Marine Corps, Air Force Leaders Talk Common Concerns, Better Communication
By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Correspondent
WASHINGTON — The top officers of the Marine Corps and Air Force held their first one-on-one meeting in seven years and decided they had enough in common to plan to meet more frequently, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller said March 29.
Although Neller and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein meet regularly together as members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their March 28 meeting was the first such session of their service leaders since 2011, before either assumed their current posts.
“The first thing we decided was we would not wait seven years,” Neller said during a talk at the Atlantic Council.
Goldfein had referred to the meeting several times earlier in the day during a Defense Writers’ breakfast, noting that the current service chiefs have fought together during the many years of conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in counter-terrorism, and that any future fight would be joint, involving all four services.
Both officers mentioned the common concerns they have with the F-35 joint strike fighter, with Neller citing “the price of that airplane and the sustainability costs.
“From there we talked about space, cyber, close air support, command and control, security of bases,” Neller said.
They also talked about the re-emergence of concern about air defense with the possibility of a conflict with a peer competitor, such as China or Russia. That includes the new threat of attacks by unmanned aircraft, Neller said.
When a reporter noted that the Air Force usually thinks of air defense in terms of its fighters controlling the skies, while the Marines’ focus is more on ground-based defense, Neller said, “I don’t care who shoots them down. I just want them gone.
“Gen. Goldfein doesn’t want any Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine looking up and wondering whose airplane is overhead,” the commandant said.
The two decided to form a staff-level board to discuss common issues and for them to meet regularly.
The Marines have long had a similar relationship with the Army to discuss land warfare issues, and are tied in closely with the Navy in the well-entrenched Navy-Marine Corps Board.
Asked if the recently approved fiscal 2018 defense funding was enough for the Marines to meet their needs, Neller said he thought it was, and he hoped Congress also will approve the even higher fiscal 2019 funding later this year.
“We stated our requirements and Congress gave us, actually, more than we asked. Our job is to spend it wisely,” he said
Neller said some would go to operations and maintenance for the current force, with the first priority being to improve readiness, particularly with Marine aviation. The service also wants to carry out the ground combat vehicle strategy, which includes the new amphibious combat vehicle and the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle to replace the Humvees, and to improve their long-range precision fires and air defense.
Neller said he also wanted to add some additional Marines to bolster the Corps’ capabilities in cyber warfare and information operations.