Cars enter the main gate at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C. (Gerry Broome/The Associated Press)
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The Marine Corps has reversed plans to move II Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters away from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, citing operational requirements that made the move impractical.
Marine officials initially announced last year that they planned to move the headquarters to Norfolk, Va., home of Marine Forces Command. The move was to come as they transitioned II MEF from a three-star headquarters to a two-star in keeping with budget cuts and a Defense Department mandate to trim fat on headquarters staffs across the services.
While the reductions will still take place, said Marine Corps spokesman Maj. John Caldwell, the headquarters will stay put. In a decision announced this month, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos opted not to consolidate II MEF and MARFORCOM, calling that move “unfeasible” due to operational requirements. That decision, Caldwell said, was the result of a study Amos initiated in February 2013 that sought to identify the right future Marine Corps structure to meet national security needs amid current budget restrictions.
The operational requirements that influenced the decision, Caldwell said, included unit command and control relationships, and a force posture plan adopted this year that allows Marine expeditionary units and brigades to operate more independently in designated geographic areas and ramp up with additional MEF troops as needed to respond to crises.
Under the new plan, II MEF will still fall under the operational control of MARFORCOM, and the Marines will still save money, Caldwell said, by cutting it down to a two-star headquarters with a corresponding 30 percent reduction in staff. After these cuts, he said, the headquarters element will house about 300, include Marines, Navy personnel, and civilians.
Marine Corps officials are moving forward, meanwhile, with plans to establish an independent 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade headquarters alongside II MEF at Lejeune.
That MEB, officials said, will be self-sustaining, with the ability to rapidly deploy as needed and to function as a joint task force headquarters, taking on large-scale operations without needing to draw personnel from MEF headquarters. Officials have said a similar reorganization is taking place at 3rd MEB headquarters in Okinawa, Japan, while I MEB aboard Camp Pendleton, California, is likely to remain unchanged.
Though the move to keep II MEF headquarters aboard Lejeune will affect relatively few of the MEF’s approximately 50,000 Marines, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory hailed the decision Wednesday as good for the state.
“North Carolina is the most military-friendly state in the nation, and we’re excited that the Second Marines Expeditionary Force headquarters will remain at Camp Lejeune,” McCrory said in a statement. “We’ve made it clear to the commandant of the Marine Corps and the other service chiefs that the leadership of North Carolina will do everything in its power to protect the operational integrity of its units and commands.”