Senator stirs pot by suggesting closure of Marine Corps recruit depot possible


Dillon Pickard, a recruit at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, lays across a chain bridge at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in March. (Photo by Cpl. Eric Quintanillla/Marine Corps)

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s recent assertion that the Marine Corps could be forced to shutter one of its recruit depots has added a new cultural dynamic to the gloomy forecast about sequestration, the series of federal budget cuts looming if the U.S. government doesn’t find another way to reduce its deficit.

Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told constituents in his home state recently that the Corps may have to consolidate the recruit depots in San Diego and Parris Island, S.C., if sequestration goes through. His comments resulted in media coverage like this, and have raised some eyebrows in Washington.

Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, told Marine Corps Times the senator believes the Corps “probably won’t be able to keep both” depots open if sequestration happens. Graham, an influential member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, repeatedly has raised concerns that sequestration must be avoided to prevent defense cuts he sees as reckless and unwise.

The automatic cuts planned were created as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, a federal statute that put in place drastic spending reductions in national security and domestic programs if Congress fails to find a way to reduce the deficit. It calls for $600 billion in budget cuts over 10 years at the Pentagon if no other agreements are reached by January.

Top U.S. officers have warned repeatedly that the cuts would have devastating effects on the military, but had not previously raised the prospect of Parris Island or MCRD San Diego closing. Boot camp training at both installations has been mythologized in popular culture for years, giving Graham an interesting, tangible angle to highlight his concerns.

Capt. Kendra Motz, a spokesman at Marine Corps headquarters, said Tuesday that the Corps and Defense Department as a whole still have not begun planning for sequestration. President Obama’s defense budget is planned by the White House Office of Management and Budget, which to date has not put out any sequestration planning guidance, she said.

In testimony to Congress last month, Assistant Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford did not mention the possible closure of a recruit depot, but said sequestration would force the Corps to cut 18,000 additional Marines on top of the service’s currently planned drawdown from about 202,100 Marines last year to 182,100. Doing so likely would result in some Marines being forced out quickly and unfairly, he warned.

“These are the very people who are in Afghanistan today forward-deployed, forward-engaged, in harm’s way,” Dunford said. “And their reward when they come home will simply be to dismiss [them]and shake their hand. And I think that would be a mistake.”


About Author

I'm a senior writer with Marine Corps Times, covering ground warfare, manpower, weapons acquisition and other beats. I embedded in Afghanistan in spring 2010, and plan to return at least once in 2011.


  1. Holly Wagner on

    If congress would stop lining their pockets, approving worthless programs to make themselves simply look good (and of course, to make them even MORE money!), and if they’d stop sending aid to every other country who complains that they need help, we wouldn’t have such a huge deficit!

  2. fred lapides on

    Holly: you are talking peanuts. The issue really is cutting budget and increasing taxes to get rid of deficit. It seems both parties refuse to compromise on this win objective.

  3. Look, the entire Marine Corps takes up a fraction of the Defense Budget. Cut something else, like civilian contractors getting paid 100k a year to teach IED lane training.

  4. Chad Thatcher on

    I guess it’s ok if he cuts bases in other states, but won’t mention closing Parris Island in his own state. What a hypocrite. Leave us Marines alone you dumb bastard. We already do more with less!

  5. I dont understand the part where they would force a Marine out under 20 years, Why would you start from the top, if a Marine has 20 + years force him into early retirement, a 20 + Marine has done his time honorably and I am sure is looking to retire anyway. I do not see how the Marines will survive with only one training facility, this is not faor, the Army is large enough to take the hit, leave us alone and take the cuts from teh Army. Also agree with taking the money from those stupid decsions out polititions make on a daily basis.

  6. Amber (LCpl) on

    This is absolutely nuts! 1st, there has been more than enough taken from the military as a whole, wth?! We already knew we Marines are the red-headed step children of the military, he needs to prove it even more by closing 1 of the 2 Depots we have?! UGH! I’m tired of politicians & their own desires.

  7. The USMC has been under fire practically the day that it came into being back on November 10, 1775. This idiotic proposal is yet one more nail in the coffin of the finest fighting force in the world. Couple that with a air wing Commandant and the current idiot-in-chief…we are looking at a disaster in the making. The inmates are running the assylum! God save our Marine Corps! God save out once-great nation!

  8. Marine Wife on

    It would be a travesty to close either MCRD. More great Americans have stood in those yellow foot prints than have ever come out of all the ivy league colleges combined. I also agree with Dave about taking some money from the Army. Doing anything that would affect the support or staffing of the MC could have a disastrous effect on the security and strength of our nation.

  9. brianBRIAN@YAHOO.COM on


  10. @Dave E-5

    I think thats the best idea. They really need to start looking at cutting the ones that already have done thier time. They would be in a less financial hole as opposed to a Sgt forced to get out, he would not be getting retirement pay. Im tired of seeing everyone start at the bottom to try to fix the problem. The Marine Corps is goiing to lose alot of good potential leaders if it does not come up with a better solution to fix this problem.

  11. Dan E-4 USMC on

    This will never happen. The United States will always need the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps needs their two recruit depots. This is the result of ignorant, closed-fisted and desperate politicians running this country. Eventually people will grow tired of deceitful “leaders” making these moronic decisions. I will tell you one thing: it won’t be the Marine Corps who suffers. You can take the dog out of the fight but not the fight out of the dog. OOOORAH!!!

  12. brianBRIAN@YAHOO.COM on

    people are already tired of these lame ass politicians the fact is nothing is done about them, nothing will change. These deceitful leaders are all corrupt, the peoples vote doesn’t count for shit, and this country is out of control “freaking sad and disgraceful”!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. The Marine Corps and Coast Guard should be left alone in this budget slashing, as we are the smallest forces, and we both do more with less. The Army and Air Force are the one’s who need the cuts. The Cold War is over, so leave one base in Germany with the trauma hospital for Afghan WIA and close all the other European bases [Germany, Italy, etc] Do Not relocate those units, but instead disband them. Stop buying the B-2 bomber, as carpet bombing is a thing of the past. Close ALL military bases in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and that area. We don’t need a 700,000+ Army, when its the Marines who lead the way- cut the Army to 300,000. Close a few dozen Army bases across the Country, as it seems there is one in almost every State. The same could be said for the Air Force- there must be literally two dozen or more bases scattered around the Country, when in reality there should be one on each coast, and one north and south at the border- all others should be closed. If you reduce the Air Force to 4 U.S. bases and close all others worldwide, you would only need a couple dozen pilots at each base, along with the mechanics and ground crew to support those two dozen planes- I.E. Reduce the Air Farce to 50,000 . Disband the Air Force’s pilot rescue force [Jolly Green Giants- H53’s ??- as every time since 1975 that a pilot gets himself shot down, it’s the Marines who go in and rescue them. Abolish the Air National Guard, as what purpose do they serve?? They can’t function like the Army National Guard in homeland catostrophy’s or riot control, and with an Air Force, we don’t need the Air Guard for national defense.. I live on the border with Canada, and I don’t feel they are a threat. As for the Navy’s pre-positioning ships that supply Marines for 90 days in a fight, you only need one on each coast for humanitarian relief as well as supporting Marines close to home, and a ship deployed in each ocean on the other side of the globe – that is 4 ships. We don’t need 12 of them. Cut the number of Subs in half, Reduce the number of air craft carriers to 4 [two Atlantic-two for Pacific]. Deeply upsetting that they want to cut the Marine Corps, when its the Marines who have led the way, done most of the fighting, and turned the tide in Iraq and Afghanistan.- When proposing cuts, don’t start with the force that does the most for this country- start with the wastefull fat that has grown unchecked here and abroad since 1945. Basically, start closing some Army and Air Force bases first, as most don’t even serve a purpose any longer, if they ever did. Looks like I need to write another email to my Senator, Carl Levin, but he doesn’t listen to the people either. Semper Fi !!!!

  14. He’s not done his homework. Neither site could expand to hold an additional 3 Battalions or even 2 additional Battalions of training Marines. San Diego absolutely can not expand. Parris Island expansion would be too expensive at this point also. PI has a bit more room but you would have to expand chow halls, barracks, additional support facilities etc…It would probably actually be cheaper to reduce each site by reducing full time personel and also reducing the amount of recruits trained

  15. Bill - Former SSGT of Marines on

    I am reminded of a quote by President Ronald egan.

    “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they have made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”

  16. Bill - Former SSGT of Marines on

    I am reminded of a quote by President Ronald Regan.

    “Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they have made a difference. The Marines don’t have that problem.”

  17. I believe the GOV Needs to take the cuts, they sit there in Washington Sucking up ALL of our Tax Dollars so they can play BIG SHOT~

  18. I hate that they always want to ‘cut spending’ in the military in general. I know it isn’t popular but cut social welfare. Cut food stamps, WIC and Social security (not for the elderly but for all those working the system to live free) The military are WORKING for their pay yet they are the first ones hit. These welfare programs are for people who are not holding their own weight, but heaven forbid we cut that spending!

  19. To Dave E-5 –

    So your saying that we should kick out the proven Great leaders over 20 years in hopes that an unproven five year Sgt can take the place of two decades of experience? Yes I do agree that we should cut the fat off the top but even if a senior leader is broken and can’t run 3 miles in 18 minutes they still do have what every one of your peers don’t have, and that’s experience. The Corps is hurting but not just because of the budget cuts. At least in the 90’s when we went through this we had experience comming out the butt. However now we’ve managed to promote to fast and get ourselves into a war that has knocked us off course with our training. So your a Sgt and that’s great but when was the last time you did a Med Float, or mountain warfare training or jungle warfare training, or river ops, or any other type of operations the Corps is known for. I would go out on a limb and say that almost 90% of the Corps couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag using a compass and map. who’s going to reteach Marines how to patrol in jungles and forests, civilians? Go ahead and get rid of the only tool in the tool box that has already been paid for. We’re having enough trouble with GySgt with 10 or less years in. Great warfighters but no garrison leadership. Love the and alway will but lets be real. They need to leave the Corps alone and let it get back to being itself.

  20. classwarrior on

    Never say never Marines, I can see this happening as there is nothing sacred to a politician. I would not be suprised if they suggest eliminating the entire USMC in favor of enlarging the Army as the Marines can be considered redundant. It is a good thing that the USMC has such a proud tradition, maybe that will save its existance.

  21. Graham’s statement is precisely intended to get people stirred up so WE mobilize on the polls in November. The budget needs to be brought into balance. OUR Country will not survive if we continue down the path of tax, spend and tax some more. Entitlements should be reserved for those who actually earn them, and no, simply sucking air doesn’t cause someone to be entitled. If you truly want to do something about this problem, be vocal and vote. And whatever you do, don’t turn on fellow Vets who would gladly stand by you, regardless of their branch of service. We have enough division in this Country right now. As Military and Veterans we are above that. I do not want to see either Parris Island or San Diego shutdown. We need you Marines to fight for us and with us.

  22. Having entered the tunnel, stood in the footprints and to a sense been re-born at MCRD San Diego, I have some mixed emotions. But logically does it really make sense to have the Recruit Depot in Downtown San Diego? The Recruit firing range and infantry training takes place on Pendleton. Really can not think of anything that is accomplished at MCRD San Diego that could not be accomplished at Pendleton; substancially lower cost housing and real savings to be had by shuttering MCRD San Diego with no (that I can think of) degradation to mission.

  23. Why don’t they consolidate all the bases the Army trains at instead. If they’re going to cut anywhere it should start with the Army. Soldiers are more expensive and less effective than Marines.

  24. I’m guessing they will close MCRD San Diego. They need to expand the airport dont you know. What a shame!

  25. FormerMarine on

    The military need’s to close way more down then just a depot. The war’s have to stop, bases closed, equipment purchasing fraud and waste. The Pentagon all the way down to the lowest private need’s to be reigned in. The military should not actively recruit for exchange in financial benefits. It will make these crooked politicians think twice about going around provoking war’s, bombing countries with no constitutional authority. The officers of the military might actually want to do some research on America’s military intent (im talking about going all the way back to the beginning of this nation) not Teddy Roosevelt.

    Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.

    George Washington

  26. FormerMarine on

    When a President ask you to drop bomb’s on a nation with out consent of the people and their elected representatives in Libya and you act on those illegal orders????? The military and the presidents of the past 12 years are really scaring me and the people of this country. I served from 02 – 08, went to fallujah the whole 9 yards. Military has made a choice to be irresponsible and not to uphold the Constitution. Shut em down. It’s becoming a problem now.


  28. Stop with the “take it from the Army” talk Marines. The Army has been closing posts for years due to budget cuts. No branch is going to be free from the possibility of cuts. It’s a fact of life.

  29. S/Sgt Ike Oshana on

    Having received gone through San Diego in 1952 before being shipped out to Korea, I found that it was the best place to be because the weather for training young men was more consistent than other parts of the country and it was more accessible to the seaport from which the troop ships departed to get to a war zone more directly. It is also close to Lindberg National Airport from which Marines can use to fly to their destinations and Camp Pendleton is close enough for graduates who are sent there for additional training to get to conveniently. As stated in a previous letter, the Army has more bases which can be consolidated, and that is what should be done in this instance. Besides, the base helps the economic base of the City of San Diego and they would be lost without it.

  30. John Stryker on

    Why don’t we give all the member of the House, and the Senate plus the President and Vice President and all of their family members the same kind of medical care they show our wounded warriors? Change the law so that all of them have to FIRST go the a Department of Veteran Affairs medical center for ALL of their health care. And only AFTER they receive care from the VA, can any of them go to an outside healthcare provider. After all, isn’t that the same thing which is being offered to our Veterans? It could help to reduce some of the cost that will make sequestration happen if government spending isn’t dealt with by January. There could also be a rollback on their salaries, too, since they have been able to complete a budget in the past few years, a part of their Job Definition, I believe. Don’t get their work done on time, shouldn’t be paid for it. Again, another way to help save some more money.

    John M. STRYKER

  31. I agree with just about everything stated up there. As a Marine myself, I feel that neither branch of the Military should be touched. They were developed to help protect our Nation and to protect idiot Senators such as this Graham character. The government wants to cut spending, good, start with the free loaders who live off the system, get knocked up and keep having kids they cant take care of who the government and states start having to take care of. And eliminate the huge payouts our congress and senators get for not doing their job. The people voted them in to represent them, not to watch them say one thing just to get elected and then sit on their asses and not get anything done. Damn I wish there were term limits for senators and congressmen. Our country would be better off.

    There are many good people serving in our military, whether they have put in 20 + years or not. IF the answer is to push for early retirement, then ok but don’t force them to take it, give them the option.

    But consolidating both of the Training facilities we have, is not going to solve the budget issue. The small fraction that Marine Corps takes up with not even put a dent in the deficit.

    I agree with one of the previous statements. We need to quite giving aid to other counties just because they ask for it. Hell they don’t like us anyways, and would hurt us the first chance they got, once they got all they needed out of us.

    I’ll step off my soap box now. Semper Fi

  32. Shawn Collins on

    This sounds eerily like a senator trying to find ways to bring more business to their state. Shut down San Diego and bring an addition 30-50K Marine trainees to Parris Island…not to mention their families come graduation time. Families have to land in airports, stay in hotels, may decide to travel around the great state of South Carolina. All at the expense of the Marine Corps. As a Marine Recruit at Parris Island, that is as hollowed ground as Iwo Jima to me, but I have actually spent more time on MCRD San Diego. This would be a critical error, and there would be no chance of getting this land back because the real estate people in San Diego would eat up that prime real estate fast. This is a bad idea, and hopefully it gets voted down.

    Shawn Collins

    (MGySgt, Ret.)

  33. “As for the Navy’s pre-positioning ships that supply Marines for 90 days in a fight, you only need one on each coast for humanitarian relief as well as supporting Marines close to home, and a ship deployed in each ocean on the other side of the globe – that is 4 ships.”

    And what happens when those vessels are rotated back to the states so the gear can be downloaded, repaired, replaced, uploaded and sent back out? The MPF operates on a rotating basis. I should know, I worked in the program for 13 years.

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