The Marine Corps is famous for rarely complaining about its mission or budget. They make do with what they have – and do it better than anyone else.
So when the assistant commandant of the Corps warns Congress that their mission is threatened by budget cuts that have led to a dangerous lack of readiness and training, we should sit up and take notice.
Gen. John Paxton told a meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee that several components of the Corps would be unable to respond to an unexpected crisis, long regarded as a Marine specialty. Paxton highlighted aviation as one of the hardest hit areas.
“I worry about the capability and the capacity to win in a major fight somewhere else right now,” Paxton said.
Paxton also said that approximately 80 percent of Marine aviation units do not have the number of aircraft that they need for training and operations.
There has been a number of accidents surrounding Marine Corp aircraft which Paxton said may be connected to the budget cuts and that the Corps would be investigating any possible connection.
Aviation was not alone, however, Paxton also warned about the drastically reduced ability of communications and intelligence units.
“In the event of a crisis, these degraded units could either be called upon to deploy immediately at increased risk to the force and the mission, or require additional time to prepare thus incurring increased risk to mission by surrendering the initiative to our adversaries,” Paxton said. “This does not mean we will not be able to respond to the call … It does mean that executing our defense strategy or responding to an emergent crisis may require more time, more risk, and incur greater costs and casualties.”
“All of our intelligence and communications battalions…would be unable to execute their full wartime mission requirements if called upon today,” Paxton said.
Note that Paxton is careful to say that the Marines will answer the call, no matter their readiness. But he is concerned that a lot of good men will die needlessly if some of these auxiliary units aren’t brought up to war-fighting status.
Whom to blame? We can certainly point the finger at sequestration – the automatic budget cuts that took place over the last four budget years. Since Congress and the White House refused to meet their spending targets, the bulk of the reduced spending from 2012-2016 fell on the military.
The budget agreement reached last year put an end to sequestration. But finding the money to rebuild the Marines’ infrastructure will be a challenge. Then again, you won’t hear much complaining from the Corps. They have never failed to meet the challenges we ask them to face, nor to overcome all adversity to get the job done.