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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part II, US Marine Corps
An Era of Service Cacophony, Military Dis-Jointedness, Command Naivete, and Cultural Revolution
United States Marine Corps: More Corps than Marine
The Good: The former Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Berger, has certainly been bold in pursuing the toughest modernizations of any US military service. General Eric Smith, a thoughtful and forceful Marine, was poised to continue in this direction. However, Gen Smith suffered a heart attack recently, calling into question who will lead the Corps into a period of increasing danger with regards to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Regardless of the troubled leadership transition, the Marine Corps deserves credit for envisioning what a future war in the Pacific looks like and moving rapidly to meet the challenge.
The Corps has also made marked progress on the beginnings of what a 21st century littoral defense looks like with the development of the Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR - our in-depth article on that topic here). As technology matures and funds are applied to the incipient MLR units, they will mature into what US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) requires: a long-range sense and strike unit capable of rapid movement throughout the First Island Chain (FIC). Vermilion recognizes that the MLR’s current equipment is too short-ranged in general, but this is programmed to change in the outyears.
While Marine senior leaders moved out quickly in creating the MLR, Marine Corps leadership accepted risk in communicating these changes down and laterally. The joint force is generally not aware of the MLR or Marine capabilities throughout the First Island Chain. Even when aware, operational planners are unfamiliar with what the MLR can do and have a tendency to ignore Marine units or mentally fence them off into a small area of the FIC.
In terms of command and control, the Marine Corps has made great progress in integrating their staff personnel with the US Navy. In October 2022, the 3d Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) and Naval Task Force 76 staff merged into Task Force 76/3 (TF 76/3) in order to conduct joint maritime operations and experimentation. While this is a good start, it is still a head scratcher as to why this is not the norm across the joint force and all services.
Also on the command and control front, the USMC is making good progress on expeditionary multi-domain awareness of the battlespace, particularly in regards to missiles, aircraft, and drones. In 2022, the 2nd Marine Air Wing (MAW) deployed a Multi-function Air Operations Center (MAOC) to Lithuania to assist in the control of missiles and aircraft. The MAOC will deliver a critical coordination capability in a First Island Chain fight. Modern offense is quite difficult, and without coordination, warfighting will degenerate to the bloody stalemate witnessed in Ukraine. The MAOC will help the US offense coordinate periods of projection against the enemy, while also coordinating the defense of friendly air and sea spaces which allow for the possibility of offensive action.
The Corps is also beginning to operate the MQ-9 Reaper as of 2023. The Reaper is a proven UAS platform that can deliver quality ISR and decent precision fires to the littoral battlefield. Ultimately, the USMC plans for all their Reapers to be MQ-9A Marine Air-Ground Task Force [MAGTF] Unmanned Expeditionary (MUX) Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) Extended Range (ER) models. These modifications make the reaper more suitable for the Pacific’s long distances.
Yet as the name has grown more ridiculous, so has the price. The MQ9A MUX/MALE ER is now about $39m per copy. If the individual platform increases in cost during the yearly budgetary process, then the capability it delivers becomes more brittle on the battlefield. Expendability is supposed to be the Reaper’s strength, and the USMC is generally not swimming in cash across the fiscal year defense program (FYDP).
The extended range (ER) upgrades certainly make sense, but in conventional warfare, mass will be more important for an ISR UAS than high end capability. The Predator/Reaper platform has very poor defense capabilities against modern air defense systems (as recent demonstrated near Yemen), and a stealth Reaper would be far too expensive for too little payload. The Corps should be focusing on a cheaper Reaper, not one with extra capabilities (except extended range). Harmonization with the Army’s Gray Eagle Extended Range (GE-ER) program could potentially realize cost savings for both services within the 5 years of the FYDP.
Finally, the Marine Corps still maintains a clear culture edge over other services, both enemy and friendly. Interactions with Marine units leave no doubt that most Marines strive to be professional warriors. It is clear that Marines behave as if they are in the military and want to be there; something that cannot always be said when interacting with other US services.
The Bad: From semi-official and official writings, discussions, and a reading of the zeitgeist, it is clear that a portion of the Marine Corps is still quite enamored with Iraq and Afghanistan. These decades-long, near-totally land-based, generally non-expeditionary, air and space supremacy granted, counterinsurgency campaigns dominate the muscle memory of the mid-level institutional Corps, though not the top level active and reserve leadership. While not surprising, it is disappointing. The Marine Corps continues to live its interwar history over again:
“…the Corps’ pursuit of an amphibious capability was not an entirely unified affair. Some Marines, for example, believed their future lay in “small wars” or counterinsurgency operations, rather than landing operations. This division persisted throughout the interwar period…”
The interwar period discussed above would be 1919-1941 (or 1937), not our modern day. Turning to modernity, the Corps has re-lived its Banana Wars as the US Army delegated to the USMC a particularly undesirable area of both Afghanistan and Iraq (Helmand Province / Anbar Province). Over the course of many years, it was the Corps’ mission to first control the ground and then conduct counterinsurgency ops in these austere regions.
Corps leadership diverted resources into understanding both countries at the cultural level as well as equipping the force for the low intensity fight. These efforts had a mixed record of success, but included the fateful cancellation of the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle / Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, the USMC’s next-generation amphibious vehicle.
The overhang of Iraq and Afghanistan is understandable given the Corps’ intense focus on battles versus wars. If the United States were to become embroiled in another low intensity fight (which is a more common occurrence than conventional interstate war) Washington would expect the USMC to deploy very early to the conflict and employ the Marines’ deep counterinsurgency experience to bring home early successes.
However, what counterinsurgency specialists miss is that while the likelihood of Sino-American or Russo-American war may be lower, the consequences of such a war would be strategic and would remake the international system. Every campaign in such a war would have follow-on consequences for the distribution of global power.
When the US withdrew in defeat from Afghanistan, the world, including the American people, simply shrugged and moved on with their lives. A war in the First Island Chain (FIC) would see national boundaries, international commerce, and many nations’ capabilities significantly altered, not to mention massive casualties unlike anything the US has experienced since WWII.
The bloodiest battle of the Iraq War was Operation Phantom Fury, the Second Battle of Fallujah. Less than 100 Americans died during that operation, a number which would be instantly eclipsed by the opening seconds of a PRC firepower strike on US forces. Current operationalists have a hard time grasping that the casualties and logistics expenditures of such a high intensity war shrink months of low intensity conflict statistics into seconds.
Ironically, there could be much to learn from the conventional phases of Iraq and Afghanistan that is applicable to the Pacific. General Mattis’ command of Task Force 58 in 2001 as it conducted the longest distance amphibious airfield seizure in history could be quite instructive. Task Force 58, contained in two Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), launched from the Arabian Sea and overflew Pakistan to help secure what would become Camp Rhino about 650km away in Afghanistan. Incredibly, the distance between Naha, Okinawa and Taipei, Taiwan is almost exactly the same, at about 630km.
Similar study of the conventional phase of the 2003 Iraq invasion as well as the 1991 Persian Gulf War could also yield insights. However, the warfighters that conducted all of these maneuvers have largely aged out of the force, leaving only a diminishing group of officers and NCOs with experience limited exclusively to counterinsurgency operations.
This lack of major combat operations experience has caused some fuzziness to enter the Marines’ sight picture. In particular, the group of Marines that are resistant to the Corps’ change of focus should emphasize counterinsurgency less and concentrate on getting the balance between amphibious offense and defensive defense correct. The group of Marines that have embraced the Corps’ new path with FD2030 should begin understanding the differences between littoral operations as envisioned through the Marine Littoral Regiment and anti-landing operations so that Quantico can pursue both capabilities.
Littoral Operations vs Anti-landing Defense
The Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR) is dedicated primarily to supporting fleet operations throughout the First Island Chain. An implied mission is supporting the MEF (which is contained within the fleet) as it fights its way back into theater. The MLR serves as not only the stand in force, but the transition force or pivot for the larger joint force to move from defense to offense.
While this is a very important capability, the MLR is still not aimed at the central question of the Pacific theater, the dilemma that created the need for the MLR in the first place: the anti-landing campaign on Taiwan. 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force lives on Okinawa, and in the event of crisis or war, these Marines will likely be the first force on the scene capable of blunting a PLA amphibious assault against Taiwan.
After the battles for Wake and assaults against Guadalcanal, the USMC never needed to fend off a serious amphibious assault. The battle for the Philippines was the Army’s responsibility. This has left a major lacuna in the Marine Corps’ collective consciousness. The Corps is Congressionally mandated to serve in the defense of advanced naval bases, places which would logically include Luzon, Taiwan, and islands throughout Japan. There is a serious doctrinal gap regarding amphibious defense/anti-landing operations which will only grow in future urgency and importance.
This responsibility falls squarely into the Corps’ own semi-spiritual organizing philosophy of being “America’s 911 force”, or “America’s force in readiness.” As Bryan McGrath has pointed out, what these ideas really mean is that the USMC’s virtue as a service is immediacy. The Marines combine all the elements of a large conventional force and compress them into rapid reaction units (MAGTFs) capable of maneuvering from the sea or air. In reality, the MLR is not a huge departure from faithful Marine Corps orthodoxy. It is simply a tailored MAGTF, with roots stretching back to the Marine Defense Battalions of WWII.
The Marines traditionally view their service as offense-oriented, and the US military as a whole has historically very limited experience with anti-landing operations. While the deployment of US Army armored divisions to Taiwan would obviate the onus on the USMC to react in near-isolation to a PLA attack, it is not clear that Washington has the political will to execute such an effective deployment of troops before 2030. Additionally, any fight throughout the First Island Chain (FIC) will require extensive use of amphibious defense and offense, even without involving Taiwan. The Marines are on the hook as America’s force in readiness across Asia, like it or not.
Ironically, it is the Germans and Japanese that actually have the most anti-landing experience from WWII. In general, there are three types of anti-landing defenses: naval defense, beach defense, and mobile defense. As WWII dragged on, it became blindingly obvious to both Berlin and Tokyo that the only effective type of operational plan was a strong mobile defense backed up by elements of the other two. It was a concentrated German armored attack that bottled up the Allied landing force at Anzio, neutralizing it until Allied units farther south pierced the Gustav Line to relieve the Anzio beachhead. This was the closest the Axis powers came to preventing a major allied joint forcible entry operation / amphibious assault throughout WWII.
In the same vein, it was Hitler’s 1944 decision to place the great majority of panzer and panzergrenadier divisions directly under OKW (German military high command) and therefore only his own personal purview that led directly to the Germans’ failure during the Normandy Invasion. As the Allies commenced landing operations on 6 June (D-Day), OKW would not notify Hitler for 6-12 hours. This meant that the closest armored units, the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend and Panzer Lehr (130th Panzer Division) would not arrive on the battlefield until 7 June, too late to launch an effective attack directly against the Allied beachhead.
The Imperial Japanese military learned many of the same lessons, beginning with naval and beach oriented defenses early in the war, then eventually moving to an inland mobile defense supported by combined arms, particularly kamikaze pilots and limited armored reserves.
It is because of the above historical lessons that modern-day Taiwan likely desires to purchase M1A2T tanks which would serve as the punching power behind a mobile defense. A heavy ground-based mechanized force is able to rapidly bring to bear much more effective warfighting equipment than what a lightly equipped amphibious landing force must use.
To be effective at defending areas like Taiwan (which the Marines will be responsible for whether they appreciate that fact or not due to the US military’s current posture) the Corps should invest in Littoral Armored Counter-Assault Regiments and anti-landing advisor teams. The Counter-Assault Regiments should develop techniques for delivering heavy Marine mechanized forces optimized for anti-landing operations through means of rapid air or sea delivery. The unit should be something of a USMC version of the Army’s XVIIIth Corps but perhaps based throughout Guam, Saipan, Palau, and Japan. The elements could be rotated through theater exercises to get them closer to Taiwan during different times of the year.
The anti-landing advisors should support the US Army’s Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs), be composed of both Marine and Navy personnel, and structured to advise multiple echelons of Navy and Marine/Army forces on conducting anti-landing campaigns on both small islands and larger pieces of terrain. These advisor teams would be in high demand throughout Taiwan, the Penghu Islands, Philippines, Luzon, Batanes Province, and the Japanese Southwest Islands.
Balancing Amphibious Offense & Amphibious Defense
Ultimately, these gaps exist because the conventional narrative surrounding amphibious operations is deeply flawed. While we commend former Commandant Berger for his vision, he is almost certainly wrong when he discusses offensive amphibious operations:
“Even if there were a strong and credible requirement for large-scale forcible entry operations, such operations could not be carried out in the face of an adversary that has integrated the technologies and disciplines of the mature precision strike regime. As I noted in my Planning Guidance, the days of massed naval armadas nine miles offshore from some contested feature are long over.”
Here, Berger is confusing future operational necessity with current tactical means. For thousands of years, national decision makers, military strategists, and operational staff have decided that amphibious assaults are a requirement for victory. Prognostications of military officers who never conducted amphibious assaults let alone extended conventional warfare should be weighed appropriately against all of military history.
Thinkers like Berger fail to understand that their argument undercuts itself. The modern Marine Corps has announced that offensive amphibious maneuver is not possible. Yet at the same time, it is the Corps that has leaned most into embracing the PRC as the pacing threat due to a possible Taiwan invasion. Yet the Taiwan invasion campaign centers around a massive amphibious assault, potentially the largest in human history. If offensive amphibious maneuver is dead, why does the US have to radically modernize to defend against a PLA amphibious assault? Even in wargames which end with a US victory, the cost of that victory is incredibly high and the PLA shows as of yet no signs of slowing down its modernization or expansion.
Washington and Quantico should be careful announcing that amphibious assault is dead. The annals of modern warfare are filled with an astonishing amount of successful amphibious assaults. When thinking about WWI, many Marines may be able to recall the specifics of the failed Gallipoli amphibious campaign of 1917. However, few can discuss the successful 1914 Japanese amphibious assault of Qingdao/Tsingtao against the Germans, which featured the world’s first use of sea-launched naval aviation against a ground target in combat. Similarly forgotten is Imperial Germany’s successful Operation Albion in 1917.
When taking into account the record of amphibious assaults during WWII, it was actually a rare event when these operations were not successful. Amphibious ops require high levels of planning, support, and logistics. Therefore, they are not often taken lightly by the attacking force and become operational focus points.
Quantico will need to think hard about offensive and defensive amphibious maneuver in the 21st century. There are hints that the USMC is already doing so, including mentions of a new amphibious doctrine in the works, as well as ongoing efforts to modernize the amphibious fleet like the impressive (but cancelled) UHAC.
The Ugly: Overall, the USMC has become far too much like another Army corps of three divisions and has developed too little as an amphibious or expeditionary force in readiness. This is understandable but not forgivable. From 2000 to 2020, the DoD could simply have assigned an Army corps to train on amphibious equipment and conduct exercises like Talisman Sabre and Large Scale Exercise (LSE).
The USMC’s contribution to America’s national security is more than just men in machines. Quantico needs to generate more original thought about the 21st century amphibious warfare concepts discussed above. Force Design 2030 is meant to put better tools in the hands of the combatant commander while adapting Marines to thrive inside the enemy weapons engagement zone. In other words it is a good start that only covers the first opening weeks of a war.
At the same time it is experiencing these intellectual challenges, the USMC’s adversary counterpart, the People’s Liberation Army Naval Marine Corps (PLANMC) has likely been downgraded in importance. The primary core of the PLA’s amphibious force now resides in at least six heavy amphibious combined arms brigades (HACABs) which are fielded by the PLA Army (PLAA), not the PLANMC. This means that the USMC is now faced with matching the capabilities of a much more robust PLAA formation with greater troop density, tougher organic air defense, more engineering support, and significant access to fires capability.
The centerpiece of each HACAB is the Type 05 (mainly ZBD 05 & ZTD 05) family of vehicles. These are lightly armored high-water speed amphibious troop transports armed with 30mm autocannons or 105mm tank guns. The American version is the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV), which has a current acquisition objective (total requirement of systems to field) of 632. This is about half of the originally planned for 1,122, another capacity shortfall driven by a tight DoD budget. In Contrast, the PLA Army and PLANMC plan to eventually field in excess of 1,500 ZBD and ZTD amphibious vehicles, giving the PLA almost three times the amphibious maneuver capacity of the US joint force. To make matters worse, the USMC has not fielded the entire 632 inventory yet; 2024’s planned purchase is just 80 systems, which will top up the Corps’ inventory to only about 200 total vehicles.
The story gets worse. The standard vehicle for a PLA medium combined arms brigade is the ZBL Type 08. The ZBL 08 is almost certainly fully capable of oceanic amphibious maneuver, albeit not at the high speeds the Type 05 is capable of. Type 08 equipped medium brigades are common throughout the PLA Army, with more than 4,000 Type 08 and Type 11 (a Type 08 with an assault gun mounted) vehicles fielded.
To give a historical lens to the acquisition numbers discussed above, when the US Marines conducted an amphibious assault against Saipan in 1944, “700 amphibious tractors were employed to unload 8,000 Marines across a 4,000-yard front in 20 minutes.” This was the opening phase of a single battle.
While the Marines’ current operational concept is still more advanced and realistic than the other US services, the Corps is stuck staring at a fraction of the problem: the deterrent and defensive requirements at the opening of a war with China. Thinking must progress to anti-landing and then offensive amphibious maneuver.
The cancellation of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, combined with the safety stand down of the Corps’ legacy amphibious fleet, and the previous surf zone training stand down of the brand new Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV) fleet, has led to the current situation where the Marine Corps is only slowly returning to amphibious ops and is not acting consistently with its previous hard-won battle experience.
This is not to say that progress isn’t being made. The Corps is grinding out small wins. Assault Amphibians are very slowly returning to actual surf zone training utilizing the ACV after a series of mishaps in 2022. The core US national amphibious capability lies in these Assault Amphibian Battalions. Amphibious operations are inherently risky and rollover of steel vehicles swimming through ocean waves will happen occasionally. Realistic training can be deadly, especially for combat arms units conducting cross-domain maneuver. Unfortunately, the modern DoD has a pavlovian obsession with safety (instilled by Congress) to the detriment of mission as well as acquisition of new equipment.
Before discussing posture shortfalls, it should be kept in mind that military posture is a State Department responsibility. It is the President and State who have lead for negotiating US military access to other countries. While the USMC is rapidly creating new units and equipment to meet the threat, it is then forced to base those units in all the wrong places.
Obviously, any CONUS position is far too distant from the operating area for a stand-in-force. This means the decades of Global War on Terror era investments in infrastructure and construction at Camp Pendleton, MCAS Miramar, Twenty-Nine Palms, Camp Lejeune, and MCAS Cherry Point are not helpful in posturing the Marine Corps to take the fight to the PLA (let alone sustain the fight).
The Corps is taking on these issues through the Installations & Logistics 2030 initiative, which will require serious Congressional support as well as State Department support in expanding access, basing, and overflight (ABO) throughout the Pacific.
Unfortunately, the Corps and the US military as a whole are starting on the back foot. President Carter’s decision to end the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty (SAMDT) with the Republic of China/Taiwan in 1979 (over the objections of the Senate settled through the Supreme Court case Goldwater v Carter) closed the DoD’s most operationally significant Pacific bases located directly on Taiwan.
At the height of the SAMDT, between 1959 and 1979, an average of over 5,000 US troops were stationed in the country of Taiwan every year. These bases offered Washington the ability to finely tune deterrence actions (what are today called flexible deterrent options [FDOs]) and messaging. For example, during the 1958 Second Taiwan Strait Crisis, President Eisenhower deployed about 20,000 troops to Taiwan, one of the major reasons that Beijing made the decision to de-escalate.
While the DoD lost its most operationally significant bases in 1979, the DoD would also lose its highest capacity bases only 12 years later, by 1991. The US military’s largest overseas presence globally had traditionally been in the Philippines at Clark Air Base and Naval Base Subic Bay (the number one and number two largest overseas DoD installations during their tenure).
President Carter again spearheaded negotiations which ended up with the US on a poor footing. Also concluded in 1979, the negotiations essentially changed the language and understanding of the status of the bases with Washington changing from landlord to tenant. Most of the actual territory of the base areas retroceded to Manila.
Before the 1979 Carter agreement, Naval Base Subic Bay alone was about the size of the country of Singapore. The base was capable of docking, replenishing, repairing, and protecting warships, vessels, and craft of all types. Investments in infrastructure were easier to make when the US maintained greater status and rights over the base territory before 1979.
By the late ‘60s, there were over 200 Navy ships calling at Subic Bay every month. After the United States Naval Shipyard Brooklyn was closed in 1966, much of its equipment and machine tools were transferred to Subic Bay for continued fleet repair and maintenance operations.
Despite the negotiation challenges, there was plenty of room to maintain a healthy presence in the Philippines. Unfortunately, in 1991-92 Washington and Manila could not reach an agreement on the yearly lease fee for the bases, leading to the withdrawal of US military forces from the Philippines.
This double whammy has severely curtailed the Corps’ basing options throughout the First Islands Chain. The solution has been to rely nearly totally on Japan and forces afloat while constructing extra capacity throughout the Second Island Chain (Guam, Northern Marianas Islands, Republic of Palau). None of these options are sufficient, even when combined.
In the first case, Japan can be difficult to work with based on its purposefully lethargic and clunky legal structure designed to slow down military action. It is possible that in the crisis leading to war, Japanese law would still require US forces to be sequestered into the small bases they currently inhabit, with no ability to disperse and avoid a devastating first strike. Even taking those issues off the table, Japan only covers the northern approaches to China and Taiwan.
This is not to downplay Tokyo’s central strategic importance to the US, only to highlight that from a tactical perspective, Japanese basing options are either too exposed or mostly too far from Taiwan.
In the second case, Guam is quite constricted being only around 200 square miles in area (smaller than pre-1979 Naval Base Subic Bay, about three times the size of the District of Columbia, or almost the same size as the Hawaiian island of Moloka’i). US military stations on the island are also sitting ducks unless a dense integrated air and missile defense system is established, something DoD is already planning for.
Even with a robust defensive system, it is questionable how well Guam can be defended against salvos of much cheaper offensive missiles. Besides for protection issues, Guam is still 1,600 miles from Taiwan, making it a questionable base for ground forces planning to fight the PRC.
What is clear from the basing discussion above is the obvious fact that USMC units and weapons systems are also too slow and short-ranged to be highly effective from current bases. The Corps is actively working on these issues with the Long-range Missile (LMSL) Battery and other efforts. Of course, the pace of change is incredibly slow, with the first fully operational LMSL battery planned to go hot in 2030.
Improve Intra-Corps Communication: Within the Corps, USMC leadership must effectively communicate the reasoning behind changes to subordinates. Too many company and field grade officers do not understand the nature of the US pacing threat and actively denigrate the current glide path of the USMC. These sentiments are trickling down to junior officers and junior enlisted, creating an environment where warfighters think senior leadership is detached from reality. Much more needs to be done to communicate, especially considering leadership is currently concerned with urgent medical issues.
Gain a Holistic View of Global Expeditionary Operations: USMC leadership has done quite well in making smart decisions on hard tradeoffs between service funding levels, commitment to current operations, and modernization to face the pacing threat. Regardless, all informed change must come from critiques of the current situation. The Corps needs to think more deeply about amphibious operations across the First Island Chain, Scandinavia, and the Black Sea.
The Marine Littoral Regiment (MLR) is not just an appendix of the Navy. How does the defensive/fires oriented MLR support the offensive oriented Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF)? How do 21st century amphibious assaults work?
Once the MLR and the fleet open up gaps in the enemy force, how does the MEF seize the beachhead? How do Army airborne and air assault forces support the amphibious assault? Just as important, how do second echelon Army and Marine formations conduct breakout from the beach after it is secure? How does the Air Force support this complex operation, especially air support to the fleet? The Marine Corps better figure it out because no one else will.
Properly Equip the Offensive Arm (MEF): Finish ACV 2.0 as soon as feasible, cap the program, and then completely change platforms. Begin a next generation amphibious assault vehicle program which prioritizes high water speed (HWS), long operational distance (a big gas tank), firepower, and an active protection system.
Balance Marine Capabilities Against the Pacing Threat: Embark on a campaign of learning to understand the PLA threats which the USMC faces in intimate detail. Once this is complete, begin thoughtful study of how the Marine Corps can field capabilities which play to the Corps’ strength and the PLA’s weakness. For example, it is not clear that removing the 0317 Scout Sniper MOS (and replacing it with a simpler Scout program) is wise while preparing for a fight with the PLA. Expensive pre-war training which invests in increasing the quality of individual Marines could make all the difference in combat.
Understand Anti-Landing Campaigns: The USMC should begin a separate campaign of learning to inform the future development of a robust anti-landing capability. Learning should focus on historical lessons learned and the latest in modern defense technology. Partially capable anti-landing units should be fielded by 2026.