The Marine Corps’ must work to better integrate future capabilities and warfighting concepts with the Navy to prepare for the growing power competition with China, the commandant said Wednesday.

Gen. David Berger told attendees at the Surface Navy Association’s conference his force must shift away from its posture of the last 20 years to a fully integrated Naval force capable of rapidly switching from deterrence to “stand-in action.”

Gen. David Berger, the Marines Corps commandant

“Going forward, it’s a different picture. The nation cannot afford for the Navy and Marine Corps to not be integrated. Fiscally, strategically, operationally, it is a must do,” Berger said. “Our force right now is unbalanced. Our Naval force is unbalanced. It is built for stand-off, largely. We must develop that depth that provides us a stand-in and stand-off force.”

Berger said China’s “paradigm shift in moving to the sea” is a significant factor in the need to push for changes to force design and expand the Marine Corps’ weapon capability portfolio with the Navy.

“We have watched them build and expand a conventional defensive force, and kind of yawned for a long time, until they went to sea. It has been their shift to the sea that has changed the dynamics significantly,” Berger said. “For the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years, we must do a different task and it has to be integrated. Not out of sentiment, but out of reality, in my opinion.”

Berger has previously detailed his plan to implement a series of changes to Marine Corps’ warfighting concepts and force design to reshape what the force must look like by 2030 (Defense Daily, Oct. 3).  

The commandant said in October officials currently have an 80 to 85 percent picture of what capabilities the Marine Corps will require in 2030 and beyond, including longer-range anti-ship missiles, more unmanned systems and an emphasis on “strapping weapons onto decks of ships.”

New capabilities will be required to meet peer competitors’ potential to move away from mutual stand-off with long-range precision fires, adding that “the farther you back away from China, they’re going to move toward you.” 

Berger said ongoing Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment and Marine Corps’ Force Design documents, along with continuous wargaming and experimentation, will inform the growing shift toward integration.