CIMSEC – The Marine Corps has two rapid options for establishing an ASW capability – a modified MV-22 or the MQ-9B Sea Guardian. Although the Corps has not planned to acquire ASW aircraft, the Commandant’s thoughts on the importance of ASW in the High North and the western Pacific combined with the ARG’s vulnerability means that consideration for a platform must be considered. The Commandant is divesting of legacy equipment and end strength to invest in future equipment. With the Navy’s shortage of ASW assets, it makes sense for the Marine Corps to support the maritime fight not just with land-based anti-surface fires and sensing, but also with its own ASW aircraft.
CIMSEC – The Marine Corps is faced with an intensified challenge of contested logistics as it employs its novel concept of Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). EABO calls for Marines to act as Stand-in Forces using low profile, highly mobile Expeditionary Advance Bases (EAB) that will likely be within an enemy’s Weapons Engagement Zone (WEZ). Supplying these bases will be difficult since their location is expected to frequently shift, and reliance on the conventional global logistics chain may not be responsive in a contested environment. A possible solution is the use of unmanned or autonomous Self Propelled Semi-Submersibles (SPSS) to provide logistics support. It is important to consider how SPSS will be classified under domestic and international law, and what rights and obligations will be imposed on them during peacetime and armed conflict.
Defense News – Only 45% of the amphibious ship fleet is ready today, compared to the Navy’s 80% readiness goal. And that fleet could shrink dramatically if the Navy gets its way.
Modern War Institute – US combat power is massed just out of range of enemy fires, but there it is stalled, with ships and aircraft unable to penetrate the complex web of enemy sensors, missiles, antiaircraft weapons, and other equipment all organized specifically to keep US forces at bay. There is no easy answer to the fundamental question: What mixture of personnel and capabilities is best suited to make it through the web of the adversary’s antiaccess / area-denial (A2/AD) bubble and seize a lodgment for follow-on forces?
War on the Rocks – The biggest challenge for the stand-in forces concept right now is that it puts marines inside high-threat areas with minimal logistics sustainment. This requires the Marine Corps to develop and train for a sustainment concept that is light, flexible, responsive, resilient, and redundant. This plan should enable decreasing replenishment time and maintain each stand-in force unit’s low signature. In the commandant’s words, “To persist inside an adversary’s weapons engagement zone, our Stand-in Forces must be set and sustained by logistics capabilities designed for distributed operations over long distances in a contested environment.” How can the joint force replenish supplies, maintain equipment, and restock combat losses while keeping stand-in forces in the fight?
War on the Rocks – Genghis Khan and Napoleon Bonaparte used cavalry units and combined arms to wreak havoc in Europe and Eurasia long before debates about the future of the Marines Corps and maneuver warfare. Today, the Marine Corps can also apply these time-tested tactics to develop a “maritime cavalry” and provide an essential maneuver element that complements the latest joint force capabilities and fighting concepts. Perhaps more importantly, creating a maritime cavalry would add a dynamic combined-arms element to the Marine Corps’ latest Force Design 2030 formations and concepts while channeling its “first to fight” ethos.
Defense News – A new U.S. Marine Corps regiment has shown how it can protect a carrier strike group while navigating through a strait, using only sensors, an unmanned truck armed with anti-ship missiles, and a fires and air detection unit.
Defense News – The service, through its new stand-in forces and its expeditionary advanced base operations concepts, envisions small groups of Marines scattered throughout regional islands and shorelines, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan and anywhere else partner nations allow. Those small units will carry everything they need to move from one place to another while conducting surveillance missions, establishing refueling spots for joint forces and launching missiles.
Defense News – The U.S. Marine Corps in recent months took the quiet step of putting its Force Design 2030 plans to work in Europe, using forces to monitor Russian naval forces in the Baltic Sea.
USNI News – As the Marine Corps reshapes its force for a future conflict in the Western Pacific, the service is refining how to meet the reconnaissance mission for the wider U.S. military.
USNI Proceedings – The U.S. government and its regional partners must harmonize proven COIN strategies with modern military capabilities to defend and maintain the accepted international order.
CIMSEC – In a recent piece for the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), Brent Stricker provided an excellent overview of legal considerations associated with the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030, concepts for Stand-in-Forces (SIF) and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). Stricker provides a cogent introduction to targeting, deception and distinction questions if using non-standard platforms, and access, basing, and overflight (ABO) of regional states in the Pacific and South China Seas. This essay is intended to expand on additional legal considerations that the School of Advanced Warfighting student class of Academic Year 2022 encountered during the last year of study.
1945 – Late last month U.S. Marine Corps headquarters issued MCDP-8, a doctrinal publication titled Information. Sounds like a snoozer, right? And indeed, tracts belaboring military doctrine can be deadly dull. But this one is well-written and interesting on the whole. More importantly, it plumbs the substance of “information operations” in more depth than documents found elsewhere in the joint community.
Breaking Defense – The concept, published in December, was put to an early test in Europe in the early days of the war in Ukraine.
Breaking Defense – Last month’s update to the Marine Corps strategic guidance included many changes from the original document. What shifted, and why it matters.
Marine Corps Gazette – Active duty Marine Corps force planners are, perhaps for the first time, looking to the reserve side to take on operational, experimental and capabilities and roles at a level the component hasn’t faced.
Marine Corps Gazette – The Marine Corps is shuttering its combat gear storage program in the Middle East as it shifts attention to Europe and the Pacific.
CIMSEC – One of the U.S. Marine Corps’ greatest strengths has been a weakness of late. Its storied history and rich service culture make it an organization notoriously resistant to critical self-examination and change. If “man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor,” then the Marine Corps is particularly fond of its own marble and sensitive to the chisel.1 Such a fondness explains the spate of articles from retired Marine Corps leaders criticizing the “hasty” execution of 2019 Commandant’s Planning Guidance (CPG) and lamenting they sacrifice critical aspects of the Marine Corps combined arms heritage.
CIMSEC – In the many discussions on the Marine Corps’ new Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) concept, the subject of air defense seems to have largely fallen through the cracks and threatened a critical capability gap. More analysis must be focused on how these forces can be defended against various aerial threats and identify key capability gaps. By analyzing air defense across three broad categories, including advanced missiles, small drones, and traditional aircraft, EABO can be further strengthened as an operating concept.
CIMSEC – Advanced base operations could involve Marines being cut off from sustainment, whether as forces that have been blockaded or forces that have been bypassed by opposing naval forces. Marines will require robust pre-positioned stocks to have enough self-sufficiency to continue the fight in the absence of sustainment, and sustainment assets must be more distributed and risk-worthy than legacy platforms. Unmanned systems can fill this gap.
CIMSEC – A key challenge facing the current and future Marine Corps is gaining and maintaining access. After framing the central role that access challenges will play in implementing Force Design 2030 and its associated warfighting concepts, recommendations are then proposed for how the USMC can best employ its cadre of international affairs (IA) Marines to address this access challenge.
War on the Rocks – Ford Motor Company’s development of the Edsel 60 years ago still stands as a classic corporate case study of transformative product failure. The Marine Corps, a $50 billion dollar enterprise, has introduced its own futuristic product — an explicitly defensive island-hopping “Stand-In Force” capable of reconnoitering and sinking warships in order to support naval campaigns. To pay for it, the Marine Corps intends to cut its main product line — infantry supported by artillery, armor, and air — by about 25 percent.
CIMSEC – The problem with Force Design 2030 (FD2030) and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) is that they both involve massive institutional changes being executed in a very short time. More specifically, there are multiple significant changes involved in implementing these broader concepts. Any of these by themselves would be a significant shift in the institution. Implementing them all simultaneously may be, in military parlance, “a bridge too far.”
CIMSEC – The following contingency updates and expands upon “The Battle of the Aegean” scenario described in Chapter 15 of Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations, 3d Ed.
CIMSEC – FICINT on the topic of US Marine Corps transformation.