US and Philippine troops during a Kamandag joint exercise.

US Marine Force Design 2030: Hatred and Hubris

“No better friend, No worse enemy.”

That’s the US Marine Corps’ self-image.

But if you want Marines to really hate you, just question their new plan, Force Design 2030 (FD 2030).

And if you’re a former Marine they’ll hate you even more.

General David Berger, then the corps’ commandant, introduced FD 2030 in 2019. He aimed to make the Marine Corps a more mobile force, operating in smaller ‘low-signature’ units in austere coastal locations and using long range missiles to dominate the nearby sea – thus facilitating broader naval campaigns.

The plan had China in mind.

To this writer at least, the plan was a breath of fresh air.

The Marine Corps was finally paying attention to the Asia-Pacific – and to China in particular. Until then, everything was the “sandbox” – Iraq and Afghanistan. Asia was a backwater.

Even worse, call China an adversary and the courtiers at Headquarters Marine Corps would come after you.

Indeed, at the Marine Corps’ Pacific headquarters some staff officers downplayed the China threat.  The Marines even squandered opportunities to establish a presence in certain regional countries.

The Marines needed some new thinking.

The commandant’s plan was such and used regional geography – archipelagos and islands – to make life difficult for the People’s Liberation Army. The Marines were moving  away from the narrow mindset of large amphibious units operating from large fixed bases, which offered easy targets for Chinese missiles.

This was good. And overdue.

However, there were a few questions that nobody could quite answer:

Where to put the small detached missile units?  

Obviously important, but this hadn’t been figured out.

How to hide the units?

It was said they would be small and “low-signature” and would move around. But missile batteries are not small.  And Westerners stand out.  Once spotted, the Marines might be running for their lives.

How to supply the units? 

Forage for chickens and lizards? There was talk of building 35 light amphibious ships. They presumably were not invisible. And one Marine General noted they’d be pulled back in the event things got dangerous – since they couldn’t take a hit.

Substitute unmanned aerial vehicles or aircraft? 

These issues should have been resolved before rolling out FD 2030.  If the designers missed these, what else did they miss? The plan was now making one feel like John the Apostle. “It was in my mouth sweet as honey: and [soon after] I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.” (Revelations 10:10)

Read the rest at AsiaTimes.

Grant Newsham is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.

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