Amid rising tensions with great power competitor China, the Navy and Marine Corps are planning to more closely integrate their forces.
Speaking at a recent industry conference, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said China is sailing deeper into blue waters.
"We have watched them ... build [and] expand a conventional defensive force and kind of yawned for a long time--until they went to sea," he said.
China--alongside Russia--was listed as a peer competitor in the 2018 National Defense Strategy. The nation has beefed up its military spending across the board as it invests in a variety of new ships and advanced weapons. (See story on page 26)
In order for the United States to maintain its maritime advantage, the Navy and Marine Corps will need to more closely integrate, particularly if they want to be ready to take on China in a potential future fight, Berger said.
Successful integration will require a concerted effort after decades of land warfare during conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, Berger said.
"We didn't intentionally walk away from each other," he said of the sister services. "We had different tasks to do and we did them very, very well. For the next 20, 30, 40 years, we must do a different task, and it has to be integrating--not out of sentiment but out of reality."
The Marine Corps still has a portfolio of programs geared toward counterinsurgency missions, rather than great power warfare, he noted. Large-scale teaming with the Navy wasn't viewed as a necessity in the years before the Pentagon's attention turned to China.
"Why? Because nobody challenged us. Our competition was ourselves," Berger said. There was "no real peer competition that... caused us to integrate outside an amphibious ready group and a Marine expeditionary unit."
However, the nation can no longer afford to have a Navy and Marine Corps that are not closely intertwined, he said. "It is not a nice to have fiscally, operationally or strategically, Berger said. "It's a must do."
In Berger's planning guidance, which was released over the summer when he took the helm of the service, he noted that adversaries have made advancements in long-range precision fires, making closer naval integration an imperative.
"The focal point of the future integrated naval force will shift from traditional power projection to meet the new challenges associated with maintaining persistent naval forward presence to enable sea control and denial operations," he said.