Marine commandant: First time since WWII air strikes are threat to U.S. troops

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( – When asked to explain the “new battlefield” faced by the U.S. military, Gen. Robert B. Neller, 37th commandant of the United States Marine Corps, said on Tuesday that the enemy’s capabilities mean that for the first time since World War II American troops are threatened by air power.

“When’s the last time the American military force worried about being bombed by enemy air?” Neller told at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. “World War II?” asked Neller to expound on his comments on the U.S. military facing a “new battlefield” and what that battlefield looks like.

Neller said although it can be tough to predict the future, some things are clear.

“When you look at – even what’s happening on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan now – technology and the ability of even these adversaries that we’ve always considered kind of low-tech – which I thought was a bad thing to underestimate your adversary – are expanding.

“The use of information, the use of social media – not just to market their ideas and their ideology, but to communicate – their use of unmanned systems, their ability to move and survive, the ability to use what is kind of the asymmetric capabilities,” Neller said.

Neller said the use of “information and social media, disinformation, deception” are characteristic of the enemy’s tactics.

“And you add into that an adversary that would have a capable air force, capable artillery, capable electronic warfare, to find you, or to jam you, who can see you,” Neller said. “When was the last time the American military force worried about being bombed by enemy air? World War II?”

Neller said the military must correctly assess the enemy’s capabilities.

“So what capability do we have to defend ourselves from enemy air? Or enemy unmanned air,” Neller asked. “Can we mask our signature? Can we defend space?

“So I don’t know what the battlefield’s going to look like, but I think all those capabilities or denials of those capabilities or be able to contest or have a counteraction capabilities are something that — if we didn’t start talking about that and thinking about it, then I wouldn’t be earning my pay every day,” Neller said.

— Written by Penny Starr