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New Marine Corps Operating Concept Says Naval Infantry Must Shed Weight

by Greg on July 6, 2010

I’m working my way through the new Marine Corps Operating Concepts document and wanted to highlight some of the weapons and equipment implications. To get back to its naval infantry roots, the service must shed some of the weight its gained fighting as a second land army in Iraq and Afghanistan, it says.

The concept document says the imperative to significantly lighten all of the component parts of the Marine’s combined arms air ground task force (MAGTF) “will have a significant impact on research and development, programmatic budgeting, acquisitions, doctrine development, and employment of future systems.”

The amount of sealift provided the Marines is not likely to increase by much, it says, so radical changes are in order to get everything on the sips; “business as usual” won’t do it.

“The process of leveraging emerging technologies should begin with a bottom-up reevaluation of all systems from individual equipment through large principal end-items with a specific focus on making each system smaller, lighter, and more efficient whenever possible.”

Toward that end the Marines will pursue the following objectives:

• With the one exception of the KC-130 aircraft, every item in the Marine inventory must be able to be embarked on an amphib and be employable from ship to shore without the use of a pier.

• Consideration should be given to requiring that all combat vehicles have scalable armor protection capable of being embarked separately from the vehicle.

• Infantry companies must be able to operate independently without combat vehicle support. To further reduce vehicle dependency, the Marines should buy the aerial cargo drone; reduce equipment density; reduce energy demands by emphasizing renewable and alternative energies; and reduce battlefield contractor dependence.

• All units must be self sustainable for 72 hours.

• Reexamine the basic building blocks of the Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to determine whether its current organization accurately reflects the realities of where and how it will be employed.

• Lighten the logistical footprint required to support the aviation combat element (ACE) by buying newer, less maintenance intensive, aircraft. The ACE must also reduce the amounts of fuel and oil it consumes.

• Add Joint Terminal Air Controllers (JTACs) to the lowest echelon possible.

– Greg Grant

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Randall July 6, 2010 at 5:30 pm

I am pleased to see a reasonable effort to define and enhance the USMC mission and future role at large to the betterment of the US Armed force. I believe there will be a much slimmer Marine Corps in the future in terms of personnel as well.

Make know mistake, even though some troll this forum, and believe the Marines are absolute or pointless, and there days maybe numbered… You are wrong. The Corps will endure.

However, I too see that current, "status quo" as a second land army is unsustainable. This could all be perfect paper planning. And still lose sight of there goal through military agendas, politics, behind-over budget items (EFV), the ebb and flow of politicians and there political will that go hand and hand after every war mankind has ever fought.

I wish them the best.

Ideally other branches would admit and strive to correct there short comings as well. but this is just my two cents. All I ask is for afair debate and possible even constructive suggestions maybe?



Jeff නඳබ Fraser July 6, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Finally some progress shown… this all looks good, hopefully the final product works well. I agree with Randall. While this change hasn't exactly started yet, other branches should follow this example and do their best to skim off the extra pointless fat and get down to business.


McKellar July 6, 2010 at 7:05 pm

So the amphib requirement applies to Marine Air as well? That means they're dead-set on the F-35B, or some other kind of STOL tactical aircraft. I bet there's some plan floating around somewhere that combines the F-35B, various flavors of V-22, light OV-10-like COIN aircraft, helos and UAVs into some sort of 'expeditionary air corps', able to move from LHDs to forward deployed field strips with the Marines.


@Earlydawn July 7, 2010 at 4:24 am

I think V/STOL is a given for the Marines. The assault carriers can only accomodate V/STOL aircraft because of deck length, and the carriers only give up one wing to the Marines.


Oblat July 6, 2010 at 11:44 pm

So the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan are everything lighter ? A Cynic would suggest that you should be as light as possible until the shooting starts then you can hit the politicians for all new equipment to fight the actual war.

But it's all predicated on another marine shopping spree? - I don't think so. These plans will be shelved because there simply isn't the money for them.

The only real specialization the marines have is in congressional pork and to be fair you cant blame them it's all they really need to survive.


Stephen Russell July 7, 2010 at 1:08 am

Hows these:
Reuse floating cement "islands" vs piers.
Downsize equip weight
More ammo & more firepower
More drones.
Improve logistics.
Air & Sea support.
Recomm older LSTs for Combat Support Amphbs IE CSA.
Combine missons.


asdf July 7, 2010 at 3:43 am

More the good stuff, less the bad stuff faster and for less money.


@Earlydawn July 7, 2010 at 4:22 am

The guidelines proposed in the document are good, but they still don't address what the Marine Corps role will be in larger counterinsurgency wars that demand boots on the ground, regardless of branch. Honestly, combining amphibious operations and complex "small wars" still leaves the Marines in a pretty tight conceptual band for operations.


Daver July 7, 2010 at 5:53 am

The problem isn't that the Corps is a second land Army. The problem for the Corps is that the Army now understands that it won't be used for wars against the USSR, PRC, EU or whomever any time soon. So the Army is, as fast as it can, turning itself into the second Marine Corps. And the Army is better connected. *That's* the Corps real problem.


Adam July 7, 2010 at 6:49 am

Lighter is better. . . We have "Light Infantry" carrying 100 lbs of gear per man relying on food and water shipped from the other side of the world, tied down to armored vehicles that can only go where roads are big enough or strong enough to support them. Becoming lighter and able to operate without a supply train in the rear adds flexibility and maneuverability needed for counterinsurgency warfare. The size and mindset of the Marines allow this to happen in a relatively short amount of time.


Chimp July 7, 2010 at 8:21 am

I think that's pretty common… the lighter the infantry, the more stuff they get to carry. Hard to see most of it going away, either.


blight July 7, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Napoleons army "lived off the land". The Geneva Convention says we can't seize food from people. And if one is in a third world country, there won't be enough food for you and them.

You can't always trust people to use them as porters, and animals consume food too. Robotic "mules" can break down. Sounds like its a matter of deciding what goes and what stays…


Bob July 7, 2010 at 1:12 pm

How much of that 100 pounds is unnecessary body armor? Troops should carry, beans, bullets and water. 20-30 pounds of armor is counter productive, and restricts mobility.


@E_L_P July 7, 2010 at 9:14 am

First you must right-size the Corps.

When you see them doing jobs that the Army can do, then you have opportunities to convert those manpower slots to Army slots.

Shed weight? As for being "light" and all the talk about fuel economy in the brief and so on, it will be interesting to see how one supports the F-35B at an "austere" airfield when you need 7 tons of gas for every sortie. I guess the definition of "austere" will have to change. That is if the Just So Flawed ever gets enough flight testing done.

Nice advertisement though. It is basically another document with the main purpose of making sure the USMC keeps their part of the budget pie in the defense down-turn.


STEVE66 July 7, 2010 at 6:36 am

For you geniuses that are so certain that the USMC will be eliminated or severly reduced in the near future: Check out the various political blogs pertaining to the election coming up in November. By my count there are 10 former Marines running for Congress - 7 or 8 of whom appear likely to win election. These new members when combined with former Marines already in Congress will give the USMC a pretty substantial caucus ready to derail any significant proposed cuts in funding.

In addition, if you want to cut something, concentrate on the Army. The Marine Corps runs circles around the Army in recruiting, training, fitness, preparedness, organization and tenacity on the battlefield. If you don't believe me just go visit a Marine Base and an Army Base for a day or two each, and then tell me who you would rather have protecting your little behinds.


blight July 7, 2010 at 12:21 pm

So if one visits Benning or Bragg…?


Lane July 8, 2010 at 12:02 am

Been to both, you get the same impression as any other army base but benning and bragg has more training going on.


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Tony C July 7, 2010 at 10:54 am

The USMC has a tough sell, even with this document as long as the SECDEF is questioning it's utility. The lighter, quicker land combatant role has been the USMC motto since the beginning. The problem was that they were limited in their mobility by political realities and therefore, susceptible to IED's. Then there's the MRAP to counter the IED's for which the USMC didn't want (very heavy vehicle). Now the USMC is heavy in equipment with the M1A2, MRAP, and up armored HUMVEE's. This document clarifies that this is not what the USMC needs and wants to perform it's primary mission. The problem is the SECDEF if questioning the primary mission is even a necessity?


blight July 7, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Marines have been Army Junior since maybe…Korea?

It poses the question of what the Marines really are. You can't just say "oh, we forced the landing, now we go home". A Marine Corps overspecialized for only the initial landing will be at a disadvantage when the fight goes inland, just as army paratroopers have light weaponry that is optimal for parachuting in, but are pretty lame when it comes to the actual fight. Then again, parachuting hasn't been done for a while as part of military planning.


Earlydawn July 7, 2010 at 4:17 pm

From my perspective, the Marines are facing two countervailing forces with this plan:

A - War has been trending steadily towards asymmetric counter-insurgency campaigns since Korea. These military operations put a heavy emphasis on boots-on-the-ground (ensuring Marine involvement eventually), and extended periods of engagement (which the Corps isn't built to do in the organizational or equipment sense.

B - Amphibious operations - which I see as forced entry, not moving material uncontested over a beach - are no longer a mainstay of the global military environment. They are also of dubious risk-reward and cost-effect value, considering the proliferation of anti-access technology.

The Marines need to address those issues instead of glazing over them with a vaguely defined "Small Wars" mission that the Army could probably do after a little retooling. What is the primary capability that the Corps brings to the table that we're actually going to *use?*


nraddin July 7, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Wait, so they want the Marines to operate as Marines and not a land army? Say it isn't so.

The Marines have been building in size for far to long in my opinion and using them as a 2nd land army in Iraq and Afghanistan didn't do them any favors. The Marines have a place as Maritime infantry units and need to work on specializing for that task. The more than Marines spend time and money training and equipping for being used as a lang army the less prepared they will be when they are called for perform true maritime operations.


imijx July 7, 2010 at 6:32 pm

The USMC has a history of doing "more with less", but I think they are blinded by their own press. V-22's, EFV's, F-35's, LPD's, etc. are taking up far too much money that could be better spent. The entire concept of the MEU/MEB/MEF should be questioned. We spend billions of dollars in scarce resources to embark a 2200 person MEU for a 6 month float. MEB/MEF's are never going to embark, but will only be used in land wars as a Corps type force in conjunction with the US Army. Now, the USMC wants to "lghten up", whatever that may mean. But, to what end? The chances of another large scale amphibious operation is almost nil. Embassy rescues from the sea? Tsunami relief operations? Is this the reason we spend billions to maintain an amphibious capability?


imijx July 7, 2010 at 6:33 pm

I think that the driving factor behind any decision regarding the US Military is what we can afford as a nation. We all know the stories of the wasteful spending on questionable defense systems, but given these tough economic times, we cannot afford to do business as usual. As it stands now, the US Military is a bloated, out of touch monstrosity that depends more and more on a shrinking pool of 'trigger-pullers" to do the actual fighting.


William C. July 7, 2010 at 6:44 pm

But we have to keep modernizing our forces and pushing the technology foward. We can certainly afford a military the size of today's, we must not take the path the UK went down following the Cold War.


imijx July 8, 2010 at 2:23 am

I agree with the concept of modernization and technology advancement. I aslo advocate for maintaining our military pre-eminence and ability to dominate the battlespace. In general, I don't believe we as a nation can afford our "lifestyle" in general. The Federal governement borrowed $1.9 Trillion this year alone, ballooning our Federal deficit to $12 Trillion. We cannot maintain this anymore. The US military is a significant part of the Federal budget and should be subject to the same reviews as other expenses. We should be getting the maximum "bang for the buck" from our military, and we are far from that.


Chillin July 8, 2010 at 10:10 pm

I might be coming to this issue from the wrong viewpoint, but the Marines seem like a very wasteful spending target.

Exactly what would be the problem integrating the marines into the general army like the paratroopers. Leave a Naval Infantry unit to help guard ships as part of the Navy. I mean for the most part the army by itself never had problems doing naval landing in the Pacific, Europe and Africa in the past.

I mean pride and history issues aside, realistically speaking what could be the problem with this?


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