Deference to senior command is a hard-wired tradition in elite military organizations, and nowhere is that tradition more honored than in the U.S. Marine Corps. But what happens if a policy coming from the top of the chain of command is insufficiently tested or intrinsically flawed? Where is it written that a subordinate or former commander can set aside deference and demand a second look?
For more than two years many of the Marine Corps’ finest former leaders have struggled with this dilemma as they quietly discussed a series of fundamental changes ordered, and in some cases already implemented, by Gen. David Berger, the current commandant. Among Marines there are serious questions about the wisdom and long-term risk of dramatic reductions in force structure, weapon systems and manpower levels in units that would take steady casualties in most combat scenarios. And it is unclear to just about everyone with experience in military planning what formal review and coordination was required before Gen. Berger unilaterally announced a policy that would alter so many time-honored contributions of the Marine Corps.