Lt. Gen. David H. Berger was confirmed by the Senate Wednesday evening to be the next commandant of the Marine Corps.
The incoming commandant currently is the commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, where he oversees the latest tech and training to prepare the Corps for the future battlefield.
He will take the mantle as top Marine when Gen. Robert B. Neller, the 37th commandant of the Marine Corps, steps down at the end of his term.
Neller, who became commandant in 2015, announced at a ground awards dinner in May that his tenure as top Marine would end on July 11.
Berger will take over a Marine Corps at an inflection point as it pushes a force that has been stuck in the mindset of counterinsurgency conflict for the past 18 years.
The Corps is amid an overhaul of its grunts, where new tech, drones and automatic weapons are pushing more responsibility to the Corps’ basic building block of combat power, the rifle squad.
New expensive toys are slowly making their way to fleet. High-tech stealth F-35Bs have already deployed with the 13th and 31st Marine Expeditionary Units.
Deliveries of the new eight-wheeled amphibious combat vehicle, the replacement for the legacy assault amphibious vehicle, are expected in 2019.
But with new gear and fighting concepts coming to fruition, Berger, the former I Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Forces Pacific commander, will also have to contend with manpower shortages in high demand fields that are vital to deterring rising near-peer adversaries.
Data obtained by Marine Corps Times via a Freedom of Information Act request detailed critical manpower shortages in fields like cyber and intelligence and for drone operators and F-35B pilots.
The manpower crunch is compounded by a potential shrinkage of the force alluded to by Berger in testimony provided to senators during his April 30 confirmation hearing.
“The NDS [National Defense Strategy] forces us to establish strategic priorities and make difficult choices — which will mean doing less in certain areas so we can do more in others,” Berger wrote to senators. “We will need to conduct a deliberate redesign of the force to meet the needs of the future operating environment."
Berger was nominated to be the next commandant in March.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.