Members of Combat Logistics Detachment 39 repair a swatch of pavement at Andersen Air Force Base in Guam. As the Marine Corps draws down its active-duty force, its logistics community is poised to shed about 7,000 jobs as units are deactivated and reorganized, officials say. (Lance Cpl. Jeraco Jenkins / Marine Corps)
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The Marine Corps’ logistics community is aggressively downsizing and reorganizing as the mission in Afghanistan wanes and the service continues to restructure amid its shift to the Pacific.
The plan calls for eliminating approximately 7,000 logistics jobs by 2017, consolidating dozens of units worldwide and shedding excess equipment procured over the last decade-plus of war. Each of these moves coincides with the Marine Corps’ ongoing effort to reduce its authorized active-duty force to 182,100 personnel, down from a wartime high of 202,100.
Logistics leaders from throughout the service congregated at Camp Pendleton, Calif., last month to discuss the way forward. A document detailing what’s changing — the Marine Corps Installations and Logistics Roadmap — will be released soon, Lt. Gen. William Faulkner, deputy commandant for installations and logistics, told Marine Corps Times during an interview at the Pentagon.
“Over the course of the last 12 to 13 years,” he said, “we’ve added all of these Marines to support sustained ground combat operations. We have too much equipment. Some of our units have grown too big. And so we have a little bit of, it’s not necessarily fat, but it’s excess that we need to get to so that we’re able to make weight.”
The Marine Corps’ ground logistics elements include roughly 60,000 Marines and account for more than 25 percent of the service — plus more than half of its civilian workforce. By fiscal year 2017, when the Corps expects to have completed its drawdown, ground logistics will weigh in at about 53,000 uniformed personnel — which includes 41,000 active-duty troops and 12,000 reservists, Marine officials said.
It’s about a 10 percent reduction. By comparison, the Marine Corps is dicing its ground combat elements by about 13 percent while the number of Marines assigned to nonoperational jobs is expected to fall by seven percent, according to guidance produced in 2011 by the Marine Corps Force Structure Review Group.
Many moves are underway already, or about to be. The force restructuring plan detailed the deactivation and consolidation of dozens of logistics units, with the bulk of the shakeup slated to happen this year and next. Between now and then, the following units are slated for deactivation:
■ 3rd Maintenance Battalion.
■ 3rd Supply Battalion.
■ 1st Maintenance Battalion.
■ 1st Supply Battalion.
■ Combat Logistics Battalion 8.
Meanwhile, unit reorganizations will take place within the headquarters elements of 1st and 2nd Marine Logistics Group and at more than a dozen combat logistics battalions from coast to coast, and four of the nine combat logistics regiments.
As detailed in the planning road map, commanders hope to use the transition as an opportunity to make each logistics combat element light, shedding manpower and equipment added over the last decade, and better integrated so they are capable individually of supporting crisis-response missions or Marine expeditionary unit deployments.
With such aggressive downsizing, Marines can expect heightened career competition within logistics military occupational specialties. Officials are nonetheless trying to balance the belt-tightening as evenly as possible, not trimming down any particular unit or capability disproportionately, Faulkner said.
“We do [the drawdown] smartly, we do it predictably, so it has the least impact on all elements of the Marine Corps, whether it be promotion, be it retention, be it our ability to push Marine expeditionary units and crisis response forward,” Faulkner said.
For example, inside a combat logistics battalion — the Marine Corps’ multicapable logistics unit, housing about 560 Marines and elements including motor transport, headquarters and support, and maintenance — the idea was to cut carefully. Officials want to keep the original structure of the unit intact, he said.
“You make deliberate slices,” Faulkner said. “And oh, by the way, you need to make sure that there’s the right rank structure in there. So in that motor transportation platoon, for example, say we reduce it by 25 percent, you need to make sure you look at the rank structure, so that inherent leadership is still protected.”
Personnel reductions will take place through attrition, primarily, Marine officials said, though there will be opportunities for Marines to transfer laterally into other MOSs.
Beyond personnel cuts, the Marine Corps’ logistics community is working to shed excess gear, particularly large vehicles and unwieldy equipment that would take up precious space on amphibious missions. That includes Humvees, 7-ton-trucks and older generators, Faulkner said.
“These bulky items that have a lot of square and cube that eat up embarkation space on ships, that eat up embarkation space on strategic and tactical airlift — these things that are heavy, that could potentially be replaced by lighter, more energy-efficient equipment — those are the things we need to zero in on first,” Faulkner said.
Some items will be sold, he said. Many others will be deemed obsolete and turned over to Defense Logistics Agency disposition services to make way for new gear.