The US Marine Corps Combat Development Command has released the details of the planned drawdown that will result in the reduction of its total force from 202,000 to 186,800 personnel. Scheduled to begin next year and continue through 2016, the effort, which has been referred to as a force ‘right-sizing’ will result in a 13 per cent reduction in ground combat forces, a 12 per cent cut in rotary-wing aircraft and a 9 per cent drawdown in logistics forces. It is intended to provide a force optimized for ‘forward presence’ and to facilitate rapid crisis response while supporting ongoing activities.
The moves will also reduce the II Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) command element warfighting capability. As a result the Command Element of II MEF, which is currently one of three deployable MEFs, will require augmentation in order to reconstitute as an operational war fighting headquarters.
As a result of the moves, plans to establish a fourth Marine light attack helicopter squadron have been revised and the planned establishment of HMLA-567 at MCAS Cherry Point, which had been scheduled to occur in 2012, has been cancelled. The 2011 Marine Aviation Plan had previously called for the squadron to initially act as the HMLA Transition Training Unit (HMLA-TTU).
Further changes in 2012 will result in the deactivation of Marine medium tilt-rotor squadron VMM-561 at MCAS Miramar, California. Activated in December 2010, the squadron was the first of two new MV-22B squadrons that had been planned. The second had been scheduled for activation in 2013 but under the new plan that will not occur. It now appears that the Marines will field just 16 Ospry squadrons rather than the planned 18. During 2013, the last CH-53Ds will be retired at MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and Marine heavy helicopter squadron HMH-362 will stand down.
In 2014, the HMLA-TTU will be deactivated. Further structure changes, which are scheduled to occur in Fiscal 2015 and beyond, will see the four Marine tactical electronic warfare squadrons being deactivated although no formal schedule has been released. Under the 2011 Marine Aviation Plan those squadrons would have been disbanded between Fiscal 2016 and 2019.