Marines May Cut Infantry Troops to Expand Cyber Community

First Lt. Aaron Smith uses a computer inside Marine Air Support Squadron 1’s Direct Air Support Center during a Marine Air Command and Control System Integrated Exercise, at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Feb. 3, 2015. (Photo by Grace WaladkewicsSmall/US Marine Corps)First Lt. Aaron Smith uses a computer inside Marine Air Support Squadron 1’s Direct Air Support Center during a Marine Air Command and Control System Integrated Exercise, at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Feb. 3, 2015. (Photo by Grace WaladkewicsSmall/US Marine Corps)

The Marine Corps may be approaching a steady-state end strength of 182,000 troops, but that doesn’t necessarily mean personnel cutbacks are over.

Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said Thursday that the Corps may consider scaling back its infantry population or operational forces — with an emphasis on cutting from the most junior ranks — in order to create space for an increase in its cyberwarfare community.

Speaking at an Atlantic Council event in Washington, D.C., Neller said he was looking hard at tradeoffs as the Marine Corps sought to develop well-trained, mature cyber warriors.

“I’m willing to take risk in the units we have now,” he said. “Once we determine what are the capabilities we need and what are the types of Marines we need to do that, you know, those are not going to be [privates first class] and lance corporals over time.”

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About the Author

Hope Hodge Seck
Hope Hodge Seck is a reporter at Military.com. She can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.
  • CAPMARINEDOC6869

    The USMC can cyber all they want but, there is nothing like a real MARINE to assess, adapt, and overcome any adversity.

  • David

    Every Marine is a rifleman. Period–Desktop “warriors” are not what The USMC was made to do–kick butt and kick in the door. Don’t sacrifice the essence of the Marine Corps for a job a pencil-necked civilian could do.

    • blight_

      Depends on the nature of the job. I’ve not heard a good case for just what the Marines intend their “cyber” troops to do. My first theory is intelligence gathering/exploitation for F3EAD, which would make them similar to military intelligence. The other possibility is that they perform electronic penetrations in the field during a rapidly developing war. Instead of attacking remotely behind an array of redirected servers, they would tap into switchboards, interdict network traffic at the nodes, and spread hacking terror up close. Perhaps hacking into open Wifi hotspots, or attempting WiFi Direct connections to phones to get at location services on possible baddies. Or the offensive use of stingray devices against insurgents.

      If the task involves landing a marine landing team at a network switchboard reachable by the sea, it’s easy to imagine infiltrating marines to take it out, shut down/redirect/deceive network traffic just before an offensive landing. Just as the Marines may offensively employ snipers, offensively employing technically skilled people to do bad bad things in a first world country would be a nasty surprise.

      Taking out traffic lights, dropping train guards, disrupting power/water/electricity to civilian/military is pretty important. We speculate on the use of E-bombs (or a well placed conventional bomb) to do these things, but they can be done by humans too, and perhaps with less damage.

  • joe

    Maybe it’s time for the Marines to due away with the Silent Drill Team and Marine Band in DC instead of crippling it’s Expeditionary Forces… If your gonna gut something, Gut something that does get deployed. Also take a Hard look at other areas around DC that Marines are used at like the Pentagon, or Command Staffs, I&I Staff, Training schools… just how big of a Cyber force do you need… does it need a Marine Battalion worth? The Infantry IS the Marine Corps.

  • blight_

    I think it may make more sense to state that will be used to exploit electronic data, as part of F3EAD