WASHINGTON, April 10, 2014 – The Marine Corps is committed to remaining the nation’s force in readiness, capable of responding to a crisis anywhere around the globe at a moment’s notice, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps told a House panel today.
“As we gather here this morning, almost 37,000 Marines are forward deployed or stationed around the world, promoting peace, protecting our nation’s interests and securing our defense,” Marine Corps Gen. John M. Paxton Jr. told members of the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
In the space of a few short months last year, he said, the Marine Corps displayed its agility and responsiveness while saving lives in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November, and again with the rescue of American citizens in South Sudan during Christmas.
“Both of these indicate the reality and the necessity of maintaining a combat-ready force that’s capable of handling today’s crisis today,” Paxton said. “Such an investment is essential to maintaining our nation’s security and our prosperity into the future.”
The Marine Corps fully appreciates that maintaining readiness — today and in the future — is directly related to the fiscal realities that confront the nation and the Defense Department, the general said.
“As our nation continues to face fiscal uncertainty, we’re making the necessary choices to protect our near-term readiness and to place your United States Marine Corps on the best trajectory to meet future defense requirements,” Paxton told the committee.
As the country navigates the current fiscal environment, he said, the Marine Corps will strive to balance its priorities across five pillars of readiness:
— Recruit and retain high-quality people;
— Maintain a high state of unit readiness;
— Meet combatant commanders’ requirements for trained, ready Marines;
— Maintain appropriate infrastructure investments;
— And, keep an eye towards the future by investing the capabilities needed to meet tomorrow’s challenges.
Efforts to meet these requirements are going well, Paxton said.
The Marine Corps is meeting its officer and enlisted recruiting goals for both the active and the reserve component and exceeding DOD quality standards, he told the committee.
“The Marine Corps remains committed to attracting, mentoring and retaining the most talented men and women, who bring diverse backgrounds, cultures and skills into the service of our nation,” the general said.
To meet combatant commander requirements for the best-trained, most ready forces, the Marine Corps has accepted risks to both personnel manning and to equipment readiness, Paxton said. Those risks have been assumed by non-deployed units in order to fully support forces who are forward-deployed and those who are next to deploy, he noted.
“We have taxed our home station units as the bill-payers to ensure that Marines in Afghanistan and our Marine expeditionary units have everything that they need,” the general said.
“As a result, as we sit here this morning, slightly more than 50 percent of our non-deployed forces are experiencing some degree of degraded readiness in their ability to execute what we consider to be core missions,” he told the committee.
The Marine Corps fosters a rich heritage and a strong partnership with its naval counterparts, Paxton said. “As we look to the future, we all realize the sea-based and forward-deployed naval forces provide day-to-day engagement crisis response,” he added.
Maintaining a ready and available fleet of amphibious ships is a critical component in building, training and maintaining an expeditionary forward presence, the general said.
“Doing so enables continuous naval expeditionary presence, and projects power across the globe whenever and wherever our nation needs it,” Paxton said.