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Navy Undersecretary Bob Work gave an intense and PowerPoint-free summary of the "after-Afghanistan" future of the Marine Corps at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday.Bettina Chavanne has reported on the main points here (subscription no longer required) but the thrust of Work's message was this: The Navy and Marines have determined that landing large forces from the sea will continue to be vital, and on a large-scale, joint-force basis, and that any such landing must be equipped to overcome a hostile response. A Force Structure Review Group (FSRG) has been formed to determine a recommended force size and will report in November. Work's presentation, however, drew some pointed comments from Dakota Wood of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments - where Work was a senior analyst before moving into the administration. (Like Work, Wood is a Marine.)The Marine Corps, Wood said in a panel session after Work's talk, "is encumbered by an acquisition program that seems to be untenable." Wood pointed to several challenges in the way of a post-Afghanistan Corps, equipped to deploy troops in potentially hostile areas, in an era when the opposition has guided weapons. Those challenges included "the growing weight of units" (such as F-35s replacing Harriers and V-22s replacing CH-46s), "the spiraling cost of acquisition programs and a limited number of amphibs". (On weight, Work also commented that, for the first time, the Navy's big amphibious ships are hitting their limits in payload weight, not volume.)LHA-6 America with V-22s and JSFsWood stopped short of calling the Corps spoiled rotten, but noted that "with regard to combat, the current Corps is the most experienced since Korea. With regard to lean budgets, the current Corps is the least experienced since Carter." The Marine budget has doubled in the last decade and the Corps plans another $16 billion in post-war reset, together with other goals such as replacing 5,500 $150,000 Humvees with the same number of $500,000 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.Another issue with the plan: although it presumes air force support, in terms of ISR, bombers and space assets, the FSRG is Marine-only and will be vetted only by the Navy. And although Work twice singled out USAF bombers as contributors to the Marine mission - in terms of providing fire support and helping to suppress guided rocket fire - the Marines (via the joint staff) have remained persistently hostile to the idea of a new USAF bomber.
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