The Marine Corps Force Structure Review ordered by Defense Secretary Robert Gates will begin in September and should wrap up this winter, according to a statement issued by the service.
And: It will not address end-strength numbers.
The statement says that the review will focus on capabilities and, specifically, options for "multi-capable Marine Air Ground Task Forces that can disaggregate and aggregate to engage, respond to crises, rapidly project power, and assure access."
"There is no active-duty end strength target; the results will be based on the Force Structure Review Group's (FSRG) analysis of the capabilities and capacity required," the statement quotes Marine Corps Combat Development Command head Lt. Gen. George Flynn as saying.
The review also "must not reduce current readiness," the release adds.
"The intent is to ensure the Marine Corps is designed first and foremost, to remain our Nation's premier crisis response force," the release says. "The implications of this are many, including the requirement for Marine forces that are adaptable, highly trained and organizationally and operationally flexible. The Corps must be expeditionary -- light, powerful, sustainable, and able to operate where there is no infrastructure."
The statement matches what Secretary Gates said recently to a Marines' Memorial Association gathering in California about the Corps' future role, which he suggested might not include plans for large-scale amphibious assaults.
"The counterinsurgency skills the Marines developed during this past decade," Gates said, "combined with the agility and esprit honed over two centuries, will position the Corps in my view to be at the 'tip of the spear' in the future, when the U.S. military is likely to confront a range of irregular and hybrid conflicts."
Navy Under Secretary Robert Work recently told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the decisions from the force structure review could start influencing investment decisions as soon as next summer.
"The earliest you might see concrete changes to the structure, organization and size of the Marine Corps is in [the fiscal year 2013 program objective memorandum], but all of the changes are going to be conditions-based on what happens in Afghanistan, obviously," Work added. "If we're still hard in the fight, then the Marine Corps will stay focused on that fight, but we will at least be thinking of what the Marine Corps might look like."