Every defense document in recent years stresses the chaotic, unpredictable, and dynamic nature of present and future operating environments. Defense planners must be prepared to react to crises and problems that arise without warning. Everyone has heard the aphorism “If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” But what if your only tool is a Swiss Army knife? In that case, our ability to meet unpredictable problems becomes less of an issue. The flexibility of Navy and Marine Corps amphibious forces make them the nation’s strategic Swiss Army knife. While they may not always be the best tool for every contingency, their forward-deployed nature frequently means they are the only tool available in times of emergency.
The latest paper by the Marine Corps’ Ellis Group describes just such a force. To be sure, this is nothing new. The Navy/Marine team has operated as the nation’s forward-deployed first responders for decades. Indeed, a chaotic and unpredictable operating environment should be familiar to sailors and Marines. Our crisis-response pedigree extends to the first American foreign war, against the Barbary pirates in 1801.