(CNSNews.com) – “I worry about the capability and the capacity to win in a major fight somewhere else right now,” Gen. John Paxton, assistant commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, testified at a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support on Tuesday.
“The Marine Corps is committed to remaining our nation’s ready force, a force that’s truly capable of responding to any crisis anywhere around the world at a moment’s notice. It has been so for 240 years since Captain [Samuel] Nichols led his Marines ashore in Nassau in March of 1776,” the general testified.
“Last year, the Congress reiterated the expectations of the 82nd Congress that the Marine Corps continue to serve as our country’s expeditionary force and to be most ready when the nation is least ready.
“Today the Marine Corps is meeting and will continue to meet tomorrow your rightly high expectations,” Paxton told the senators, noting that one of the Marine Corps’ mottoes is “Fight Tonight”.
“We do all of that at the expense of our bench strength,” Paxton said in response to a question from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). “We have tonight’s forces, which are ready, tomorrow night, which is ready, and everything else is at some degraded state of readiness, whether it’s personnel, training, leadership, [or] equipment.
“And that is not only mortgaging the future, but that’s mortgaging the surge capability to fight an operations plan against a known adversary…
"So I worry about the capability and the capacity to win in a major fight somewhere else right now.”
Last year, Paxton testified, the Marines “executed approximately 100 operations, 20 of them amphibious, 140 security cooperation activities with our partners and allies, and 160 major exercises.”
He noted that hundreds of Marines are still stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and “many remain in harm’s way, heavily engaged in the Middle East and around the globe to do our nation’s bidding.”
Ernst also asked Gen. Daniel Allyn, the Army’s vice chief of staff - who testified that the Army is “globally engaged with more than 186,000 soldiers supporting combatant commanders in over 140 countries” - about its ability to provide the manpower and weapons needed by combat commanders currently in the field as well as during any unforeseen future crisis.
“We are absolutely committed to delivering trained and ready forces in support of our combatant commanders. That is job one for us. For the United States Army, we delivered 91 percent of what our combatant commanders asked for in terms of known requirements for this past year.
“That’s sounds good – 91 percent – that’s an A in many schools across the country, but that 9 percent gap is unacceptable to a combat commander, and we recognize that," Gen. Allyn responded.
“In addition to that, the Army has delivered 64 percent of the emerging requirements that came out during this past year of their total requirements. So 64 percent of what they asked for, that was unpredicted at the beginning of the year, we delivered.
“And of course, the problem with that is that came out of our surge capacity build. So while we’re trying to generate surge capacity for contingencies, we must continue to answer the emerging requirements that are validated by the chairmen of the Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense.
“And the end result of that is I do not have a level of comfort that we are ready for a contingency of a major scale against our peer adversaries, and therefore I am very uncomfortable with the trajectory of our drawdown right now, and I do believe it’s time for a strategic review of is that’s what’s best for our nation?”