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Sequestration, Contingency Operations, and Why America Needs a Marine Corps

On November 10, 1775 while sitting at a local tavern in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin witnessed the first of a few volunteers who would enlist their names in a log book to bear the title of United States Marine. During an era where a nation’s majesty was, in part, reflected on the might of its navy, boasting a corps of marines was essential. The marines provided a tactical advantage to any naval ship fortunate enough to have them aboard. As soldiers of the sea, marines were mobile and adaptable, easily deployable and not restricted to manning the rigging of a ship, or digging in the sands of the beach. Marines are by definition an amphibious force.

Today, the United States Navy no longer employs ships dependent on sails, nor sailors whose only function is to rig canvas. Indeed, our modern Navy possesses hosts of tactical personal ranging from the well-known Sea Air and Land teams (colloquially SEALs) to the lesser known Special Warfare Combat Crewman (colloquially SWCC).  Even our modern Army and Air Force has components adaptable for amphibious operations within their regular and Special Forces units. Given the aforementioned modernized United States military might, many have raised the question: why does the United States need a Marine Corps? Any Drill Instructor at Parris Island or San Diego worth his salt would sharply answer the latter with “America doesn’t need a Marine Corps, America wants a Marine Corps!” Indeed, this may be exactly how the country feels about our beloved Corps. However, feelings may only go so far, and the question of the Corps’ need could not come amidst a worse climate of fiscal stress and sequestration underway within the DoD.

Post the recent debacle that plagued Washington this fall, Congress now faces yet another ultimatum, sequester or shut down. It would not be the first time the U.S. military suffers sequestration. Indeed, proposed legislation would cut DoD spending by more than $20 billion, and as they have in the past, smaller service branches, like the Corps, will suffer most. It is no state secret that the Marines are the few. Responding to Congress’ call, Headquarters Marine Corps plans to lower the current number of active Marines from 195,338 to 174,000 in the near future; to put that into perspective, the U.S. Army employs just over 1.1 million personnel. Larger branches, such as the Army, Navy, and Air Force will feel sequestration far less than the Corps. Contrary to the needs of modern combat, law makers and top DoD brass feel it best to allocate more funds to new generations of armored tanks and stealth destroyers than they do to a smaller fast response force. How will this new legislation affect national security? For one, it will most certainly aid in our preparation for a long, sustained land and sea war against the –fill in the blank – nation. However, it will detract from the effectiveness of our ability to respond quickly to more common global emergencies, the Benghazis and Hayins of the world.  

Setting aside Special Forces, the Marine Corps is our nation’s primary force in readiness. Often referred to as the United States “911 force,” the Marines maintain mission readiness by being available to respond to any point on the globe within six hours of the President’s command. They are the first on scene when any disaster strikes, be it manmade or natural, providing relief and security with bullets, beans, or band-aids. Indeed, given their flexibility, mobility, speed, and self-sustained support, the Marines are the ideal new age military force.

Terror is on the rise, smaller cells across the globe are joining forces with the ever resilient and growing Al-Qaeda  suicide bombings are occurring regularly in Iraq, terrorists have lowered their standards to settling for “smaller events” to achieve their goals, and the likelihood of the United States entering into another conventional war in a nuclear age is close to zero. $20 billion in budget cuts will affect the Marine Corps more than the larger branches, starting first with personnel and moving to equipment and technology, hindering our nation’s 911 force and detracting from national security. Indeed, contrary to mainstream thought, it is conventional armies and navies that are all but obsolete in an era where the majority of threats to national security come from random attacks of a nationless enemy, not the Marines.


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