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The Marine Corps Force Structure Review Group reported to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday of last week, and Gates endorsed its conclusions, according to Corps assistant commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford. The review supports the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter and the need for a new amphibious vehicle, Dunford said, and a request for information on the latter will be issued this week.The questions raised last summer by deputy Navy Secretary Robert Work and by Gates himself about the Marines' future "created not a little bit of angst," in the Corps, Dunford said. "Paranoia is one of our core competencies," he added, "but rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated." The FSRG aims at restructuring the Marines as a high-readiness force aimed at irregular and hybrid warfare. Core recommendations from the group include:The force will be "rightsized" for the post-Afghanistan environment, which means no immediate reductions, and that it will be 2014-15.The USMC will support a crisis force built around two Marine Expeditionary Unit brigades and 33 ships.The Corps command structure will be leaned and flattened.The Marines will increase their cyberwarfare and special operations forces. "In the next 6-8 months we'll be taking a detailed look at timing, organization, equipment and strategy," Dunford added.The initial operational capability (IOC) date of the new amphibious vehicle is "not 2024 - that's not accurate", Dunford told the conference. (2024 was the IOC date given on Monday by Navy budget chief RAdm Joseph Mulloy.) "We're confident that we can deliver the new vehicle in four to seven years." The Marines will have a single program and single budget for life-extension on the current AAV7, an off-the-shelf Marine Personnel Carrier and the new amphibious vehicle.The Marines are working on "a presumption of success" with the Joint Strike Fighter, Dunford says. "We continue to believe that STOVL is vital." Marine Commandant Gen James Amos "will be the program manager for the B", Dunford says. Thursday morning, Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley said that he was "in Gen Dunford's camp" on the F-35B issue and that he had "high confidence" that the F-35B will succeed. However, he described the amphibious vehicle goal as "aggressive, particularly at the four-year end." Defining requirements, Stackley said, will involve a look at the entire amphibious warfare concept of operations, including the anti-ship cruise missile threat, because that will determine how closely the Navy's ships can stand-in. "If we start the new amphibious vehicle with the same requirements as the EFV, we'll likely get the same outcome."
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