Friday, February 10, 2017

Corps Wants 12K More Marines to Boost Cyber, Info Ops, ISR |

Corps Wants 12K More Marines to Boost Cyber, Info Ops, ISR |

The Marine Corps just completed a multi-year drawdown process beginning in 2011 to bring it from a peak force strength of 202,000 during the troop surge in Afghanistan to the current 182,000 end strength, cutting infantry battalions and support elements. Amid sequestration cuts and budget austerity, some leaders warned the service might be forced to draw down as low as 175,000.

Now, with the prospect of funding to grow the force, Walters said specialized communities and capabilities would get attention first.

"Cyber, information operations, [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance], counter-UAS, and long-range fires," he told in an interview after the hearing. "So these are the capabilities we're trying to buy that we lack right now."

The Corps, he said, is building what he called the MEF information group, a Marine Expeditionary Force element that would incorporate all these capabilities. This development comes as the service also adds a new three-star general position, a deputy commandant for information environment operations, to serve as an advocate to leadership for these roles.

"The way we're going to fight in the future and the way the enemy's going to fight in the future, we have to push those [capabilities] down to the lower echelons," Walters said.

Of the 12,000 troops the Corps hopes to add, the only Marines in traditional ground combat positions will be artillery troops adding long-range fires capabilities, including the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, Walters said. While other Marines in the prospective plus-up might serve in infantry units, they won't be riflemen, he said.