Lethal and survivable or irrelevant and vulnerable? Marine redesign debate rages

A group of senior retired Marine Corps executives are locked in a custody battle with the service's current leadership over ongoing efforts to reshape the force for future combat, much like grandparents argue with parents about what's best for the child.
That's the description of four senior defense officials who discussed the issue Monday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies event "On the Future of the Marine Corps: Assessing Force Design 2030."
But one of Commandant General David Berger's strongest critics had a more strident description.
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"And these other retired generals who are concerned don't believe the Marine Corps will exist when (Force Design) is fully implemented in 2030. said retired Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, former commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command. “That's how seriously we take it. So no custody battle. It is a fight for the life of the child.”
Marine 3-Stars: Technology has changed the combined arms, the corps needs to adapt
In recent months, former commanders, other Marine generals and senior retired Marine officers, along with retired Senator Jim Webb, a Navy Vietnam veteran and former Navy Secretary, have voiced public criticism of Force Design 2030, the divestment of key ordnance such as tanks, conventional artillery and the reformation of basic naval units such as infantry battalions.
But supporters of the Force design, such as former Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Work and former Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim, said Monday the critics were wrong.
"First, the commander's primary vector for Force Design 2030 is moving into an era where nearly all military competitors will have guided munitions, loitering munitions, C4ISR, and combat networks to deploy them," Work said. "We are not ready for that future."
Marines with the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, support fire during the Sapper Leaders Course at Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 11, 2022. (Lance Cpl. Ryan Ramsammy/Marine Corps)
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Ongoing criticism concerns decisions to divest assets before combat capability is covered and fears that the Marine Corps could recast itself into insignificance.
Critics turned fire on the divestment of armaments and other assets, citing the need for expropriated items such as armaments, heavy engineers, helicopters and fully manned infantry units needed in certain arenas such as Europe, the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula.
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, was the most outspoken critic on the podium.
Zinni pushed hard on decisions that he believes were made before the concepts pushed by Berger were validated.
"An idea is not a decision," he said.
"Decisions were made and then studied and experimented with," Zinni said. "Well, maybe that's old-fashioned, but I thought you'd tested and validated first before making any decisions."
These are direct references to the divestitures that have taken place over the past two years since Berger launched Force Design.
Zakheim and Work pointed out that the design does not radically change all parts of the Marine Corps. Although the Corps is adding new platforms and capabilities, much of what the I and II Marine Expeditionary Forces will look like in the years to come will be an improved version of what they are now.
Based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, II MEF will have a European focus, aligning its training and skills with that theater. Based at Camp Pendleton, California, I MEF will continue to work on everything at Central Command and will support operations in the Pacific alongside III MEF.
The story goes on

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