Trump's plans to expand the Marine Corps
U.S. Marine Corps Commandant General Robert Neller, like much of the Pentagon top brass, is pretty happy about President-elect Donald Trump's campaign pledge to rebuild America's military after years of congressionally imposed spending caps.Replacing worn out equipment and improving maintenance and logistics will be a top priority. I suspect the Corps will be looking for ways to use technology as a force multiplier. It should not hurt that James Mattis will be in charge of the Pentagon.
But ask Neller about Trump's main proposal to increase the number of Marine infantry battalions from 24 today to 36, and he pauses.
"That's a lot," Neller told Reuters in an interview.
Neller, like many of his Pentagon colleagues, thinks America's military needs to shift quickly to prepare for more sophisticated adversaries than the insurgents the United States has been fighting in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
That will require more troops, including in the infantry. But Neller wants more cyber, intelligence and avionics specialists, as well as additional jets, amphibious ships and other weaponry that can better prepare the Marine Corps for a potential conflict with another country.
Islamic extremists are certainly lethal, Neller says, but are not nearly as capable as even the Russia-backed separatists that Ukraine is fighting, whose arsenal includes drones, radar and accurate artillery, for example.
"If you think the next war's going to be like this (counter-insurgency battle), then OK fine. I don't think it is. I don't," Neller said.
"It's going to be much more difficult. It's going to be much more complicated. It's going to be much more sophisticated."