Traditional Marine Corps missions--such as launching attacks from the sea --are being neglected as units prepare for urban combat, and officials worry that important skills are eroding.
"The Marine Corps, out of necessity, has been focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, but we have a larger responsibility to the nation, to be that force of readiness for higher-end type missions," said Lt. Gen. Keith Stalder, commanding officer of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force.
The Corps plans to increase its size by 27,000 Marines during the next five years. The boost will allow the force to shift back to traditional skill sets, including combined arms integration, fires and maneuver on a large scale, which the nation will require in the future, Stalder said at a recent industry conference.
Bolstering the number of Marines in the Corps would allow units more time to train for those higher end missions, he said. "I think all the services have that same challenge ... If they had more capacity, they would be able to get those higher-end missions into the training."
Some of those missions--combined arms integration and forcible entry from the sea--are niche capabilities that the Defense Department absolutely cannot do without in the future, Stalder said.
The U.S. military expects to become more expeditionary in nature as overseas bases dwindle. The Marine Corps' ability to operate from the sea could become essential, he added.
"It's going to be an interesting 10 to 15 years for the Defense Department," said Mike Lowe, operations officer for the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities, a think tank at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va. "I think we will see some major rudder steers within the Marine Corps."
But which direction that may be remains unclear. "I think you deal with uncertainty by being ready...