By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
CAPITOL HILL: The commandant of the Marines told Congress today that his service could not handle even one major war if Congress doesn't undo the $500 billion, 10-year cut to defense spending known as sequestration. The Navy, for its part, would have only one aircraft carrier ready to "surge" in a crisis instead of two or three, allowing it to reinforce only one war zone at a time.
A central tenet of American strategy has been the ability to fight and win two major wars in two theaters at the same time since World War II. How well the military could actually meet that requirement has been open for debate, but it was always upheld as the official ideal -- until January 2012, when the Obama administration's Defense Strategic Guidance (PDF) downgraded the goal to, in essence, win one, hold one.
But the Marines Corps would be stretched even to meet this more modest goal, and sequestration would call conducting even a single "major contingency operation" into question, Commandant Gen. James Amos told the House Armed Services Committee today.
"The Marine Corps today sits at 27 infantry battalions; we're on our way down to 23 as a result of the Budget Control Act," which reduces the Marine to 182,100 personnel, Gen. Amos told the House Armed Services Committee this morning. A "notional" major war would require about 19. "There's not really a large amount of slack," he said. "We are a single-MCO Marine Corps."
However, "bring in sequestration and we'll be down in the teens for battalions, and we will be very, very strained to be a one-MCO Marine Corps," Amos said.
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