An influential group of over two dozen retired generals has launched a counteroffensive against plans to transform the Marine Corps, and is using their clout in a high-power pressure campaign to get Congress to slam on the brakes.
The roster of personalities includes every living former commandant, along with a slew of other retired four-star generals revered within the Corps. And all of them are bristling at different aspects of foundational changes introduced by Commandant Gen. David Berger, who aims to make the Corps lighter, faster and more capable of doing everything from electronic warfare to sinking ships at sea.
The group of retired generals includes former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, former Joint Chiefs Chair Joe Dunford and John Kelly, a former Homeland Security chief and White House chief of staff.
“This is not a fragmented effort, this is a collective of 30 some generals … including six or seven of the most senior, most credible Marines that I’ve ever worked with,” said Frank Hoffman, distinguished research fellow at the National Defense University and a retired Marine officer. Yet he also noted that Berger’s efforts have already been blessed by Congress and the Pentagon brass, so putting a stop to them now is unlikely.
The Marine Corps’ two-year-old plan represents a fundamental shift in how the Corps equips its troops and goes to war. The Corps’ 400-odd tanks have already been shifted to the Army, helicopter wings put in storage, and infantry units are being reconfigured to become smaller and more nimble.
The changes are part of a wider rethinking of how the military is funded and structured to meet China and Russia, which are challenging post-Cold War U.S. military dominance. It’s no surprise that the Corps in particular, with its mystique of grit and self-reliance, would struggle with such rapid, deep-rooted changes.
A spokesperson for Berger declined to comment on the specifics of the retired general’s criticisms, and instead pointed to statements Berger has made to Congress and in public as to why the modernization push is necessary.