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Marine Corps in ‘civil war’ with mysterious group of senior retired officers

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger, 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps at U.S. Army Garrison Panzer Kaserne in Boeblingen, Germany, Aug. 25, 2021.(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Claudia Nix)
June 12, 2023

Current U.S. Marine Corps leadership is hotly divided with retired officers on Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger’s service restructuring plan.

According to The Daily Caller, a vocal group of retired Marine officers believe the outgoing commandant’s restructuring plan will “undercut” the Marine Corps’ fundamental character, as well as America’s national security.

“There is an intellectual civil war going on in the Marine Corps,” Mark Cancian, retired Marine Corps Reserve colonel and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said.

Berger announced the new Force Design 2030 vision in 2020. The plan was based on assumptions made regarding China’s ability to present the most significant threat to the United States over the next decade and the Indo-Pacific as the geographic location that posed the highest likelihood for potential conflict.

“We cannot accept or accede to recommendations for incremental change or better versions of legacy capabilities, but must pursue transformational capabilities that will provide naval fleets and joint force commanders with a competitive advantage in the gray zone and during contingency,” Force Design 2030’s policy stated.

In his Force Design 2030 plan, Berger has pushed for smaller units that are lighter and more technologically-equipped to prepare the U.S. for potential conflict with China. Berger’s plan included the departure from the military branch’s use of tanks and reduced the number of artillery units and infantry Marines in order to fund experimental “Stand-in Forces” and “Expeditionary Advanced Based Operations,” a CSIS analysis concluded.

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Retired Marine Corps officers argue that Force Design 2030 risks U.S. national security by undermining the character of the Marine Corps, violating long-standing protocols, and diminishing the Marine Corps’ ability to handle worldwide threats.

The different perspectives between the retired Marine Corps officers and the current leadership of the military branch highlights the ongoing cultural debate centered around the Marine Corps.

“Their ‘debate’ is indeed a cultural issue, not a war fighting issues,” Brian Kerg, a fellow at the Marine Corps University’s Kulak Center, explained in a statement on twitter.

In an effort to address the current “civil war” in the Marine Corps and address concerns with Force Design 2030, Berger updated the plan earlier this year.

“The first two pages of the update seek to refute the generals’ criticisms, portraying FD 2030 as global, combined arms, force in readiness,” Cancian told The Daily Caller.

Assistant Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith has also explained that the transformation of the Marine Corps does not mean that the Marine Corps will completely abandon its role as a “crisis response force.” Instead, he said the Marine Corps units in the Pacific will be trained, equipped, and reorganized to be able to address the threat of China, while still remaining effective in other areas of potential conflict around the world.