Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., commander of International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, visits the NTM-A Armor Branch School on Aug. 15 in Afghanistan. (ISAF Media)
Gen. Joseph Dunford’s nod from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel as the next commandant had the enthusiastic backing of an A-list of Marine Corps leadership.
Retired Gen. James Mattis called him “extremely well-read” and said he’d “never be caught flat-footed.” Former CMC Charles Krulak appealed to Dunford’s ability to navigate battlefield and Beltway alike. Gen. John Kelly, head of U.S. Southern Command, called him “fearless,” adding, “he understands this generation of Marines like few do.”
This is as easy as it’s going to be for Dunford.
First, he has to contend with pressure to cut the Corps as the war in Afghanistan winds down and the Defense Department grapples with serious budget shortfalls. Amid this, Dunford will have to “right size” the Corps by recruiting and retaining the most relevant and capable personnel, as he works to protect and fund the programs vital to the service’s future.
He has to make sure that the Corps’ global posture serves to propel the service into an enduring post-war relevance. Different camps of power players have differing strategies on the way forward, and Dunford will have to skillfully navigate the course he sees as best.
He will also have to preside over efforts to integrate women into combat roles, as well as take the baton on Gen. Jim Amos’ “Reawakening.”
That mission is growing as Marines are coming from the battlefield, unlikely to return soon. Clearly, having to send fewer Marines into harm’s way is a blessing, but keeping them ready for the next call to arms in a time of serious resource constraints is a daunting responsibility all its own.
By all accounts, Dunford is the right Marine for the job.