The future makeup of the Marine Corps was at the center of discussion during an online event hosted by the Brookings Institution Friday morning.

A panel of experts and former troops examined the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 initiative, the service’s plan to downsize and restructure its force. Among them was retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, the first woman in the Marine Corps to fly a combat mission in an F/A-18.

“My feeling again is these changes are big, but the Marine Corps is pretty good at adapting when the nation needs us to adapt,” McGrath said, adding that this philosophical pivot was not simply a “knee jerk reaction. ... This is really important to be able to go up against a near-peer competitor.”

The most recent annual report of Force Design 2030 was released in May, highlighting, among other things, changes to how the service will organize troops while divesting from certain assets, such as artillery. The plan emphasizes a focus on naval expeditionary warfare and working in accordance with the National Defense Strategy.

“What I liked about this force design is that there is almost, finally, an acknowledgement that the Marine Corps can’t do it all and that we have to prioritize,” McGrath said of the fiscal constraints.

Others on the panel also supported the service’s directional shift toward this future mission.

“I have some reservations, but I generally support the vision and I like a lot of what’s in it,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow and director of research in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.

O’Hanlon added that while he was apprehensive about giving up tanks and other “maneuver warfare capabilities,” the present plan serves as the best way to deter threats from China and Russia.

Of course, there remain detractors who argue the shift is neither good for the branch nor the country.

Retired Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper, former commander of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, previously stated during another think tank event that many “don’t believe the Marine Corps will exist if (Force Design) 2030 is fully implemented.”

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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