In video, commandant asks Marines to conserve
By Gina Harkins - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Mar 9, 2013 10:50:46 EST
The Marine Corps’ top leaders appeared in a video message released Friday to ask personnel to think about conserving assets and becoming “part of the solution” as the service braces for a $1.4 billion budgetary shortfall in 2013 and another $2 billion per year cut over the next nine years.
Gen. Jim Amos, the commandant, and his top enlisted adviser, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Mike Barrett, told Marines that budget cuts require immediate adjustments.
“This is no time to do business as usual,” Amos said. “The landscape has changed.”
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In the video, filmed inside an armory at Marine Corps Base Quantico in northern Virginia, the commandant said he wants Marines to understand the challenges the service faces, so they better appreciate his request to do things like “save every round, every gallon of gas … [and] take every … opportunity in training to get the most bang for the buck.”
During congressional testimony earlier in the week, Amos expressed optimism that lawmakers would soon approve a new draft National Defense Authorization Act spending bill or continuing resolution for spending.
Doing so would halt some of the painful budget cuts put in place by sequestration, the mandatory spending reductions set in motion March 1. A bill was passed by the House of Representatives but must be addressed in the Senate and ultimately approved by the president.
For now, Amos said in the video, leaders have been forced to move money around to maintain the Corps’ top priority: readiness. That means funds originally slated for things like base maintenance and education have been pulled out of those accounts and moved.
The Corps has three primary accounts, Amos explained. The first is for personnel, which pays for people and salaries. The second is for equipment, which includes gear coming back from Afghanistan that needs to be moved through the depots and reset, as well as new weapons, aircraft and ground vehicles. The third is for operations and maintenance. That money is used to pay for ammunition, fuel, training, education and base repairs.
The challenge, Amos said, is maintaining balance among those accounts so Marines can deploy within a moment’s notice.
Already the Marine Corps has moved to stop enrolling personnel in its tuition assistance program, a popular benefit that has offset costs for thousands of Marines seeking their college degrees. Last year, nearly 30,000 Marines took advantage of it — but at a cost of almost $50 million.
Additionally, base and unit commanders have started conserving resources, Barrett said. That means Marines will start to see changes on their bases now to include shortened hours at some facilities or gates.
“Across our bases and stations, you will begin to see decreased facility maintenance and sustainment,” he said.
Amos said he’s prepared to keep moving money like this, but acknowledged it can’t go on forever. In the last 30 days, the Marine Corps has moved $450 million, of which $280 million went to the operating forces next in line to deploy, he said.
Marines currently in Afghanistan, at sea with Marine expeditionary units or forwarded deployed in the Asia Pacific region already are at a high state of readiness, Amos said. The $280 million assures those next in line also are brought up to that state of readiness.
To Marines, readiness is everything, Barrett said. That means Marines will continue to sacrifice and “live hard,” he added. They must “train smart and fight smart.”
Although this budgetary predicament is a result of what’s played out in Washington, Amos asked Marines to understand that members of Congress care about them, saying they are “best friends” who want to understand the challenges the Corps faces.
“The Marine Corps exists today,” Amos said, “because of the great support of Congress.”