Joint Force Lacks “Common Aimpoint” For Modernization Efforts, Outgoing Commandant Says
Gen. Berger said the Marine Corps has been innovative, but still has a lot of work to do.
While the Marine Corps is accelerating its Force Design 2030 efforts, the overall joint force lacks a common goal and timeline for modernization, the Marine Corps commandant said Tuesday.
“I'm not in the position to judge the relative speed of the other services. But I think the speed of the joint force and a common goal in the future is what's lacking right now,” Gen. David Berger said during the first day of the Modern Day Marine Expo in Washington D.C.
“In other words, we don't have the equivalent of a joint force design that says this is where the joint force needs to be 5, 6, 7 years into the future. We don't have a common aimpoint. And we also don't have the speed, the velocity, to get us there,” he said.
The difference in modernization priorities is apparent in the services branches’ spending. The Marines have regularly needed to defend to the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office how they want to spend their program dollars because the service is going through more transformation than the other services, said Brig. Gen. Stephen Lightfoot, the head of the Marine Corps’ capabilities development directorate, during a panel on experimentation and acquisition.
“When we're trying to move fast—and I'm not saying the other services aren't moving fast, but I don't think they've transformed in the same way that the Marine Corps has—now you have different services, you know, going at different speeds, potentially,” Lightfoot said. That forces the Pentagon to determine how to prioritize those programs, which results in the Marine Corps “defending some of the same programs again and again.”
Berger, who retires July 10, said the Marine Corps leads in innovation and modernization among the joint force, but it’s still not where it needs to be.
“So that begs the question, where do we need to be? In truth, I think we need to be ahead. We need to be ahead of our competitors. We need to be ahead of where we are right now. But that will always be the case,” Berger said. “I think Marines will never be satisfied with where we are, because that's when you slow down. That's when you get complacent.”
The service is “well ahead of where I thought was even possible back in 2019,” Berger said, and must now keep the momentum going.
“Because all of the progress that we've made over the past 5, 6, 7 years, all that won't matter if we can't maintain this pace, if we can't keep up,” he said. “Our competitors are moving out and they are moving fast. They are not slowing down.”
Some areas the service still needs to work on, Berger said, are littoral mobility; “artificial intelligence to improve battlefield decision making;” [and] “resilient sustainment webs in a contested environment.”
“I need you to run hard, run fast. Do not be comfortable. Get your ideas into the hands of a Marine. Because if we've learned anything in the past 150 years, it's that Marines will make it happen,” Berger said.
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