CMC Gen. Smith’s Latest Guidance to the Marine Corps

April 2, 2024 10:14 AM

The following is the April 2, 2024 message from Marine commandant Gen. Eric Smith, FRAGO 01-2024, “Maintain Momentum.” 

From the report


Marines, thank you for your service and sacrifices. The entire Marine Corps, active, reserve, civilian Marines, and our families continue to serve with the honor and commitment familiar to all who have ever earned the title, “Marine.”

Prior to my confirmation as the Commandant, I issued White Letter 1-23, which confirmed the direction and momentum of our Corps’ aggressive modernization, experimentation, and campaign of learning. I’ve had some time to reflect over the past few months and remain firmly committed to our current path. This Frag Order serves as a bridge between White Letter 1-23 and a forthcoming Commandant’s Planning Guidance that will be released when I deem it appropriate. First and foremost, I aim to communicate my vision for Who We Are, Where We Are Going, and How We Fight

We are unique among the militaries of the world. First and foremost, we are a warfighting organization. We exist to fight and win our country’s battles. Everything we do should center around that goal. The character of war may change, but its nature never will – it is the violent struggle between two irreconcilable wills. That struggle is where Marines thrive. We ask for nothing more than the chance to be First to Fight.

Ironclad discipline is the currency of our Corps. Steadfast adherence to our standards sets us apart and gives us a decisive advantage in combat. Discipline is, and has always been, the foundational part of warfighting – and that starts in garrison. The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war.

The standards we enforce are Marine Corps standards. They are consistent and universal across the Corps, and all Marines will meet them. Our Marine Corps Orders outline the high standards that govern all essential aspects of our profession, and our NCOs, SNCOs, and officers maintain those standards. We will not lower our standards – ever. We do not ask young men and women to join us, and we do not promise them an easy life – we challenge them to try out for a place in our Corps. Those who compete to become a Marine, and who can meet and sustain our standards, deserve our best leadership. We are a proud meritocracy which welcomes all and judges them based on one thing: do you have what it takes to earn the title, “Marine.”

We are a learning organization. Whether pushing the boundaries of warfighting development to the point of failure, or simply making an honest mistake, I expect our leaders to turn failures into opportunities for growth and development. A zero-defect mentality has no place in our Corps – it stifles boldness, initiative, and runs counter to our warfighting doctrine. Just as we turn a poorly planned training exercise into a lesson learned in our campaign of learning, when appropriate we will give our Marines – both junior and senior – a chance to redeem themselves when they fall short.

Force Design set us on a critically necessary path – one that will continue. In White Letter 1-23, I outlined my top five priorities of 1) Balancing Crisis Response and Modernization, 2) Naval Integration and Organic Mobility, 3) Quality of Life, 4) Recruit, Make, and Retain Marines, and 5) Maximize the Potential of our Reserves. Those priorities remain at the heart of my strategy and the direction for our Corps, and are not in order of precedence. How we achieve each priority will require a delicate balancing and deliberate application of precious resources where, and when, they will do the most good.

By Balancing Crisis Response and Modernization, we will align and synchronize our Force Design advancements, while remaining unwavering in our commitment to persistent, global forward presence and our Marine Expeditionary Units. The changing character of war does not eliminate the need for forward deployed forces; we will continue to provide our Nation with world-class naval expeditionary forces deployed forward to campaign closely alongside our Navy shipmates. Our deliberate campaigning activities – both at sea and ashore – allow us to proactively posture our forces to deter malign actors, respond to crises, and provide our Nation’s leaders with strategic decision space. Despite the threats that come from operating inside an adversary’s weapons engagement zone (WEZ), forward-deployed Marines have outsized influence to shape the operational environment and cause our adversaries to think before committing to a course of action. Should they choose to fight, Marines will be ready with the best training and modern tools necessary to defeat them in combat.

To effectively balance crisis response and modernization, we must articulate the importance of Operations and Maintenance funding of ground and aviation training, maintenance, safety, and readiness; emphasize the importance of a predictable, adequate, sustained, and timely budget to fund modernization programs; advance our logistics capability, which is the pacing function; advance the role of our installations as power projection platforms; and continue to prove that when the Corps is provided a taxpayer dollar, we can show exactly where and how it has been invested in things that matter to our Nation. I remain fully committed to the Force Design Campaign of Learning and all of its supporting efforts. The following assumptions will inform our modernization efforts.

1. The long-standing trend of increasing dispersion on the battlefield will continue and likely accelerate; frontages will increase, battlefield depth will increase, and sanctuary will be difficult to achieve.
2. Winning the all-domain reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance fight provides significant warfighting advantage. Losing this fight will be increasingly difficult to overcome.
3. The Marine Corps’ ability to task-organize for specific missions will continue to be a source of competitive advantage for the service.
4. The future operating environment requires threat-informed modernization of Marine Corps capabilities.

To advance Naval Integration and Organic Mobility, we will maximize the potential of the Stand-In Forces and their contribution to the Joint Force, while remaining organically mobile, survivable, and sustainable within the littorals. We have been naval in our nature since our founding, and this key attribute is written into the laws which govern our Corps. By focusing on Naval Integration, we are reiterating our commitment to our naval heritage and reaffirming its relevance to our future. Effective naval integration involves naval forces fully prepared to compete, fight, and win with naval force offerings to Combatant Commanders, supported by Naval Doctrine and aligned with the Joint Warfighting Concept. We will staunchly advocate for and be unambiguous in our requirements for a mission-capable amphibious force, to include the following: the greatest possible readiness of the existing Amphibious Warfare Ship inventory; no fewer than 31 Amphibious Warfare Ships procured through cost-saving block-buys; two-year centers for LPDs and four-year centers for LHAs; and the criticality of the timely production of 35 LSMs and, in the interim, a Littoral Maneuver Bridging Solution.

The Amphibious Ready Group / Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) remains our crown jewel, and our Amphibious Warfare Ships are the key enabler of our critical missions of campaigning and crisis response. The ARG/MEU remains in high demand by Combatant Commanders, partners, and allies; our ARG/MEUs are powerful campaigning tools used to respond to crisis, build partner capacity, and prevent escalating events from turning into a larger conflict. Amphibious Warfare Ships enable our global, persistent presence – that presence has been the guarantor of peace and worldwide prosperity for the better part of the last century. More, the inherent mobility, flexibility and lethality of our amphibious forces enable them to hold potential adversaries at risk globally – providing Combatant Commanders and National leadership with a wide range of tools to deter, respond to crisis, or fight and win. As such, we will continue to advocate for our Amphibious Warfare Ships, including a littoral shore-to-shore capability, that enable us to be present at the decisive moment.

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