The Opponents of Marine Reform Have Lost, But Won’t Move On

Marine ex 23

In the military, as in most public organizations, new leaders need to take stock. They are obligated to determine the state of the institution and its preparedness to execute its current missions, particularly during times of rapid technological change. Leaders must also assess whether the organization is ready to account for evident or anticipated changes in the foreseeable future. If they judge that the institution is not prepared for current or future challenges, then it is incumbent upon them to make the changes deemed necessary to make it so.

As he assumed the role of 38th commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, the sitting commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, conducted just such an assessment. Upon completion, he concluded, “Significant change is required to ensure we are aligned with the 2018 National Defense Strategy and [Defense Planning Guidance] and prepared to meet the demands of the Naval Fleet in executing current and emerging operational naval concepts.” This was a difficult judgment to make for a decorated leader of a service as fiercely proud of its martial prowess as the Marine Corps. I understand this intimately, having served as a Marine artillery officer for 27 years. But Berger was convinced by the evidence that change was required, and he was intent on doing something about it. The “doing something about it” came in the form of Force Design 2030, which is both a case for change and a vision and a plan for a modernized Marine Corps that is ready to take on future challenges.

Berger’s plans were not met with universal acclaim. Indeed, the opponents of the commandant’s vision would give the Energizer Bunny a run for its money. They have lobbied on Capitol Hill and fired off a spate of opinion pieces with machine-gun rapidity in various periodicals that come off as if they were generated by ChatGPT. They describe Berger’s plans in the most heated of terms, depicting them as both destructive and possibly illegal. They’ve implied that Congress has failed over the last few budget cycles to provide proper oversight of the merits of the programs and budgets they have approved. Their stated objective is to get Congress to stop Berger from pursuing his plan until it holds hearings, presumably to discredit his reforms and then chart a path into the future that better suits their preferences. These dissenters have thus far failed to convince Congress of the merits of their case, but that has not discouraged them from continuing to disparage the commandant’s plans publicly and often. They just keep going … and going … and going.


Read the rest of “Marine Force Design: Changes Overdue Despite Critics’ Claims” by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work in the Texas National Security Review.


Image: U.S. Marine Corps, Sgt. Patrick King