During his run for the presidency, Donald Trump promised to sharply increase funds for the military, including the United States Marine Corps, which he said ought to be expanded by nearly 12,000 active duty personnel. Now that Trump is president-elect, USMC leaders are beginning to think about how they will proceed if the White House orders them to expand the force by what would amount to about 7 percent of its current size of 182,000 active troops.
“Is it doable? Absolutely,” he said. However, he added, “It’s not going to happen overnight. We’ve got a very high-quality force. Whenever you try to grow too fast, it’s very difficult to maintain that level of quality and experience.”
Trump appears to have embraced the recommendations of a report produced by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, which estimates that the U.S. military is undersized and underfunded with regard to the country’s “two-war” policy. That holds that the U.S. ought to be able to fight and win two major wars simultaneously.
Trump has brought in one of the report’s authors, Dakota Wood, as a member of his transition team, leading to speculation that the Heritage recommendations, including the expansion of the Marines, may well become official Trump administration policy.
That was the issue Neller was asked to address on Wednesday, and he cautioned that expanding the size of the force wasn’t just a matter of finding new recruits.
“It’s not just the Marines,” he said. “I’ve got to find 'X' number more battalion commanders; 'X' number more sergeants major and company commanders ... let alone buy the gear and build the barracks.”
However, he said, if those are the orders of the commander-in-chief, and if Congress provides the funding, “We follow orders and if that’s what we’re told to do, we’ll go out there and do our very best to do it.”