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4-star: Marine Corps not threatened by Army's Pacific strategy

Jan. 15, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Surface Navy MWM 20140115
Gen. John Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, says it will be up to the head of U.S. Pacific Command to figure out how to best use Marines, sailors and soldiers in the Asia Pacific region. He spoke at the Surface Navy Association symposium in Arlington, Va., on Wednesday. (Mike Morones / Staff)
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The Army’s new amphibious strategy for the Pacific has raised hackles among some who feel the service is encroaching on turf claimed by the Marine Corps and Navy. But Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. John Paxton says there is room in the Pacific theater for all three services.

Called Pacific Pathways, the Army strategy, articulated by the top Army commander in the Pacific, Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, calls for the service to take on a newfound amphibious role in that theater. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps is more than a year into a much-publicized “rebalance to the Pacific” strategy that will cast the Pacific theater as a significant focus following the end of the war in Afghanistan.

Speaking at the Surface Navy Association national symposium outside Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Paxton said there is plenty of turf for the Marine Corps and the Army to cover, though there would be some key decisions for the region’s combatant commander to make.

“Now, for those of us who have spent a lot of time in the Pacific, it’s big,” Paxton said. “The largest land armies underneath the littoral nations, five mutual defense treaty partners, multiple time zones — there’s not enough of us to go around. You could put all the soldiers, all the airmen, all the sailors, all the Marines out there and we still wouldn’t cover it. So do I feel threatened? Absolutely not. Is there a place for all of us? Absolutely.”

Paxton said Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of U.S. Pacific Command, would have the challenge of determining how to best use all the manpower.

“As we all know, the services can have advocacy and proponents that put out great ideas, but it’s that geographic combatant commander who will find out what the balance is, say, ‘OK, these are the mission sets I need you to be responsible for, these are the countries I would like you to take a particular interest in,’ ” Paxton said.

Paxton’s optimism is not shared by all.

In December, the Washington Post quoted an anonymous Marine Corps general officer who alleged that the Army’s Pacific Pathways is a plan to create a second Marine Corps and give the nation an additional force it doesn’t need.

Aaron Marx, a federal executive fellow at the Brookings Institution, a leading think tank, also voiced strong opposition to the Pacific Pathways plan in a blog post.

“The United States Army is the best in the world at what it does, but this concept commits significant resources to duplicate what the USMC already does, with a lighter footprint and more capability and training,” he said.

But Paxton said lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan would help propel the Marine Corps and the Army to cooperative success in the Pacific theater.

“The Army and Marine Corps have worked very, very well as battle buddies, side by side in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I know (Lt. Gen. Terry Robling, Marine Corps Forces Pacific commander) and Gen. Brooks are working hard there in PACOM,” Paxton said. “And I know the two of them and Adm. Locklear will get the right people in the right place at the right time.”

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