Marine Corps, Air Force Service Chiefs Hold First Meeting Since 2011; Plan to Coordinate on F-35, Air Defense Threats

March 29, 2018 3:16 PM
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller, right, walks with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, left, before an evening parade at Marine Barracks Washington, Washington, D.C., July 28, 2017. Neller hosted the parade and Goldfein was the guest of honor. US Marine Corps photo.

The Marine Corps and Air Force service chiefs met this week in the first top-level meeting between the services since 2011, in the first step towards developing a closer bond between the services perhaps least likely to work together.

The Marine Corps connects three-star leadership to the Army through a reinvigorated Army-Marine Corps Board, with a similar three-star Naval Board and other mechanisms to ensure interoperability with its sister service under the same Department of the Navy umbrella. But there are fewer avenues to coordinate with the Air Force – and in many cases, less need to do so.

However, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said today that “the meeting we had yesterday with the Air Force was the first time we’ve met since 2011. So one of the first things we decided is we’re not going to wait seven more years to do this again. In fact, we’re probably going to come up with some sort of staff-level board quarterly where we’ll meet and talk about some of the common things that we discussed yesterday,” he said of his meeting with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein.

An F-35B Lightning II assigned to the “Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 sits on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) on March 7, 2018. US Navy Photo

“Obviously the F-35 is one thing where we have a common focus on the price point of that airplane, the sustainability of that airplane, the logistics of that airplane, and we kind of went from there. So we talked everything from space to cyber to close air support to command and control to security of bases and stations. And so it was a really good day,” Neller said.
“I think a lot of times you sit down with somebody that, you might think we don’t have a lot in common with the Air Force, but we filled the time and we could have spent more time there. So we’re going to get together on a more regular basis to try to address some of these things.”

The commandant added that one specific topic of interest to the two services might be how to defend against a growing unmanned aerial vehicle threat, and air defense in general.

Neller said earlier in the event, hosted by the Atlantic Council that the Marines haven’t had to think much about air defense in recent fights, particularly in Afghanistan, but “I think the real future of enemy air attack is going to be swarming drones.”

“They’re very inexpensive, and their autonomy and their ability to fly a planned route, and if they start to be weaponized I think that they’re something we’re going to have to deal with,” the commandant added.

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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