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Corps looks to cut more than 2,000 active-duty Marines in 2021 budget

The Corps is set to cut more than 2,000 active-duty Marines in fiscal year 2021, according to a Navy and Marine Corps budget request released Monday.

The Corps would cut a total of 2,258 enlisted active-duty Marines while adding 158 active-duty officers, the budget request said.

It would leave the Corps with a total active-duty force comprised of 184,100 Marines.

The total force will be within 500 Marines of 2016′s 183,604 Marines.

Though the active-duty force will see large cuts, according to the document, the Corps plans to maintain the Marine Corps Reserves at its current strength of 38,500.

The budget request did not go into details about where the cuts will come from. It did say, however, that cuts will be in areas that Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger wants to divert from so he can free up enough money to build the Marine Corps he says is required to fight in the future.

The changes intend to build a “more experienced, better trained, and more capable force,” the budget says. It will build a Marine Corps “necessary to be appropriately manned, trained and equipped as a naval expeditionary force-in-readiness and prepared to operate inside actively contested maritime spaces in support of fleet operations."

Since Berger took over the Corps in summer 2019 he has been preaching about a Marine Corps that needs to change from a force designed to fight insurgents in the Middle East to one built to faceoff China in islands across the Pacific.

Part of Berger’s vision is a lighter, more mobile Marine Corps capable of operating with extremely small units located on small islands and atolls across the Pacific.

The budget document said tanks and tube artillery will be the target for at least some of the budget cuts the commandant requires.

Both tanks and traditional artillery pieces have limited use in the fight the commandant sees in the Pacific.

Tanks are too large to be airlifted using the V-22 Osprey or a CH-53K, a requirement as the plan requires Marines to quickly move around the Pacific.

Though the 155 mm M777 is light enough to be airlifted, its relatively short range and lack of punch compared to the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System used by some Marine artillery battalions limits its role as a sea-denial weapon.

HIMARs, along with the new amphibious combat vehicle ― the replacement for the older amphibious assault vehicle ― and multiple variants of the light armored vehicle are all slated to see slight budget increases, according to the document.

The cuts come to capabilities that the Corps should quickly be able to make up if required by an emergency scenario, the document adds.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated as Marine Corps Times confirms more information.

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