously, but if you only have a one-war force and you have to commit to it, that’s everything,” Wood told the Marine Corps Times.
By increasing the size of the Corps, the relatively small branch will be able to handle more than one conflict at a time and will be able to project force wherever it is required.
“A Marine Corps of 36 battalions would enable an ability to handle a major conflict and an ability to handle other taskings around the world, wherever this may be; your unit deployment program to Okinawa and the MEU deployments that go into all the key regions,” Wood said.
As the Marines seek to modernize, a larger size will come with more strain on logistics and equipment- something the Corps is already struggling to keep afloat.
California Congressman and Marine veteran Duncan Hunter says that while the idea is grand, focus needs to immediately be turned to the massive maintenance funding shortfalls that plague the Marine Corps of late.
“Let’s listen to the Marine Corps,” he said. “I think the Marine Corps would say: ‘That’s all great, absolutely; we would love to have those numbers, but we also need maintenance funding.'”
However, despite reservation, Hunter is hopeful in regards to what the incoming president can do for the Corps.
“I think, finally, for the first time in eight years we’re going to have an overall plan of what our goals are throughout the world and overlay that with our military and what our availabilities are for everybody,” he said.
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