The Marine Corps does not plan to ask Congress for budget increases as it pushes to redesign the force by 2030, and will look to divest from both legacy systems and recently fielded capabilities to invest in modernization.

Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, also told attendees during a virtual Modern Day Marine event that the Navy’s new shipbuilding plan includes the ships the force has sought as part of its redesign effort.

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David Berger speaks during a change of command of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Aug. 8, 2018 when he relinquished command to his successor. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)
Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

“We need industry to innovate quickly and we need you to be able to produce at-scale. And we need to iterate much more quickly than we are right now. We’ve got to do all that in a fiscally-constrained environment. And all of that, I’m confident, is possible,” Berger said Wednesday.“To get there, we’re divesting legacy equipment. It’s older equipment that was well-suited for what we needed 20 years ago, and some newer equipment that designed and developed 10 to 15 years ago but is only now being fielded and may not be what we need for 2025 and 2030.”

On the shipbuilding plan, Berger didn’t name specific requests that ended up in the final version but added this was the first time the Marine Corps has worked with the Navy throughout the entire process.

“The end result of that is new classes of ships that the Marine Corps must have. And they’re in the plan,” Berger said. 

Berger has been leading the effort to redesign the Marine Corps by 2030 with a focus on naval expeditionary warfare in actively contested spaces and building a lighter force capable of meeting future challenges against peer competitors such as China.

While he said Congress has been more supportive of the force redesign plan than he had anticipated, Berger noted he does not plan on asking for “a nickel more” from lawmakers as the modernization effort moves forward.

“They very much appreciated that we weren’t going there with a tin cup to ask for more from Congress. But I told them if we go down this path and we get rid of certain pieces of equipment and we shrink the size of the Marine Corps in order to generate the funds that we’re going to need and you take that money, then we’re going to be a smaller, older Marine Corps. And that you don’t want,” Berger said.

Facing likely flat or declining budgets in the coming years, the Marine Corps has previously said it’s found $12 billion it could to shift from low priorities toward its redesign effort (Defense Daily, March 27). 

“All of us love the things that we’re getting rid of. We love them. We have to make hard decisions about what we must retain,” Berger said.

Berger did not name any specific systems on Wednesday that are likely to be cut, but his force redesign plan included eliminating tank battalions, cutting the number of artillery cannon batteries and amphibious vehicle companies and reducing all tiltrotor, attack and heavy lift squadrons (Defense Daily, March 24).

Future investments will include a 300 percent increase in rocket artillery capacity and anti-ship missiles, as well as doubling the number of unmanned air and ground systems, according to the redesign plan.

“We have to be technically disruptive. We have to confront aggressors, I believe, with an array of low-signature and affordable capabilities. We have tended toward overly exquisite, very expensive single-purpose capabilities. That runs the risk, however, of encumbering our force,” Berger said.