The United States Marine Corps will be shedding approximately 4,000 positions in 2013 as part of a five-year plan to reduce its fighting force by 20,000 active duty positions, from 202,100 today to 182,100 by the end of 2017.
The drawdown was quietly issued last April and is not part of the $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts also known as "sequestration," according to the Washington Free Beacon
. The Marine Corps has already reportedly started to implement some changes, including forcing senior officers into early retirement.
The Marine Corps is one of the nation's largest military branches, so a 10 percent reduction in active duty personnel could lead to unpreparedness in certain regions of the world, particularly the Middle East, warn military experts.
"The effect will be that there will not be sufficient Marines available to both be ‘America’s 9-1-1 force’ and to be ready for sustained ground combat,” said Steven Bucci, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense under George W. Bush.
Bucci, who is also director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation, argued that the decrease of Marine personnel could result in a thinly-stretched force across the board.
"There was no ARG available to respond to Benghazi [terror attacks] because the Marines have had so many combat units fighting elsewhere . . . Cuts will prohibit [the Marines] from returning to this key role," Bucci told the Beacon.
Approximately 30,000 to 35,000 Marines are transitioned annually in the Marine Corps, according to a spokesperson for the Marines’ Manpower and Reserve Affairs Office, adding, "so we are only talking about 5,000 more per year on top of that."
Active duty Marine personnel are transitioned into retirement or reserve service after their active duty contract, typically four years, expires.
With U.S. troops out of Iraq and an accelerated drawback in Afghanistan over the next 12 months, President Barack Obama, flanked by Defense Department officials, announced in January his intention to scale back the U.S. military as a whole.
"The tide of war is receding," he said. "But the question that this strategy answers is what kind of military will we need after the long wars of the last decade are over. And today, we’re moving forward, from a position of strength."
In addition to the 10 percent Marine reduction, the Army is also planning to implement a similar reduction in active duty personnel over the next five years.
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