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CHIPS Articles: Q&A with Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Weber

Q&A with Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Weber
Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command
By CHIPS Magazine - October-December 2007
U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command is the coordinating authority to globally source Marine Corps forces and capabilities to U. S. Joint Forces Command.

Lt. Gen. Weber is the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command, Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, and U.S. Marine Corps Bases, Atlantic. Before taking command July 18, he was the commanding general of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan.

After spirited luncheon remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association and U. S. Joint Forces Command co-sponsored Industry Symposium July 31, 2007, CHIPS asked Lt. Gen. Weber to talk about the Navy and Marine Corps team and the global war on terror.

CHIPS: I was intrigued by what you said about conventional warfare. So many navies around the world continue to build big deck ships and conventional weapons systems. Yet, in the Defense Department, we talk about asymmetrical threats and transformational warfare, but fighting appears to remain conventional in terms of the ground war and almost hand-to-hand combat.

Lt. Gen. Weber: In order for the Marine Corps to respond effectively across the spectrum of conflict, it must remain proficient in both conventional military operations and high-end combat.

While we're clearly focused on counterinsurgency (COIN) operations in the current fight, we can't allow that focus to detract from our responsibility to conduct more traditional, force-on-force combined-arms and maneuver warfare operations at the higher end of the spectrum. As you know, the Corps is charged with being 'most ready when the nation is least ready,' and that means we've got to fight and win in any kind of conflict.

That kind of flexibility and breadth has characterized the Marine Corps throughout our existence, and our 'trademark' task-organized, Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) allow us to harness, orchestrate and concentrate the full power of an air-ground-logistics team against any enemy and in any venue.

You get a glimpse of the MAGTF's inherent flexibility and strength today with artillerymen performing civil-military operations or aviation support units providing security forces. However, we won't allow our current focus on COIN operations to diminish our ability to perform traditional core warfighting competencies. The fact of the matter is that as United States Marines, America expects us to be able to do it all. When you look at the threat globally, the reasons are clear.

Potential enemies are still mass-producing artillery pieces, tanks, amphibious vehicles, fighter jets and other weapons designed for large-scale, traditional conflict, and one of our nation's most important tools to dissuade these enemies from aggression is a Navy-Marine Corps team capable of striking along the depth and breadth of an enemy's area of influence through forcible entry operations if required, and spearheading the defeat of his armed forces as part of a joint or combined campaign.

CHIPS: Do you think we are using enough diplomatic means to subdue the insurgency in Iraq?

Lt. Gen. Weber: Yes, the concerted effort is now there. Over the past several months I think it's quite obvious that both 'carrot and stick' diplomacy have been brought to bear. We appear to be employing all elements of national power in varying degrees and at different times. As you know, diplomatically and economically, we've had great success in Al Anbar Province working with the tribes and local populace to eradicate anti-coalition forces.

These successes must be followed by reform and reconciliation that lead to long-term security and stability. To that end, we've got to continue to use all the elements of national power; this isn't a fight the military can prosecute alone.

CHIPS: There is a tremendous push to get the MRAPs (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) armored vehicles fielded quickly. As a former MEF commander and in your position now as a force provider, do you think that is the most important capability needed in the ground fight now?

Lt. Gen. Weber: Without a doubt, the MRAP is the most important material solution available to increase the force protection capability of our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and civilians in country. It significantly mitigates the IED threat that's caused so many of our casualties.

CHIPS: As a ground commander, is there anything else that you see warfighters need?

Lt. Gen. Weber: Well, as you'd expect, warfighting needs are continually evaluated and re-evaluated. In fact, one of Marine Forces Command's critical functions is to represent the operating forces' concerns to Joint Forces Command and our service headquarters. We facilitate this feedback through regular and constant coordination with the warfighters and the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) to accommodate their needs for both material and non-material solutions.

CHIPS: Can you talk about your new job as head of MARFORCOM?

Lt. Gen. Weber: As the U.S. Marine Corps service component commander to JFCOM, Marine Forces Command is entrusted with broad responsibilities that include global force management functions (joint force provider), as well as joint training and readiness oversight.

I'm excited about the command's roles and responsibilities, and think they'll become increasingly critical to the success of our Corps and its contribution to the joint force. One of the many great aspects of the job is to be able to both represent the operating forces of the Marine Corps to our service headquarters, while simultaneously acting as the voice of the Marine Corps to JFCOM.

MARFORCOM has a very important and evolving role to play, and I'm very fortunate to be in a position to support this very important mission.

CHIPS: You spoke extensively about strengthening the Navy-Marine Corps team. What are your thoughts on this?

Lt. Gen. Weber: The Navy-Marine Corps team has been an unbeatable combination since our nation's founding, but it can never be taken for granted. To get to your question, one of the many strides the Navy-Marine team has made in recent years involves the clear articulation of capstone operational and enabling concepts like the Naval Operating Concept (NOC), the Marine Operating Concept (MOC), seabasing and distributed operations.

However, at this point, I think we need to devote more effort toward 'operationalizing' those documents in a manner that's relevant to the warfighter — ensuring that the new platforms, organizations and tactics envisioned are promptly and effectively integrated in our nation's Naval force.

CHIPS: Are the Marines finding some relief from the deployment of individual augmentees to Iraq and Afghanistan?

Lt. Gen. Weber: As a service, we've taken steps to mitigate the loss of key personnel from our formations and continually look for ways to better manage the force.

However, the fact is that there's no easy answer in the short term; we're all doing more with less, and younger leaders have stepped up to the plate to fill the gap that's left when we're tasked to fill unexpected IA quotas — and have done so with amazing competence and leadership. As the Marine Corps grows its end-strength, we fully expect the situation to become more tenable over the next few years.

CHIPS: Have I missed anything that you would like to talk about?

Lt. Gen. Weber: In the wake of Iraq, Afghanistan and the realities of the global war on terror, there are numerous initiatives underway to further our joint warfighting capabilities and to put the right tools in the warfighter's kit.

Our great challenge at this point will be to assimilate the many lessons learned from the current conflict while not forgetting any of the old ones, which our fighting men and women paid for dearly. If we can do this, our services, the joint force and our nation will be stronger, safer and better prepared to face the uncertainties inherent in this new century.

Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Weber
Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Weber

Gen. James T. Conway, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, passes on the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command colors from Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman Jr. to Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Weber (right) during the change of command ceremony July 18, 2007. MARFORCOM is headquartered at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., and is the U.S. Marine Corps Component of U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM).
Gen. James T. Conway, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, passes on the U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command colors from Lt. Gen. Robert R. Blackman Jr. to Lt. Gen. Joseph F. Weber (right) during the change of command ceremony July 18, 2007. MARFORCOM is headquartered at Naval Base Norfolk, Va., and is the U.S. Marine Corps Component of U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM).
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