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Top Marine: Transformation More Than Basic Modernization

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2003 – America's top Marine general believes there should be "a distinction between transformation and basic modernization."

Gen. James Jones, who will relinquish the job of commandant of the Marine Corps Jan. 13 to assume the title supreme allied commander Europe, said he thinks the word "transformation" should be reserved for things that are, well, transformational.

"For me, transformation means being able to do something that you couldn't do before, or by some tremendous overhaul of the things that you already are able to do, you are able to do them exponentially better -- and I don't mean just a little better, I mean exponentially better," Jones said during a luncheon at the National Press Club here.

Jones cited the advent of using the Global Positioning System as a navigational aid as an example of a transformational advance.

Another is the use of B-52 bombers to drop precision-guided weapons. "I stood on the ground in South Vietnam during Arc Lights (B-52 bombing missions during the Vietnam conflict), and I can tell you that even though I wasn't in the path of that armament, I was certainly impressed by the fact that three miles away the ground was shaking," Jones said. "And those same B-52s now, instead of carpet bombing, can deliver very precise ammunition on a very well-defined target and achieve success."

The Marines are undergoing a transformational shift in emphasis on using tilt-rotor aircraft. Critics have assailed the Marines' current tilt-rotor prototype, the V- 22 Osprey, as unsafe and too expensive. Jones is a strong proponent of the program.

" The power of tilt-rotor technology is so transformational that it can actually affect the way the soldier, sailor, airman and Marines go to battle and do the important things that they need to do," he said.

Transformation isn't limited to technology. "Arguably, the most transformational thing that has taken place in the armed forces of the United States in the last 50 years is the all-volunteer force," Jones said.

Another "paradigm shift" is the understanding that each military service "cannot go it alone." The U.S. military routinely relies on joint and coalition forces to accomplish missions. Jones said he thinks this shift in thinking will extend even further in the 21st century to stronger interagency cooperation brought about by homeland security needs.

The Marine general gave a clear example of how the security of the United States is no longer simply a Defense Department concern. When forces deployed to the 1991 Gulf War, they did so "without too much concern about the security of our bases and stations at home."

Now, Jones said, service chiefs can't deploy large numbers of forces "without thinking very consciously about the security of our bases and stations and our military installation in ways that we didn't have to 12 years ago."

The nation's leaders have to concern themselves with defending the homeland as well as achieving goals overseas. Homeland security concerns are forcing the Defense Department to work closely with domestic agencies they haven't had to work with at all in the past.

Other transformational shifts are the significantly smaller size of the military today compared to larger forces in the past and the smaller percentage of the gross national product spent on defense.

Jones noted that at the height of the Cold War, defense spending garnered double-digit percentages of the national budget. Recently it has been below 3 percent; now it is between 3.5 percent and 4 percent. The general said he believes this shift has been in line with shifting national priorities, and that the current level is just about right.

"I don't for a minute believe it should ever get up to 9, 10 or 11 percent, because the force sizing is not there," Jones said. But he doesn't think it should drop from current levels either.

He believes earlier levels were too low and bad for the country. "We paid a very real price in real terms for that mistake of not understanding that proper investment in national security issues is fundamentally important and, in my opinion, even more important in this new 21st century, which is characterized by so much instability, so much disorder, and so much cultural animosity on the face of the earth -- and whatever that might lead to," Jones said.

Recent changes in military doctrine are transformational in their scope. Jones related how Marines are working to take some of the burden off special operations forces in training foreign militaries in the Philippines and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced this shift in special operations priorities during a Jan. 7 Pentagon briefing. Rumsfeld said special operations troops will have a greater role and expanded responsibilities in the war on terrorism. He noted that U.S. Special Operation Command will be "divested of various missions, such as routine military training and civil support, that can be successfully accomplished by other forces."

"We are happy Marines and sailors are able to back-fill and take up this very important mission in pursuit of our national objectives," Jones said.

Just days before he hands the reins of the Marine Corps to Gen. Michael W. Hagee, Jones reflected on how much the position has meant to him. "For the last three and a half years, I have been truly blessed to be entrusted with the custody of the United States Marine Corps," he said.

Jones expressed "absolute confidence that the United States Marines will continue to make a great difference wherever they go."

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageGen. James Jones, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps  
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