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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg July 15, 2020

Marines decided less is more

This promise was overtaken by new thinking from the Marine Corps itself.

In March 2020, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger unveiled the Marines' new plan for the next decade. Saying "the Marine Corps is not organized, trained, equipped, or postured to meet the demands of the rapidly evolving future," Berger offered a new strategic vision built around a smaller, more mobile force.

The reconfigured Marine Corps would have 21 active infantry battalions, rather than 24. The number of reserve battalions would drop from eight to six. The plan eliminates all seven current tank companies, and sheds 16 cannon artillery batteries, leaving just five.

There is expansion, particularly in the area of long-range precision artillery and missiles.

Trump cited the the Heritage Foundation when announcing the promise during the 2016 campaign. The foundation now "agrees with the Corps' new direction," said Dakota Wood, senior research fellow for defense programs at Heritage.

Wood said the plan reflects the reality that Congress is unlikely to provide enough money to fund the expansion Trump sought in 2016. Heritage, he said, has revised its optimal force from 36 battalions to 30.

Trump's promise has fallen victim to fresh thinking about the sort of Marine Corps the country needs, but the result is that his promise shows no signs of ever being fulfilled.

We rate this Promise Broken.


Our Sources

U.S. Marine Corps, Force Design 2030, March 2020

Congressional Research Service,New U.S. Marine Corps Force Design Initiatives , June 5, 2020

Email exchange, Dakota Wood, Senior Research Fellow for Defense Programs, Heritage Foundation, June 22, 2020

Email exchange, Thomas G. Mahnken, president and CEO, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, June 23, 2020

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg April 20, 2017

Trump's budget request for Marine Corps falls short

Candidate Donald Trump said he would rebuild the Marine Corps and he put numbers to that.

"We will build a Marine Corps based on 36 battalions, which the Heritage Foundation notes is the minimum needed to deal with major contingencies – we have 23 now," Trump said Sept. 7, 2016.

Trump's budget calls for an additional $54 billion for the base defense budget, or a total of $603 billion in FY 2018.

We are at the start of the budget process. It starts in the House and then passes over to the Senate, so we can't go beyond noting that Trump has offered a down payment on his promise.

That said, the Republican-controlled House Armed Service Committee voiced its concern with Trump's numbers. In a letter to the House Budget Committee, it said the money wouldn't be enough.

"That level of funding will not accomplish the administration's goals," chair Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, wrote. "Instead, we fear that it would unintentionally lock in a slow fix to readiness, consistent with the Obama Administration's previous position, from which we would not be able to dig out."

Thornberry said that about $640 billion would be needed to begin the process of repairing and rebuilding the country's military.

Todd Harrison, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, echoed the House committee's overall conclusion. The $54 billion would do little, he said.

"Most of it will be needed to cover cost growth in the current force and pay for the backlog of training and maintenance that has built up over the past few years," Harrison said.

By his count, to make good on the expansion Trump described during the campaign, Washington would need to spend $80 to $100 billion more in 2018 and then stay at that level.

Trump is also seeking an extra $25 billion in FY 2017. That would help him in his efforts, but still fall well short.

Harrison also emphasized that Trump, like President Barack Obama before him, needs Congress to go along with blowing through the budget caps required by the 2011 Budget Control Act. That is a considerable hurdle.

We'll see how the numbers shake out over Trump's term in office. For now, we rate this promise In the Works.

Our Sources

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