Dunford: Marines will continue to be needed

Marine Corps Times

By James K. Sanborn - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Apr 14, 2011 11:15:19 EDT

Marines will become an increasingly important piece of the U.S. arsenal in a climate of budget cuts and global instability, the Corps’ assistant commandant said during a speech Thursday morning in Washington.
Speaking at the 39th IFPA-Fletcher Conference on National Security Strategy and Policy, Gen. Joseph Dunford said the Marine Corps will weather budget cuts better than the other services because of its ability to assert itself as an inexpensive, but effective response force capable of quickly reacting to emerging crisis across the globe.

“You’re going to need forces like the Marine Corps that allow you to respond when unexpected, even in the context of a drawdown,” he said, using recent uprisings in the Middle East as an example.
More from Dunford’s speech:

• Defense News: Marines unworried by new cuts (April 14)

He used the backdrop of increasing instability and uncertainty to argue for high-priced Marine Corps projects, including the F35-B Joint Strike Fighter. Although the F-35-B’s development has been plagued by setbacks, Dunford said its short-takeoff vertical-landing capability exponentially increases the service’s ability to quickly respond to emerging threats. It will also mean an increase, from 11 to 22, in the number of big-deck ships that can carry fifth-generation fighters. That means Marine squadrons can be prepositioned in more regions.

As important as new technology, he said, is the Marine Corps’ mission to forge lasting relationships with foreign militaries. Through training and cooperation exercises, he said, the Marine Corps is able to gain inroads in volatile regions of the world.

“Those kinds of relationships are small investments with huge payoffs strategically down the road,” he said, offering Egypt as a prime example.
The Marine Corps has regularly worked to train Egyptian forces and forged close ties with senior military leadership in that country. That allowed U.S. officials to maintain open lines of communication with Egyptian officials, even during the most tumultuous days of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, who served as Egypt’s president since 1981. The Egyptian military was able to maintain relative stability and open lines of communication with the U.S., in part because of the training its members received from Marines, Dunford said.

The Marine Corps engages in about 160 exercises in 50 countries each year and will continue to prioritize its foreign training mission, he said.
Dunford also used the conference as an opportunity to call for better non-lethal weapons. Marine leadership needs to “energize” efforts to quickly develop non-lethal weapons. “Squads and platoons that are interacting with people [in Afghanistan] want to take decisive action but limit the possibility of injuring civilians,” he said.

Currently, “the demand for non-lethal weapons exceeds the inventory, he said.