VIDEO: 2022 Marine Corps Birthday Message

The following is the U.S. Marine Corps 247th birthday message from Commandant Gen. David Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black.

The following is the U.S. Marine Corps 247th birthday message from Commandant Gen. David Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black.

Marine Corps Exceed Retention Goals Early, Hit More Than 100 Percent

The Marine Corps hit retention goals early for the first time in 10 years, the service announced last week. Over the past nine years, the Marine Corps reached approximately 97.2 percent of its retention goal. However, for Fiscal Year 2022, the service already hit 101.1 percent of its goal, said Yvonne Carlock on behalf of […]

11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) celebrates the Marine Corps 246th birthday on the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on Nov. 10, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Marine Corps hit retention goals early for the first time in 10 years, the service announced last week.

Over the past nine years, the Marine Corps reached approximately 97.2 percent of its retention goal. However, for Fiscal Year 2022, the service already hit 101.1 percent of its goal, said Yvonne Carlock on behalf of Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

The goal for FY22 for Marines on their initial contracts was 5,820, Carlock said in an email. For Marines with four to 20 years of service, the retention goal was 5,417.

Carlock was not able to provide retention goals for FY 2021 in time of publication. It is unclear if the retention goals for this year are higher or lower than in the past.

It was also unclear the effect of COVID-19 on retention, Carlock said in the email. The Marine Corps has separated ​​3,069 Marines due to refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the most recent report.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s Force Design 2030 calls for a reduced force of 175,000 Marines, USNI News previously reported. Force Design 2030 also calls for a focus on retention, going against the traditionally high turnover that is associated with the Marines.

The Marine Corps, like the other military branches, is struggling with recruitment due to a competitive marketplace. The service cannot recruit itself way out of talent challenges, Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps, said Monday. But the service can use retention to solve some of the problem.

The Marine Corps is changing how they retain, Smith said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies event. Before the service would often wait until it received all the interest for reenlistment before racking and stacking each Marine.

Now it is making the process more streamlined, with one step instead of 22, and making it more appealing for people to stay.

As an example, Smith said the service wants to be able to have conversations to figure out how it can keep Marines. If a service member says he or she would stay if they could stay in the same location for a couple more years, that could be a concession the Marine Corps makes in order to retain someone, Smith said.

But Marines should not expect to ask that they stay in the same location for 20 years, Smith said.

The Marines are also putting retention responsibility on leaders through the Command Retention Mission (CRM).

“In support of the CRM, Enlisted Assignments and Retention Branch created multiple avenues to coach and education commanders,” Carlock said in the email. “The on-the-road Key Leader engagements and multiple virtual engagements as well were used to strengthen relationships and communication throughout the Marine Corps.”

While the service started its retention campaign before Talent Management 2030 was announced, the service was able to benefit from the attention to retention, Carlock said.

Looking ahead to fiscal year 2023, the service is applying the Commandant’s Retention Program, which uses the Headquarters Marine Corps to screen Marines and pre-approve them for re-enlistment, Carlock said.

The retention team screened 24,680 and was able to pre-approve nearly approximately 2,500 for re-enlistment, she said.

“All these Marine[s] have to do is agree to reenlist, choose a unit option, and execute their reenlistment,” Carlock said in the email. “The other 20 steps in the process have been completed for them. Would we have wanted to do more than 2,500? Yes! But that was the maximum our team could process for now. We are looking at ways to increase that number.”

New Navy Fleet Study Calls for 373 Ship Battle Force, Details are Classified

THE PENTAGON – The Navy quietly slipped a new, classified assessment on the number of ships the service needs to meet its missions around the world to Congress earlier this month. The report calls for a battle force of 373 ships – 75 more than in the current fleet. Dubbed the Battle Force Ship Assessment […]

Arleigh-Burke class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), left, conducts a replenishment-at-sea with Supply-class fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE-6), in the Ionian Sea on May 6, 2022. US Navy Photo

THE PENTAGON – The Navy quietly slipped a new, classified assessment on the number of ships the service needs to meet its missions around the world to Congress earlier this month. The report calls for a battle force of 373 ships – 75 more than in the current fleet.

Dubbed the Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement, the Fiscal Year 2021 defense authorization bill called for the Navy to generate the report and deliver it directly to Congress.

“The Navy’s Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report determined that a battle force of 373 ships is required to meet future campaigning and warfighting demands. The report is classified and was submitted to Congress,” reads a statement from the service provided to USNI News.

Outside of the fleet total, the service did not provide an unclassified summary of the force structure. In prior years, the FSA has included an unclassified summary of the the required quantities for each type of battleforce ship in the fleet.

The new report is the latest in a long string of force structure reviews since 2016 as the service and big Pentagon have wrestled with the composition of the future fleet.

The requirement in the bill was designed to have the report bypass the Office of the Secretary of Defense and go directly to Congress, several legislative sources have told USNI News. OSD took a more active role in crafting the Navy’s force structure under former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and senior leadership has continued to be involved in the force structure process.

In February, the Navy rolled out a long-range shipbuilding plan that laid out three different versions of a battle force into 2052, depending on the number of resources the service is allocated. The first option would yield an inventory of 316 ships by FY 2052, the second would yield 327 ships by FY 2052 and the third would yield 367 ships.

Chief of Naval Operations Mike Gilday speaking on Jan. 11, 2022 from his office in the Pentagon. US Navy Photo

Those would be buttressed by emerging unmanned platforms that would extend the range of the Navy’s sensors and deepen magazines beyond its manned ships and submarines.

With those additions, the fleet could grow to 500 hulls or more, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said ahead of the long-range ship rollout in remarks during the WEST 2022 conference, co-hosted by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute.

The most recent review follows the latest revision of the National Defense Strategy, which refines the Pentagon’s approach to countering China in the Pacific and Russia in Europe. Much of the detail of the updated NDS is classified, with the Office of the Secretary of Defense releasing a scant two-page summary of the overall goals.

The force structure will go through more tweaks before another revision is released later this year.

“The Navy is expected to complete a second BFSAR later this year, which will reflect new analytic work, changes to force design, and the impacts of the 2022 National Defense Strategy released in March on future Navy battle force structure,” reads the Navy statement.

Marines Look Beyond LAVs as Recon Roles Expand

Marines are rethinking how the service does reconnaissance beyond its traditional light armored vehicles as part of the ongoing Force Design 2030 effort, officials said last week. With more unmanned systems on the market and the Pentagon continuing a shift toward potential operations in the Indo-Pacific, the Marine Corps in the next year plans to […]

Sgt. David Seeley, a squad leader with Battalion Landing Team 3/4, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and a native of Dunwoody, Georgia, walks past a light armored vehicle (LAV) at Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan on Feb. 8, 2021. Marine Corps Photo

Marines are rethinking how the service does reconnaissance beyond its traditional light armored vehicles as part of the ongoing Force Design 2030 effort, officials said last week.

With more unmanned systems on the market and the Pentagon continuing a shift toward potential operations in the Indo-Pacific, the Marine Corps in the next year plans to experiment with ways to perform reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance in a sea environment, according to the service’s most recent Force Design 2030 update.

But the service says it cannot depend on ground vehicles alone to perform the reconnaissance mission.

“Our light armored reconnaissance (LAR) battalions must transition from their current ground vehicle-centric approach to an all-domain mobile reconnaissance approach. Sole reliance on armored ground vehicles for reconnaissance is too limiting, especially in complex littoral environments,” reads the Marine Corps’ latest Force Design update, released earlier this month. “Attributes such as reconnaissance, surveillance, targeting beyond the line of sight, littoral mobility, and equipment that integrates with special operations and joint forces are needed.”

A U.S. Marine LAV-25 light armored vehicle attached to Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), engages a target with an M242 25mm chain gun during exercise Alexander the Great 2019 in Volos, Greece, Jan. 8. Exercise Alexander the Great 2019 is combined training exercise between U.S. and Hellenic armed forces. US Marine Corps photo

During a roundtable with reporters last week, Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, acknowledged that Marines will perform reconnaissance differently, depending on the region and operating environment.

“[Light armored reconnaissance] in the Indo-Pacific with III [Marine Expeditionary Unit] is most likely going to look different than light armored reconnaissance in II MEF,” Heckl said at the annual Modern Day Marine conference.

Heckl’s comments reflect how Marine Corps officials have recently described the service’s ongoing Force Design 2030 effort, which is aimed at preparing the Marines for conflict in the coming decade. The Marine Corps has said III MEF, based in Okinawa, Japan, will look different than I and II MEFs because III MEF is operating as the so-called “stand-in-force” in the range of Chinese weapons.

Marine Corps Systems Command, which is the service’s acquisition arm, has been working on the prototyping effort to replace the Light Armored Reconnaissance vehicle. That initiative includes evaluating a variant of BAE Systems’ Amphibious Combat Vehicle for the reconnaissance mission.

“My opinion is none of that works in the Indo-Pacific,” Heckl said of the vehicles. “I think LAR would look something more like a lot of unmanned in multiple domains.”

After several years of struggling to replace the aging LAVs, the Marine Corps embarked on a prototyping effort in 2020 that continued throughout last year.

“We are doing some demos and prototyping right now so we can get ahead and maintain decision space for the commandant as we flesh out what that recon capability’s going to be in the future,” Col. David Walsh, the acting program executive officer for land systems, told reporters. “We’ve now got a head start on if there’s a vehicle that needs to be fielded and bought to support that vision, we’ve now got a couple years head start. We’ve done some competitive prototyping and that vehicle won’t be 5 years out. It’ll be a couple years out from being fielded.”

U.S. Marines with Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, utilize a laser rangefinder during a transit through the Strait of Gibraltar aboard San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD-24), April 26, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Force Design 2030 initiative has included the Marine Corps shedding some of its heavier equipment, like tanks, and investing in capabilities like anti-ship missiles, which the Marines want to fire from expeditionary nodes that smaller units set up on islands and shorelines.

With a heavy focus on reconnaissance, the Marine Corps’ recent Force Design update said the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance experimentation will influence how the service pursues ground vehicles in the future.

“Choices made in the maritime mobility discussion above will also affect the [Ground Combat Tactical Vehicle Strategy], as will its integration with our uncrewed systems roadmap. We must continually refine this strategy to ensure it is operationally suitable and logistically supportable,” the document reads.

As the Marine Corps assesses how it will operate in the Indo-Pacific, the service needs to figure out how it will perform the reconnaissance mission across a vast region that mostly includes water.

“What do our organizations already recognize? They recognize that in terms of where the commandant has pointed us, then our focus is on how we operate in and affect battlespace that includes more than land,” said Maj. Gen. Ben Watson, the commanding general of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.
“So if we’re going to own battlespace that includes water space, but we can only operate in wheeled vehicles and by walking around, then we are probably incapable of controlling that battlespace and maximizing our influence within it. So we’ve got to diversify the means with which we get ground.”

In addition to the maritime domain, the Marines need a strategy that factors in cyber and other non-kinetic elements, Watson said. Heckl said the MEF Information Groups would likely play a key role in performing reconnaissance missions when it comes to cyber-warfare.

“The biggest eye-opener for me as a new MEF commander was this new thing called MEF information group and the stuff – the scope, scale, breadth of what they were doing was eyewatering,” Heckl said. “But they’re short, we’re dramatically short in all [Military Occupational Safety]’s. They are low-density, high-demand. But I think that kind of highlights for you how much the MEFs are going to have to play into whatever this thing ends up looking like.”

Marines prepare to recover an RQ-21A Blackjack unmanned aerial vehicle after a training flight during exercise Black Shadow at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Jan. 19, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

Getting after this will also likely include manned-unmanned teaming, which is how the Navy and Marine Corps now describe their unmanned systems strategy. It would pair manned and unmanned platforms together to conduct various missions.

“So how do we leverage manned and unmanned teaming and the characteristics of unmanned systems to enhance the survivability and effectiveness of our more limited manned systems. Because that also speaks to the logistics challenge, right, demand reduction. Nothing consumes more than humans,” Watson said.
“They are problems that are actively being wrestled with and that we are trying to help shape as well as support from headquarters to get after what the commandant’s looking for.”

In its recent Force Design update, the Marine Corps said it will release “an updated and refined” strategy for ground vehicles that take into account how the Marines will get after the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance mission.

The update also calls for the Marines to start shifting their light armored reconnaissance battalions “to mobile reconnaissance battalions,” beginning with the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

The Marines have been told to use the work done by Task Force 61 Naval Amphibious Forces Europe/2nd Marine Division, recently created by U.S. 6th Fleet, as a springboard.

“Mobile reconnaissance battalions do not have to be mirror-imaged,” the update reads.  

Marines Look to EPFs, ESBs as Interim Solution for Light Amphibious Warship

WASHINGTON D.C. — With the Light Amphibious Warship delayed by several years, the Marine Corps is looking to ship classes already in the fleet as an interim solution to move Marines around the Indo-Pacific. The Marine Corps’ annual Force Design 2030 update, released on Monday, described plans to use the Expeditionary Fast Transport and Expeditionary […]

Expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Brunswick (T-EPF 6) departs Naval Base Guam, passing the MSC expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Fall River (T-EPF 4) and marking the start of Pacific Partnership 2019. Navy photo

WASHINGTON D.C. — With the Light Amphibious Warship delayed by several years, the Marine Corps is looking to ship classes already in the fleet as an interim solution to move Marines around the Indo-Pacific.

The Marine Corps’ annual Force Design 2030 update, released on Monday, described plans to use the Expeditionary Fast Transport and Expeditionary Transfer Dock as temporary solutions while the Marine Corps refine the requirements for the LAW program.

“While we await the delivery of [Medium, Landing Ship], which post-dates the planned operational readiness of our MLRs, we will explore a family of systems bridging plan—including, Expeditionary Transfer Dock (ESB), Expeditionary Fast Transport (T-EPF), Landing Craft Utility (LCU), and leased hulls—that can provide a basic level of mobility. Although not optimal, such vessels will provide both operational capability and a sound basis for live experimentation and refining detailed requirements for the LAW program,” the latest Force Design 2030 document reads.

The annual update from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger details the service’s progress on its modernization overhaul, an effort to make the Marines lighter and able to operate with less of a footprint for distributed operations in a potential conflict with China.

Speaking Tuesday at the annual Modern Day Marine Conference, deputy commandant for combat development and integration Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl said the Marine Corps has already signed a contract to lease a commercial stern landing vessel so the recently converted 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment out of Hawaii can experiment with the LAW concept. The Marine Corps will receive that ship this year during the late summer or early fall timeframe and will send it straight to the 3rd MLR for “aggressive experimentation,” according to Heckl.

“As you know, the LAW is a few years out. So we’re taking [the] opportunity to do some experimentation and refine the prototyping so that we get what we need – what the Marines need,” he said during a panel at the conference.

The Marine Corps has the option to lease two more vessels, which could help the service as it develops LAW, Heckl said. The Marines have said they need to purchase the LAW quickly, but the procurement has been delayed in the last two budget cycles. The Fiscal Year 2023 proposal now shows the first LAW purchase in FY 2025.

A Landing Craft Air Cushion is launched from the Military Sealift Command mobile landing platform USNS Montford Point (MLP 1) during Pacific Horizon 2015. US Navy Photo

The Marine Corps envisions LAW as a shore-to-shore connector that can haul 75 Marines for $150 million or less per hull. Heckl said he believes ports and large runways will be among the first targets in a potential conflict in the Indo-Pacific, meaning the Marine Corps cannot rely on the ability to offload Marines and gear at a pier. This is where the LAW would come into play, as the ship would have beaching capability. Heckl said the Marine Corps needs 25 LAWs.

“We have five companies doing prototyping now, to figure out what it’s going to be,” he said of the LAW. “This is simply going to inform it and make it a better product. Now obviously having a gap is a risk and in the military world that’s usually bad. We don’t like that kind of risk, but I think there’s a lot of options out there,” like EPFs and ESBs, Heckl added.

The deputy commandant pointed to the Marine Corps using USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF 9) last year for experimentation during the Koa Moana exercise in Palau.

“That’s a real capability I think we’ll want to keep around. A ship that can do 35 knots, carry a few hundred Marines and their gear with a flight deck … there’s a lot of options,” he said of the EPFs. “I think you’ll see when we get that contracted vessel out in Hawaii and we have the Marines in 3rd MLR and the III [Marine Expeditionary Force], we’re going to probably see great things,” he added.

As for the larger amphibious ships, Heckl again emphasized the Marine Corps’ 31-ship requirement – 10 big-deck LHAs and 21 LSDs or LPDs. As part of the next phase of the Force Design process, Berger called upon the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to work on a “Concept for 21st Century Amphibious Operations” by January 1, 2023.

Asked about the concept on Tuesday during a roundtable with reporters, MCWL commanding general Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson said the Marine Corps will work with the Naval Warfare Development Center on the effort because the concept is naval.

“We think it’s important that a lot of the early analytic work and a lot of the differences in Force Design have been focused on how do we operationalize this idea of a stand-in-force. But in doing that – just like the commandant addressed the fact that early we focused a lot on the Marine Littoral Regiment and perhaps not enough on putting that in the context of the MAGTF – we see the same thing with amphibious operations,” Watson said.

“Backing it out and taking a look at the range of amphibious operations from crisis response, in many cases at the lower end of the spectrum of conflict, all the way up to what is still a joint force requirement for forcible entry, within which we believe the Marine Corps then still has a requirement for amphibious forcible entry … We really need to take a look more holistically at the range of amphibious operations in concert with the Navy,” he added.

The construction of the Amphibious Ready Group and the Marine Expeditionary Unit has not changed over the last four decades while the battlefield has changed “dramatically,” Heckl said.

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Michael Eberhart, assigned to the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD-25), watches the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) maneuver past the Somerset in the Gulf of Oman on March 23, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

“On the low end of the spectrum – range of military operations – it largely looks the same. But as you progress up that escalation ramp, the divergence is significant,” he said.
“It used to be that when we got in the Marine Corps, we said, ‘25 nautical miles over the horizon, you’re safe.’ Not applicable today anymore so it’s got to change.”

The Marine Corps is also wrapping up an amphibious requirements study, but officials have been explicit in arguing the Navy needs 31 larger amphibious ships.

“That composition and the capacity of the future amphibious fleet does affect how we employ that amphibious force in the future,” Watson said.

As for the larger amphibious ships, Berger on Tuesday made a case for the various ways the Navy could use well decks on the amphibs to perform different missions.

“I think it’s much more versatile than we thought of in the past. As more and more uncrewed technology comes to maturity and the cost of production goes down, I think new capabilities are within reach,” Berger said. “Think for a minute. Marines aboard amphibious ships. That team – that Navy-Marine Corps team – employing unmanned underwater vessels from the ARG/MEU. Dozens of unmanned undersea vessels. You could use them as sensors, perhaps for anti-submarine warfare.”

Berger pointed to finding mines and performing counter-reconnaissance and ways to use the UUVs.

Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACVs) with the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division return to the well deck of amphibious transport dock ship USS Anchorage (LPD-23) during waterborne training in the Pacific Ocean on Feb. 13, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

“They can be weapons themselves. We could also employ uncrewed surface vessels from the well deck, both for [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and for fires. You could do it for logistics,” he said. “Our initial experimentation with the Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessel – armed with loitering munitions, again all unmanned, largely autonomous – has demonstrated already the potency of that kind of capability. What if you operated decoys on the well deck? Electronic warfare capabilities from the well deck? Limited really only by your imagination is the well deck.”

Because what’s inside the well deck is hidden, Berger said an adversary will spend time trying to figure out what’s inside.

“It slows down their decision-making. That’s what we want. I think that’s applicable in the Mediterranean. I think it’s applicable in the Mideast. I think it’s applicable in the first island chain,” he said.

Fewer Marines, More Sensors Part of Berger’s Latest Force Design Revision

THE PENTAGON – Reducing the Marines to 175,000 and adding more sensor capability to smaller units are part of a wide swath of adjustments the Marine Corps is pursuing in the latest iteration of its modernization drive. Released on Monday, the Force Design 2030 annual report is the Marines’ latest refinement of plans to orient […]

Marines with 1st Battalion, 2d Marine Regiment (1/2), 2d Marine Division, board a KC-130J Super Hercules at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona, April 22, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

THE PENTAGON – Reducing the Marines to 175,000 and adding more sensor capability to smaller units are part of a wide swath of adjustments the Marine Corps is pursuing in the latest iteration of its modernization drive.

Released on Monday, the Force Design 2030 annual report is the Marines’ latest refinement of plans to orient the service to face complex threats in the maritime environment within the next decade.

“We’ve gained quite a bit of momentum on Force Design but the learning continues,” Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl told reporters last week in a roundtable ahead of Monday’s release.

The revision, in line with the latest budget submission, calls for shrinking the service down to 175,000 Marines with an emphasis on developing more mature Marines who stay in the service for longer.

“Over the past two years, we reduced our end-strength by approximately 7,000 Marines primarily through [divestments]. In the next year, we will continue our balanced approach and reduce the number of personnel in the service headquarters, supporting establishment, and component commands by 15 percent,” reads the revision signed by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger.

At the same time, there is a parallel drive to keep Marines in for longer. The service only retains about 25 percent of the 38,000 Marines it recruits annually past their first term of service.

Marine Corps Gen. David Berger, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, speaks to Marines and Sailors assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), during a distinguished visit aboard Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on Feb. 20, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

Berger and Deputy Commandant for Manpower & Reserve Affairs Lt. Gen. David Ottignon have been vocal about working to change the Marine Corps culture into one that retains its personnel, instead of the high turnover that has characterized the service.

By the summer, the service owes Berger a plan “to change the ‘recruit and replace’ paradigm, we will implement measures to professionalize our career retention force and further incentivize retaining our most talented Marines,” reads the design.

The plan looks to “achieve greater average time in service and thickening of the E-4 to E-7 ranks to support a more mature force, while not disadvantaging or disincentivizing the most talented Marines—who must be allowed to move as rapidly as their talents dictate.”

The service is weighing how it will develop the more mature force, either by incentivizing Marines to stay on active duty longer in an ‘invest and retain’ model, improving training and education or a combination of both, Maj. Gen. Eric Austin, director of the Capabilities Development Directorate, told reporters last week.


Download document here.

“When you say more mature forces, it’s probably somewhere between an older, more experienced Marine and a better trained Marine,” he said.

Some of that will come from how Marines are trained, Berger told reporters last week. The Marine Corps will still rely on physical aspects and endurance and perseverance already featured in training programs, but the service is also understanding that new Marines learn differently.

“We want to send him to a school for two weeks, and they’re like, ‘Give me half an hour on my own, I got it. If I got a question, I’ll let you know.’ They learn in a different way at a different speed,” Berger said.

Marine Corps AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar system (G/ATOR), assigned to Marine Air Control Squadron 2, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), scans for and tracks aircraft at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, April 26, 2022. Marine Corps Photo

In particular, the service wants to retain Marines who are trained in information and cyberwarfare, disciplines that are prized by civilian industry and where service members are heavily recruited for jobs after they’re trained by the military.

In particular, the Marines want to include signals intelligence and electronic warfare Marines in the infantry battalion, “which is obviously kind of a low-density, high-demand skill set. So that’s changing how we train and how many of those Marines we have to train,” Austin said.

A major investment for the service will include more sensors controlled by Marines instead of relying solely on joint tools for targeting awareness for the Marine Littoral Regiments, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab director Maj. Gen. Benjamin Watson told reporters.

“You got to be able to sense the target before you can engage and a complete reliance on non-organic capabilities, like somebody else to do that sensing for us and find the target, confirm it, etcetera as part of the kill-chain is a position we prefer not to be in. We’d prefer not to have that as our only option,” Watson said.
“If we have a missile that shoots 100 nautical miles and we want a sensor that’s organic to us that can find a target well beyond that … What we’re trying to do is develop a balanced portfolio of capabilities that when we try to close kill-chains against a modern, multi-domain adversary, we’ve got the complete tool kit.”

The idea is in line with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) philosophy in which Marines support other Marines on the ground, in the air and in the logistics chain.

“Our [Marine Littoral Regiments] will possess an organic capability to sense the maritime battlespace in order to gain and maintain custody of targets as a reconnaissance/counter-reconnaissance task and to assure their ability to deliver maritime fires, even when the larger sensor network is degraded or compromised,” reads the revision.

The service’s Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) and the future sensor payloads on its emerging fleet of unmanned aerial and surface vehicles will be part of a larger targeting net that will work with the Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), a converted Joint Light Tactical Vehicle chassis that carries a battery of Naval Strike Missiles and other netted weapons, the new document says.

As part of the ongoing Force Design testing, “with the Strategic Capabilities Office and the Navy, we also conducted a ground launch of a Tomahawk Land Attack Missile mounted on a remotely operated mobile launcher,” reads the report.

US Marine Corps Rouge Fires missile system.

The new revision comes as the service has drawn criticism from retired general officers who have argued that Berger cut too much heavier equipment too quickly in his modernization overhaul and that the Marine Corps is placing too much emphasis on countering China, and not enough on the service’s other missions, like crisis response.

In particular, Berger has been the subject of criticism from former Navy Secretary Jim Webb, who penned an opinion piece criticizing Berger’s decisions, like the Marine Corps shedding its M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks for a lighter force that focuses on anti-ship missiles.

“So I take criticism on my shoulders, not Gen.Heckl’s, but mine, for if it’s not balanced over the last three years, I need to recognize where to rebalance and to push information and to draw feedback from more proactively,” Berger said. “Part of the challenge, as it always has been, is at a certain limit in one or more of those audiences reach a classification barrier that’s a bit of a challenge.”

In its report, the Marines said the service placed too much emphasis on the radical changes that would create units like the MLR, crafted to hunt Chinese surface ships, rather than acknowledging the enduring Marine Corps mission based on larger amphibious ships and the Marine Expeditionary Units.

The service “does not have the luxury of focusing on a single threat, to the exclusion of all others, and basing our design on such a narrow point of view. We are building a force capable of executing our concepts, not a force exclusively tailored to them,” reads the report.

In comments to reporters, Heckl drew a distinction between the MLR and the larger MEU.

“The MEU and the MLR are designed to be complementary, but they’re organized differently and they operate differently. A MEU being a more robust organization that’s designed to operate persistently from amphibious platforms, and execute operations really across the range from humanitarian assistance, disaster relief up to amphibious raids or higher-end combat operations,” Heckl said.
“The Marine Littoral Regiment – although we believe it has applicability globally – it’s not designed to execute operations across that entire range. It’s tailor-made really, to operate as part of a force that stands in close to an adversary that minimizes its vulnerability by operating in small, low signature, highly mobile formations, but packs a big punch, particularly in maritime littoral combat.”

Sailors and Marines man the rails of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) as they depart Naval Station Norfolk, March 16, 2022. US Navy Photo

As the Marine Corps continues to refine the Force Design, a key unanswered question is how many amphibious ships the Navy needs to support the Marines’ mission. Berger and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday are split over how many large amphibious ships the Navy needs and how quickly the planned Light Amphibious Warship enters the fleet.

“This will require a mix of vessels that are complementary to, but different from amphibious warships. We must conduct a thorough analysis to understand and resource all aspects necessary to realize these capabilities, to include manpower and training, as we consider resourcing these as requirements,” reads the document.

The Navy is currently working with the Marine Corps on an amphibious lift requirement study due to Congress in the next several weeks.

Marines Committed to New Force Design, Despite Criticism From Retired Generals

The Marine Corps’ top requirements officer on Wednesday defended the service’s modernization overhaul against recent criticisms that the Marines are on the wrong path. Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, acknowledged that the Marine Corps has not successfully communicated its Force Design 2030 efforts. “I clearly as the requirements […]

Marines board the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) via landing craft, air cushion, March 21, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Marine Corps’ top requirements officer on Wednesday defended the service’s modernization overhaul against recent criticisms that the Marines are on the wrong path.

Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, acknowledged that the Marine Corps has not successfully communicated its Force Design 2030 efforts.

“I clearly as the requirements officer of the Marine Corps did a poor job explaining this,” Heckl said.

Heckl, who also leads Marine Corps Combat Development Command, argued the need to counter China is what led to the overhaul of the force, pointing to the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which identified China as the main challenge for the U.S.

“We always, always build to the worst-case scenario, which in this case clearly is China, not just militarily,” but also their ability to influence and project economic power,” Heckl said speaking at a U.S. Naval Institute-CSIS Maritime Security Dialogue Wednesday.
“This is much worse than the 70-year Cold War with the Soviet Union.”

The remarks come as Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger’s modernization plan, an effort to reshape the service into a lighter, more mobile force for a potential future conflict against China, has received public criticism in recent months from retired officers.

Heckl noted the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) is still part of the Marine Corps and that the goal is to provide commanders more resources to operate in the threat environment.

“But the MAGTF still exists. As I said earlier, the stand-in force is the III Marine Expeditionary Force. They’re there, now. We are giving them tools – we’re going to give the commanding general of the III Marine Expeditionary Force more tools to deal with the pacing threat that would have application across theaters,” he said.

A key part of the Marine Corps’ vision for operating in the Indo-Pacific is setting up ad-hoc bases on islands and shorelines throughout the region where they could then fire weapons like anti-ship missiles as a way to create chaos during a conflict.

Heckl referenced a recent conversation he had with the chief of the Swedish Navy, who said there are thousands of islands and archipelagos off Norway, Sweden and Finland. “She wants us to come up and exercise,” Heckl said of Rear Adm. Ewa Skoog Haslum.

His remarks address one concern of retired officers, which is that the Marine Corps is too focused on the Indo-Pacific.

Marines with 1st Platoon, Charlie Company, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) soldiers with 2nd Amphibious Rapid Deployment Regiment receive a safety brief prior to executing amphibious operations during Exercise Iron Fist 2022 at the Del Mar Boat Basin, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 11, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

“We have three Marine Expeditionary Forces around the globe that we’re going to make more capable through the modernization efforts of Force Design. It’s just that simple,” Heckl added.

The Marine Corps general compared the current criticisms of Force Design to “false allegations” about the MV-22 Osprey during its early days when the Marines experienced several crashes.

As for tanks, which the Marine Corps has already divested from its inventory, Heckl argued a conflict that would require tanks would be a joint fight, meaning the Army would participate. He acknowledged tanks could play a role in a conflict in Taiwan, but likely not in other parts of the Indo-Pacific.

The Amphibious Combat Vehicle, Heckl said, “is very survivable, very mobile,” and the 30-mm cannon variant could, like tanks, blow holes through walls in an urban warfare environment.

“We’re also fielding … long-range precision fires, right, that we can use to strike and in an urban environment could change the calculus a little bit,” he said.

Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Evan Blaskowski, an infantry officer with Kilo Company, 3d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (1st MARDIV), observes a target during Exercise Steel Knight 22 (SK-22) at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Dec. 8, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

A key concern among retired officers critical of the modernization overhaul is combined arms, which Heckl argued has “changed fundamentally” due to technology.

“In this case, combined arms is much more than towed cannon artillery, tanks and aviation. I will tell you it starts in the information environment, which is often where we don’t do so well, and then cyber, space,” he said.

“As a MEF commander, people would be like, ‘well we’re going to be this number of days left of bang.’ Stop saying bang. What is that? Again, old think. ‘Well, it’s Marines. It’s when I shoot stuff and kill things.’ No. Information environment. Cyberspace. Bang is happening now. So that is illustrative … of how dramatically it has changed. Combined arms – and now, with again, one of the primary drivers of force design was the proliferation of long-range precision weapons that can hold us at arms length.”

Part of the Marine Corps’ modernization efforts includes experimentation with the infantry battalions. When the service embarked on its Force Design work, Heckl said the average size of an infantry battalion was 896 Marines and the lowest number of Marines the service has assessed is 735.

“We think it’s probably going to be in there somewhere. We don’t know. That’s why the fleet right now – all three MEFS are involved in infantry battalion experimentation, right, IBX,” he said. “Each one has a dedicated battalion – that started when I was at 1 MEF – that is focusing on a specific aspect of force design. And then that’s being fed back from the fleets into headquarters Marine Corps to make the appropriate, iterative adjustment.”

Over the court of the next year, the Marine Corps will do more experimentation with the infantry battalions on both the East and West coasts. The Marine Corps is taking the chance to perform Force Design experimentation during all of its exercises.

Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) board a landing craft, utility in the well deck of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD-27) on March 2, 2022. US Navy Photo

As for manpower, which Berger has cut in order to save money within the Marine Corps budget for the modernization initiatives, Heckl said the service is assessing the potential for a force of 175,000 Marines. The Marine Corps’ Fiscal Year 2023 budget request is seeking funds for 177,000 active-duty Marines. Heckl noted the service swelled to more than 202,000 Marines during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Right now we don’t know the end state. Remember, 2030 is a waypoint, it’s not a destination. But we’re looking at probably about [175,000]-ish. We’ll see,” he said. “But the only lever the commandant had in the course of his move to, within our topline not ask for [more] sources, was manpower. And again, rightfully so, based on how much we had grown.”

Size is another concern among those critical of Berger’s strategy.

“I think they have several concerns. One is that the Marine Corps’s getting smaller and will be challenged to meet its global commitments. One is that the structure is too focused on the western Pacific and the Marine Corps will not be able to participate effectively in operations in other areas,” Mark Cancian, a retired Marine Corps colonel who is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously told USNI News of the officers’ concerns.

CNO Gilday: ‘We Need a Naval Force of Over 500 Ships’

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The U.S. Navy needs a fleet of more than 500 ships to meet its commitments to the soon-to-be released National Defense Strategy, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Friday.  “I’ve concluded – consistent with the analysis – that we need a naval force of over 500 ships,” Gilday […]

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111), left, USS America (LHA-6), and Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), transit the Philippine Sea on Jan. 22, 2022. US Navy Photo

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The U.S. Navy needs a fleet of more than 500 ships to meet its commitments to the soon-to-be released National Defense Strategy, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Friday. 

“I’ve concluded – consistent with the analysis – that we need a naval force of over 500 ships,” Gilday said during the WEST 2022 conference, co-hosted by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute.

“We need 12 carriers. We need a strong amphibious force to include nine big-deck amphibs and another 19 or 20 [LPDs] to support them. Perhaps 30 or more smaller amphibious ships to support Maritime Littoral Regiments… to 60 destroyers and probably 50 frigates, 70 attack submarines and a dozen ballistic missile submarines to about a 100 support ships and probably looking into the future about 150 unmanned.”

According to Gilday’s list, that force would be about 513 ships with 263 manned combatants, plus 100 logistics and supply ships and 150 unmanned vessels. Gilday told reporters later that the total would include Littoral Combat Ships.

“LCS is in that mix,” he said.

The numbers Gilday said on Friday are largely in line with a notional high-end total included in the abbreviated Fiscal Year 2022 long-range shipbuilding plan. The ongoing congressionally-mandated force structure assessment will inform the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, Gilday said. But details of the FSA have largely been under wraps as the Pentagon continues to craft its next national defense strategy.

“We’re going through another force structure assessment right now, but based on the hard work we’ve done over the last five or six years we’re thinking about how we would fight,” Gilday said. “How would we fight differently in terms of a wide, vast ocean like the Pacific?”

For the last three years, the Navy’s future force structure has been in flux, undergoing several different fleet reviews while the Department of the Navy and Pentagon leadership underwent unprecedented churn in 2019 and 2020.

The attempt at a force structure assessment led to the Trump administration releasing an ambitious fleet plan toward the end of its tenure. The Biden administration shelved the plan shortly after President Joe Biden took office, prompting the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of the Defense to again reevaluate the force under new Pentagon leadership and the prospect of a flat budget outlay.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday speaking at WEST 2022 on Feb. 18, 2022.

Over the last year, the Navy has set out on an aggressive testing program to refine the emerging Distributed Maritime Operations concept that will connect crewed and unmanned ships and aircraft to operate in concert across the vast distances of the Pacific.

In particular, Large Scale Exercise 2021 tested DMO in addition to the Marines Corps’ Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations and Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment across three combatant commands in a networked exercise with live and simulated exercises. The Navy and Marines are also testing deployed carrier strike and amphibious ready groups with complicated battle problems that further test the underlying concepts. Meanwhile, in U.S. 5th Fleet, the ongoing testing of small unmanned vessels is refining how the service thinks about employing them in the future.

“The real message I wanted to get out of those numbers, it’s actually grounded on how we’re going to fight,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has an ongoing amphibious ship requirements study that it will ultimately deliver to Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said the study is about 30 to 45 days away from completion and he expects the analysis to call for approximately 31 amphibious ships. So far, Del Toro has received two progress updates about the study, Berger said.

“If it’s anything like the previous studies – we’ve had I think 12 studies in the last 13 years – every one of them came out about 31 amphib ships,” Berger told reporters at WEST. “So I don’t know what this one will come to, but I can’t see it radically different from that. That’s requirements. That’s our Marine Corps requirement. That’s maybe different from what the nation can afford.”

The study is assessing the requirements for both large amphibious ships and the Light Amphibious Warship, which the Marine Corps wants to shuttle Marines around islands and shorelines in the Indo-Pacific. LAW is supposed to have a beaching capability so it can easily deliver Marines to the shore. While the Marine Corps is behind the push for LAW, money to purchase the platform would come out of the Navy’s shipbuilding account.

Gilday’s affirmation of the fleet follows reports the that the Biden administration is planning late influx funds into the Pentagon budget for FY 2023. USNI News reported earlier this week that the new topline could be as high $773 billion.

Top Stories 2021: U.S. Marine Corps Acquisition

This post is part of a series looking back at the top naval stories from 2021. The Marine Corps this year continued its journey to meet Marine Corps commandant Gen. David Berger’s strategic vision for the force by pursuing systems to enable the service’s Force Design 2030 goals. With a focus on operating in the vast […]

U.S. Marines with 1st Marine Logistics Group, return fire during a convoy training exercise in Camp Pendleton California. Oct 7, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

This post is part of a series looking back at the top naval stories from 2021.

The Marine Corps this year continued its journey to meet Marine Corps commandant Gen. David Berger’s strategic vision for the force by pursuing systems to enable the service’s Force Design 2030 goals.

With a focus on operating in the vast region of the Indo-Pacific, the Marines have made capabilities like anti-ship missiles a top priority for the island-hopping campaign that would prove out the Corps’ Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) concept.

The service also continued to make progress on ground and aerial systems crucial to the Marine Corps’ modernization efforts.

Naval Strike Missile

An Oshkosh-built Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary (ROGUE) Fires vehicle with a Naval Strike Missile attached during a November 2020 test at Point Mugu, Calif. US Navy Photo

Central to the Marine Corps’ strategy is acquiring ground-based anti-ship missiles, which the service envisions Marines firing from ad hoc bases on island and archipelagos throughout the Pacific. The missiles will be a key capability for the Marine Littoral Regiment, a unit construct the Marine Corps is experimenting within the Pacific.

The Marine Corps asked for 29 Naval Strike Missiles in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget request and 35 additional NSMs appeared at the top of the service’s annual unfunded priorities list.

The Marines plan to field the missiles on a modified Joint Light Tactical Vehicle and have already tested out this concept, known as the Navy-Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS). Earlier this year, the Marine Corps announced it performed a test in late 2020 with Raytheon using a Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary (ROGUE) Fires truck to launch a Naval Strike Missile.

The Navy and Marine Corps also tested the NMESIS system this summer during the Large Scale Exercise 2021.

MUX

The Marine Corps’ first MQ-9A at an undisclosed location in the Central Command area of responsibility on March 31, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

The Marine Corps previously delayed its plans to buy a large ship-based drone, known as the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Expeditionary program, or MUX, after the numerous requirements made it difficult to pursue one airframe at an appropriate cost.

The service has instead opted to pursue a family of systems approach for MUX and has used the MQ-9A Reaper drones to begin meeting some missions as it works out the approach and requirements for other components of MUX.

“The Marine Corps is currently pursuing MQ-9 as the first UAS to fulfill the MUX Family of Systems (FoS) that will provide the capability necessary to modernize the aviation combat element,” Maj. Jay Hernandez told USNI News in November.
“Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) will begin MQ-9 experimentation in 2023; the squadron will help develop operational support and tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as leveraging payloads with high technology readiness levels that will accomplish the Tier 1 capability set,” Hernandez added.

After leasing two MQ-9As from General Atomics for several years, the Marine Corps formally purchased the two aircraft this year. The first MQ-9A went to Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 (VMU-1) with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, which will experiment with the Reapers in 2023.

“The squadron will help develop operational support and tactics, techniques, and procedures, as well as leveraging payloads with high technology readiness levels that will accomplish the Tier 1 capability set,” Hernandez said.

CH-53K

U.S. Marines with Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VMX-1) test the capabilities of the CH-53K King Stallion on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune on Dec. 16, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

Fleet Marines with one of the Marine Corps’ testing squadrons started flying the CH-53K King Stallion for the first time in January, as the service prepared for the summer initial operational test and evaluation phase of the new heavy-lift helicopter program.

In September, Marines flying two CH-53Ks retrieved one of the Navy’s MH-60S helicopters in a California testing event for the IOT&E stage.

“This accomplishment highlighted the Marine Corps’ efforts to retain a next-generation heavy lift capability in support of the service’s future operating concept. Marine Corps aviation looks to the CH-53K as a much needed replacement for its current heavy lift helicopters,” the Marine Corps said in an October news release.

The Navy in its FY 2022 budget request asked for 9 CH-53Ks, which come out of the Navy’s aviation procurement account. The program is still in the low-rate initial production phase, with the Navy in June issuing Lockheed Martin-owned Sikorsky a $736 million contract modification for 9 helicopters in Lot 5 of the LRIP stage.

The Navy plans to purchase full-rate production aircraft in FY 2023. The first deployment for the CH-53Ks is slated for 2024, according to FY 2022 budget documents.

The new heavy-lift helicopter will replace the Marine Corps’ CH-53E Super Stallion.

Amphibious Combat Vehicle

An Amphibious Combat Vehicle with the Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, is staged in preparation to depart the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) as part of the vehicle’s developmental testing off the shore of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 28, 2020. US Marine Corps Photo

The effort to replace the Marine Corps’ 1970s-era Assault Amphibious Vehicles is ongoing, as the Amphibious Combat Vehicle program continued full-rate production after reaching initial operating capability late last year.

The Marine Corps plans to purchase four variants of the ACV – a personnel carrier, a recovery variant, a vehicle with a 30-mm cannon, and a command and control variant.

BAE Systems, which is building the ACV for the Marines, in February announced it had provided the Marine Corps with the first command and control ACV.

BAE started with the personnel variant, which was the type of ACV the Marine Corps tested during the initial operational test and evaluation phase of the program that began in 2020.

Also in February, the Marine Corps issued BAE a $184 million contract modification for 36 full-rate production ACVs after awarded a contract for the first 36 full-rate production vehicles in December.

Navy, Marines Need to Retool Training to Meet Threat of China’s Rapid Military Expansion, Service Leaders Say

The speed China has expanded its military has changed the way the Navy and Marine Corps must approach training, service leadership said during a panel at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference Tuesday. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday took the stage to discuss how the […]

Marine Corps Recruit Richard Jenkins with Mike Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, challenges an obstacle during a bayonet assault course at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Nov. 23, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

The speed China has expanded its military has changed the way the Navy and Marine Corps must approach training, service leadership said during a panel at the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference Tuesday.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday took the stage to discuss how the two sea services are adapting training models as they strive to compete with the country’s adversaries and meet the demands of a more technological age.

“We cannot be comfortable going at a comfortable deliberate pace anymore,” Berger said. “I think we could in the past. We cannot do that going forward.”

China, which the Pentagon has identified as the United States’ top military challenge, is pushing the U.S., Berger said, which is new. China has more people and more ships, which means training has to teach Marines and sailors how to think.

Both Berger and Gilday said the repetitive training model is still important, but training needs to move beyond that mindset. For Berger, that means training simulations need to put leaders in positions where they must learn to respond and adapt depending on the situation, including being able to talk to leadership.

Gilday spoke about the human performance aspect of “reps and sets,” something the Marine Corps’ Human Performance Branch is also looking at as part of the Marine Corps Talent Management 2030, USNI News recently reported.

While repetitive exercises are still a crucial component of training, what Gilday would like to see better identification of deficiencies so that sailors can improve.

“What we’re really after is warfighting proficiency, which reps and sets is an element of that,” he said.

In looking at training, the exercises that the fleet performs need to be based on the physical environments, as well as data-driven, Gilday said, adding that they need to be informed by how the U.S. fights as well as how its adversaries fight. They also need to be reliable and have a recording capability, he said.

A Marine with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – West, pushes a pack while conducting a 300-meter squad swim as part of the capstone exercise for the Infantry Marine Course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 28, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

Using an analytical framework when approaching training can help the Navy figure out what works and what does not, Gilday said.

But even as the Navy and Marine Corps train, sometimes together, they need to be able to try and think like the adversary, Berger said. That can be difficult because the Marine or sailor is taught under the culture of the Marine Corps or Navy.

“We need help creating a force-on-force construct that allows us to train against each other. Free-thinking but replicating the adversary, we want to plug into the model. We don’t have that yet,” he said. “We need it.”

Training also needs to account for the human aspect of service members. Take education, as an example, Berger said, which he identified as an area where the Marine Corps is moving too slowly.

Currently, Marines who show up on the same day for an educational program graduate together on the same day. That does not account for individuality in learning styles or encourage people to take on more educational challenges, the commandant said.

Aviation schooling is a model that could be adapted. Those who enter flight school on the same day may graduate on different timelines depending on how well they learn, he said.

Berger also highlighted the need to develop a baseline for tracking human performance and training, pointing to the Peloton networked exercise machines as an example. When a person uses one of the bikes, they can log into their profile, even if they are using a bike at a hotel. Being able to take a profile from place to place, or in the military’s case unit to unit, can help speed up the training process so Marines or sailors would not have to start over at a new unit, Berger said.

Fire Controlman (Aegis) Chief Petty Officer Michael Schwemmer (front) and Lt. Nick Marmureanu, an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Warfare Tactics Instructor and the Fire Control Officer assigned to USS Stockdale (DDG 106), conduct Combat Information Center training. The Surface Force started a six-month Surface Warfare Combat Training Continuum (SWCTC) pilot program, which began in January, designed to align and standardize Surface Warfare training from a knowledge-based to a skills-based approach. SWCTC will also include an automated system that tracks a tactical watchstander’s career qualifications, currency, proficiency, and experience. Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) is the lead and Executive Agent for several Naval Surface Force initiatives intended to deliver more effective and efficient training. US Navy photo

With training also comes recruitment, something the Marine Corps lays out in Talent Management 2030. But this also applies to civilian employees, Gilday said.

Right now, in the area of cyber, a person needs a four-year degree to get a job. But there are people, particularly focused on hacking, who might not earn that degree. The Navy needs to be able to adapt in order to find talent that might be overlooked, Gilday said.

The Marine Corps is also looking at recruiting, Berger said, but its challenge is not losing the reason a person might want to join the force. It is often for the culture and ethos, he said, not to develop skills.

Still, young Marines are now entering the force already digitally savvy, which means they can be connected with opportunities that would allow them to develop skills like cyber while also receiving the desire to serve, the commandant said.

The Navy is also looking at those inside the force to see who might have certain aptitudes for different careers, Gilday said, using cyber as an example.

The Department of the Navy is also looking to shape the force to be more diverse, looking at race, ethnicity and gender, but also different life experiences, he said. Both services need that diversity in order to maintain their sailors and Marines and prevent them from seeking other service branches or the civilian workforce.

“I think the Navy and Marine Corps [have] the opportunity to be the most diverse services in the Department of Defense, and I really think that we’re working hard to change the way we attract and recruit talent,” Gilday said.