The opening address for this year’s Warrior Expo West is by Lieutenant General John A Toolan, I MEF Commanding General.
“The Marine Corps is a hedge against uncertainty. The mantra? No more Benghazis.”
Lieutenant General John A Toolan, USMC
Commanding General, I MEF
General Toolan’s overall remarks were about anticipating change and industry’s part in this. In particular he discussed four major factors facing our forces:
He shared that he is concerned with the cyber threat, instability in nation states and the trend that we face rogue states and maligned actors.
General Toolan feels that there will be no ‘peace dividend’ after the conclusion of the Afghanistan conflict and that we should be wary of letting our guard down post bellum. He asserts that we need to be prepared to “play all nine innings” in a conflict and not stop at the bottom of the seventh, declaring victory.
He’s a Marine through and through and recognizes that the USMC will be downsizing but remains confident that Marine Corps will be well positioned to undertake any missions they are given. He stated that the United States must maintain a global presence and not focus on one theater over another. Forward presence remains the best deterrence of aggression. Forward Presence also helps America to maintain relationships so that America can work with partners in future conflicts. General Toolan also looks to leverage SOF relationships to support those coalition partnerships.
He states that we need to get better at transitions such as from major US combat to the retrograde of US material and to coalition and host nation led operations. So far, the Marine Corps has returned over $1 billion worth of equipment to the US. However, he feels that the transition of excess equipment to Afghan forces is critical and steps have been taken to ensure that they develop a system to accept and maintain the gear.
Interestingly, the Marine Corps turns over about 33,000 Marines a year. General Toolan discussed this explaining that a lot of combat experience has left the Marines. It’s not a concern, just a fact that they must deal with. But he does see the Marines undertaking a mental transition of the force from a combat focus to more traditional roles and assuming duties that have been outsourced over the last 12 years. He explained that there are things that Marine Corps needs to do mentally and spiritually to make this transition happen. He is impressed with the leadership of his Marines in combat and wants to see that same level of engagement in garrison.
Lt General Toolan is a very interesting speaker and I appreciate his forthrightness in the face of a changing defense environment. I’d say he is very in tune with his Marine Corps. However, he continued the current meme of “excess” being bad for the Marines. But his perspective isn’t that the increased defense spending of this war as being bad for Marines that we seem to see being popularized in the press. Rather he sees that it has caused a decrease in accountability of equipment. As a former leader and taxpayer, I can’t say that I disagree.