Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, said today that in the face of a shrinking defense budget, the armed services would not turn against one another and fight for funds.
“The relationship right now has never been better than it is today,” Amos said of the ties between the Army and the Marine Corps today at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“I think the relationship is better today than it’s ever been in my 41 years of being a Marine.”
Responding to a question about whether there was a whisper campaign begun by the Marines against the other services, he said he was unaware of it, and said the Joint Chiefs of Staff would mediate between the forces.
“If there’s anybody that can kind of keep the tribes together and say, look, folks, we’re going to do this together — it’s going to be Marty Dempsey,” Amos said.
However, Amos sold the Marine Corps as the “cheap force,” and said America needs a military “that’s not going to break the bank.”
“You get a lot of bang for the buck with us,” Amos said of the Marines. ”We don’t need fancy hotels or air conditioned hooches to live in.”
“For decades the Marine Corps was known as — in some circles as the cheap force,” Amos said. “We were known to be the penny-pinchers. So to begin with, we’re going back to that.”
Amos said the Marines Corps planned to go down to 186,000 personnel from 202,000 - cuts approved by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He added that he was not sure 186,000 was the floor. For those looking to join the Marines now, he said, there was such a backlog of those wanting to join that it would be at least eight months before being sent to boot camp.
He added that there would also be some cuts in ground vehicles, from 40,000 to 30,000.
“I will not ask for things that I want; I will only ask for things that I need,” he said. “What is it that’s good enough to get us through the next eight to 10 years?”
In addition, he said, pay and housing, health and retirement benefits would be looked at.
“We’re paid pretty well,” he said. “So as we look at how we pay this $450 billion, is there room to question, then — is there room to adjust inside that to bring that back down a little bit and make it a little bit more of a level playing field? And the answer from the service chiefs and from me is ‘Yeah, I think there is room.’ How much? I don’t know.”
“We’re going to need to do that as we start looking inside pays and — pay and benefits,” Amos added. “We’re really going to need to look at that to make sure that we know what we do and what the second and third-order effects are.”