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New defense authorization bill prepares Marines for cyberwar

SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 10: Members of the U.S. Marine Corp honor guard salute during the singing of the National Anthem during the unveiling ceremony for the new "Distinguished Marines" commemorative stamps November 10, 2005 in San Francisco, California. The U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp series called "Distinguished Marines." on the 230th birthday of the U.S. Marine Corp. The four-stamp series features images of U.S. Marines Lewis B. Puller, Daniel J. Daly, John Basilone and John A. Lejeune. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The Senate passed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday, and delivered it to President Barack Obama to sign. Marine Commandant Robert Neller said just prior to the vote that the bill, which strengthens front-end ground troop levels, would allow the Marines to devote more human resources to cyber, information operations, intelligence analysis, and electronic warfare capabilities.

The Washington Free Beacon reports:

“If we do get an end-strength increase and it’s sustainable and we get the money to recruit, train, and equip those Marines, they’ll be performing tasks and providing capabilities that we don’t think are existing in the current force either in sufficient quantity or they don’t exist at all,” Neller told an audience at the U.S. Naval Institute’s annual defense forum in Washington, D.C., when asked about the anticipated increase.

“What capabilities? Information operations, intelligence analysis and targeting, electronic warfare, cyber,” Neller said, adding that the Marines will also add “mundane” jobs in maintenance and communications as well as air defense, engineering, mobility, and counter-mobility.

The commandant is on record as stressing the need for the force to become adept in the new theaters of war and adapt to an enemy with new capabilities. He stated that he would have eliminated certain functions of the Marines and removed troops from those activities had he not been granted the additional troop strength with the new NDAA. The force is currently developing what they're calling the "Force 2025" strategy, with an eye toward modernizing their capabilities.

According to the Free Beacon report, the bill has been lauded by lawmakers for halting the drawdown. It commits to "185,000 Marines in the Marine Corps as well as 476,000 soldiers in the Army, 323,900 sailors in the Navy, and 321,000 airmen in the Air Force." With a price tag of $619 billion, the defense policy bill allows service members a 2.1 percent pay raise and takes steps to implement reforms to the Defense Department.

Weller has said in the past that the force must be modernized for new operations outside of the traditional theaters of war. 

“We recognize the current and future fight may not be what we experienced in the past. It will encompass not just the domains of land, air and sea, but also space and the cyber domain. It will include information operations and operations across the electromagnetic spectrum. It will involve rapidly changing and evolving technologies and concepts, which will force us to be more agile, flexible and adaptable,” he said.

Neller is joined in commending the effort by Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who said the bill delivered "bold reforms on defense acquisition, military health care, military justice, and security cooperation."

One last thing…
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