Marine Amphibious Forces:

A Look at Their Readiness, Role, and Mission

LCD-78-417A: Published: Feb 6, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 6, 1979.

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The Marine Corps' size, structure, and ability to perform some of its more demanding missions raise questions about its capabilities. Some problems relating to these areas and the Corps' overall readiness affect not only the II Marine Amphibious Force (II MAF) but also the entire Corps. However, since II MAF has a priority North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission in a European war, GAO's review was concentrated in this area.

There are problems affecting the Corps' ability to fulfill its priority mission. The Corps faces difficulties in deploying in the amphibious assault mode due to inadequate numbers of amphibious ships available when and where needed to transport troops and equipment and to land equipment over the beach. This is the result of two factors: about half of the Navy's amphibious ship fleet is located in the Pacific Ocean and there are always a number of amphibious ships routinely in maintenance and drydock not readily available for deployment. The II MAF had on hand most of the equipment authorized; however, equipment condition was not as good as reported, and it would be difficult to deploy much of the equipment quickly in a combat ready condition. The supply systems supporting the II MAF were short of parts, contributing to the reduced readiness of equipment and weapons. There were personnel shortages in a number of essential military occupational speciality fields, particularly those that required formal training in the more complex skill areas. While the Corps' most demanding mission is meeting its NATO commitment, its resources are distributed to provide all its forces with roughly equal capabilities. Further, Marine aviation receives a preeminence of funding over ground forces, with a resultant possible degradation to the ground forces. The Corps' practicality against a foe armed with contemporary weapons supported by advanced technology is uncertain.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, should reevaluate: the structure and deployment of Marine Corps forces in relation to currently assigned missions, focusing on the ability of these forces to execute their most demanding mission; and the requirement for a 200,000-plus strength amphibious force in the projected threat and technological environments expected to develop in the future. This reevaluation should take into account that, within the range of potential contingencies which might require the use of U.S. military power, two basic factors of defense or force planning need to be considered: some contingencies would affect U.S. interests far more than others and some contingencies would require more resources than others. The Corps should have a system to allocate available resources to its higher priority missions.

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