- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2011

The commander of Marine Corps forces development said the corps is changing missions and weapons in response to anticipated defense spending cuts.

“We are going to have to make choices as to what’s important to us, and we’re going to have to choose what our role in the joint forces is,” said Lt. Gen. George Flynn, commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Thursday.

The three-star general said the Marines’ will continue to focus their role as being the first combat forces to respond in a crisis.

However, that mission will be difficult because the Marines are facing a shortage of amphibious ships needed to transport their forces, he said. The Corps 2017 is on track to have 29 of the 33 ships it needs for expeditionary forces.

President Obama in April announced plans to cut $400 billion from defense spending over 12 years. The Pentagon has begun of cutting its budget after nearly a decade of post-September 11 spending increases.

The cost for new ground equipment for its expeditionary forces is increasing as defense budget are declining, according to the general.

“Every piece of equipment we buy today is more expensive than in the past; … seven years ago it cost us approximately $1,500 to kit out a Marine; it costs $7,500 today,” Gen. Flynn said. “The ground procurement budget increased by a factor of 5.”

One of the largest cost increases was the price of ground vehicles due to the upgrade from Humvees to armored vehicles, a change the general said was necessary but difficult for the Corps to handle.

“The enemy made us counter IEDs, making us heavier. Everything we’ve bought is heavier than what it’s replacing,” he said, adding that the Marines would have to develop lighter equipment to bolster the service’s new role as an expeditionary force.

Relations between the Marines and the defense industry will have to change because to the upcoming budget squeeze. Gen. Flynn said both the Marines and defense contractors will have to evaluate potential costs earlier in the contracting process than has been done previously.

Mr. Flynn also said the Marines are playing a role the growing field of cybersecurity, both for Marine Corps and Pentagon computer networks.

“All we do depends on our ability to use cyber [systems],” Gen. Flynn said. “It is the new change, and every service has to be involved. Unless we commit to fighting cyberattacks, we will lose in other capabilities as well.”

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