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The general nominated to lead the Marine Corps defended his service's place within U.S. Special Operations Command after a think tank urged service leaders to ditch the mission.

Lt. Gen. David Berger told lawmakers this week that Marine Raiders are vital to U.S. Special Operations Command. He was responding to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, about a recent report from the Heritage Foundation think tank, which promoted disbanding Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command.

MARSOC, which was created years after the other services stood up their special operations units, “developed further and faster than most thought possible,” Berger said.

“We operate sort of as a joint force every day with the aviation, logistics and ground forces,” he told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “So, it's a natural fit for them.

“I think that Special Operations Command and the joint force is better for them there,” he added.

Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a retired Marine officer, released a report last month called “Rebuilding America's Military: The United States Marine Corps.” The Marine Corps, he argued, must focus on a full return to its amphibious roots. Any programs that pull manpower or other resources from that mission should be realigned.

That includes MARSOC, he said, especially since the Army, Navy and Air Forcealready devote resources to SOCOM.

The idea prompted a swift rebuttal from veterans who'd served in the Marine Raider community.

Berger, who previously served in reconnaissance units, said the small unit leadership the special operations community depends on is a natural fit coming from the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps' 2020 budget request calls for increasing the number of billets assigned to the 13-year-old command.

That's not to say there isn't room for each service to look at what they need to provide to SOCOM going forward. MARSOC spokesman Maj. Nick Mannweiler said last month that Wood's recommendations were “one aspect of a much broader conversation on Marine Corps and joint operations in response to our evolving national security challenges.”

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