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Maritime Prepositioning Force: A Historical Analysis
CSC 1993
SUBJECT AREA - National Military Strategy
Title:  Maritime Prepositioning Force:  A Historical Analysis
Author:  Major Bernard T. Burchell, Jr.,  United States Marine Corps
Thesis:  The evolution of Maritime Prepositioning Force  (MPF)
operations from concept to proven capability in the past fifteen
years is one of  this country's greatest success stories.    This
single innovation has dramatically strengthened our national
military strategy.   Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM not
only validated this unique deployment and employment option,  but
also identified valuable lessons learned which will  further
refine future MPF operations -   The current period of  fiscal
austerity within the defense establishment--expected to continue
for the foreseeable future--demands judicious use of scarce
resource.   This factor,  together with the uncertain tnreats to
our national  interests ,  makes MPF operations a Wise investment -
particularly in its application as a crisis response to a variety
of regional scenarios.
Background:  MPF operations represent a strategic deployment
option for a supported combatant commander  (Commander-in-Chief
[CINC]) -   Developed in the late  197Os to provide enhanced
mobility for the Marine Corps ,  MPF operations are a complementary
capability to the standard amphibious assault.   MPF operatIons
are both naval and joint in character and require the cooperation
of many headquarters to ensure success - Although a benign
arrival and assembly environment is its primary constraint, MPF
operations provides a CINC a rapidly deployable force,  capable of
sustained combat ashore,  and requiring comparativeIy minimal
strategic mobiIity resources.   Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT
STORM proved the value of  this program;  however,  of eual
importance might be the valuable lessons Iearned which will guide
its refinement in the near future.   An important post -Southwest
Asia change has been the reconstitution of all  three MPF
squadrons into the four crisis action modules/deterrent force
modules  (CAMs/DFMs).   This change further enhances MPF's force deployment flexibility by using specific ships to support
specific contingencies.  As a result of recent Marine Corps
organizational changes,  MPF training must be emphasized in order
to retain the degree of expertise required to execute these
unique operations.   MPF,  once described as an  "ounce of
prevention,"  is perhaps worth  "a pound"  in today's uncertain
world of regional  turbulence and fiscal constraints.
Recommendation:  The Marine Corps must continue to refine MPF
operations by applying the Southwest Asia lessons  learned and
aggressIvely exercising the recent addition of CAMs/DFMs.
Thesis; The evolution of Maritime Prepositioning Force  (MPF)
operations from concept to proven capability in the past fifteen
years is one of this country's greatest success stories.   This
single innovation has dramatically strengthened our national
military strategy.   Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM not
only validated this unique deployment and employment option, but
also identified valuable lessons learned which will further
refine future MPF operations.   The current period of fiscal
austerity within the defense establishment--expected to continue
for the foreseeable future--demands judicious use of scarce
resources.   This factor, together with the uncertain threats to
our national interests, makes MPF operations a wise investment--
particularly in its application as a crisis response to a variety
of regional scenarios.
I.	What is MPF?
	A.	Strategic deployment option
		1.	Combination of airlift, sealift, and afloat prepositioning
		2.      Complementary capability
		3.      Goal of MPF
	B.      MPF components
		1 .     Marine Air-Ground Task Force
		2.      Maritime Prepositioning Force squadron
			and capabilities
		3.      Naval Support Element
		4.      Air Mobility Command
		5.      Blount Island Command
	C.	MPF roles
	D.	MPF limitations, considerations, and variables
		1.      Limitations
		2.     Considerations and variables
	E.	MPF phases and organizations
		1.     Planning
		2.     Marshalling
		3.     Movement
		4.     Arrival and assembly
II.	Why MPF?
	A.	Changing Marine Corps emphasis
		1.	Previously:  amphibious assault only
		2.	Then: need to expand
	B.	Historical influences
		1.     October l973 Arab-Israeli War
		2.	Mid-1970s  debate on non-North Atlantic
			Treaty Organization requirements
		3.	Emerging concern for Southwest Asia region
	C.	MPF's predecessors
		1.	1979: Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force
		2.	1980: Near Term Prepositioning Ships
			(NTPS) program
		3.	1981: Enhanced NTPS program
	A.	Successes
		1.	MPF works.
		2.	Speed into area of responsibility
		3.	First truly capable force
	B.	Lessons learned
		1.	Sail MPS earlier toward crisis area
		2.	Timely arrival of offload preparation party
		3.	Flow logisticians into MPF area earlier
		4.	Improve logitics automated information systems
		5.	Exercise aviation logistics support
			ships frequently
		6.	Develop doctrine explaining compositing
			MPF unit into a larger Marine Corps unit
	the future (?)
	A.	The rule or the exception?
	B.	Crisis action and force deterrence modules
	C.	Disestablishment of Marine Expeditionary
	D.	Prepositioning command?
	E.	MPF squadron landing teams?
	F.	Combine with amphibious operations?
	The evolution of Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) operations
from concept to proven capability over the past 15 years is one of
this country's greatest success stories.  This single innovation
has dramatically strengthened our national military strategy.
Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM not only validated this
unique deployment and employment option, but also identified
valuable lessons learned which will further refine future MPF
operations.  The current period of fiscal austerity within the
defense establishment--expected to continue for the foreseeable
future--demands judicious use of scarce resources.  This factor,
together with the uncertain threats to our national interests,
makes MPF operations a wise investment--particularly in its
application as a crisis response to a variety of regional
scenarios.  This essay reviews the development of MPF, looks at the
impact of Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, and considers the
changes to this vital military program since this landmark event.
What is MPF?
     MPF operations are a strategic deployment option with three
main components: the equipment and supplies for a Marine Air-Ground
Task Force (MAGTF) prepositioned aboard forward deployed Maritime
Prepositioning Ships (MPS), a Navy Support Element (NSE) for
off-load and ship-to-shore movement, and a MAGTF that is flown into
an arrival and assembly area to conduct subsequent operations
ashore. (37:1-1/1-3)
     This basic definition portrays the important interrelationship
between MPF operations and the remaining two military mobility
elements--airlift and sealift.  Airlift has the ability to respond
very quickly, is particularly effective in personnel
transportation, and maintains an "air bridge" for emergency
supplies.  Sealift has the ability to transport large quantities of
equipment and supplies and is best suited for sustainment of
military operations.  Therefore, MPF operations represents a
complementary capability created out of two distinct and
interdependent elements. (18:17-18; 33:33-34)
     The goal of MPF operations is to deploy up to three Marine
Expeditionary Brigades (MEBs) with 30 days of sustainment to areas
of conflict quickly.  While doctrine identifies this time frame as
10 days from the commencement of squadron off-load, the deployed
MAGTF is considered ready to operate when adequate equipment and
supplies have been off-loaded and issued to the arriving units,
command, control, and communications have been established ashore,
and the MAGTF commander reports that his force is ready to operate.
(35:63-1/1100-1; 37:1-4/1-5)
     The MAGTF assigned to MPF operations varies depending on the
force employment requirement.  Originally designed for a MEB
consisting of approximately 16,500 personnel, today's size may
range from a reduced Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) to a forward
element of a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). (20:197)  Regardless
of the MAGTF chosen, that organization will retain its traditional
command, ground combat, aviation combat (ACE), and combat service
support elements.  These elements, less the portion of the ACE
responsible for the aircraft flight ferry to the arrival and
assembly area, comprise the fly-in echelon (FIE) transported by the
United States Transportation Command's (USTRANSCOM) Air Mobility
Command (AMC). (24:110)
     The MPS was deployed during 1985 and 1986 and is configured
into three squadrons totalling 13 ships.  Located in the Atlantic,
Pacific, and Indian Oceans, this factor significantly enhances
their flexibility and employment speed.  In addition to these
ships, two aviation logistics ships (T-AVB) and two hospital ships
are available to augment MPF operations on each coast.  These
squadrons are commanded by a naval officer and under the
operational control of the respective fleet commander. (24:112-113;
35:1565-6; 38:125)
     Civilian owned and operated under long-term charter through the
USTRANSCOM's Military Sealift Command (MSC), MPS includes both
constructed and converted ships.  Its ability to conduct
self-sustained instream discharge (to include use of the stern
ramp), provide bulk liquid from two miles offshore, and conduct
pierside discharge are the most prominent capabilities. (24:111;
     Additional MPS capabilities include a limited selective
off-load capability, a helicopter landing deck, billeting for
approximately 90 troops, the ability to handle containerized
assets, and a roll-on/roll-off discharge facility.  All of these
ships have very large cargo capacities (between 120,000 and 150,000
square feet) and are equipped with stern ramps to enhance their
off-load capability.  It is this combination of capacity (water,
fuel, ammunition, and equipment--in a RO/RO or containerized
method) and instream/pierside capability that truly depicts MPF
operations. (24:111; 35:1565-4/6/10)
     The mission of the NSE is to conduct the off-load of the MPS
squadron.  The NSE is the vital link between the equipment and
supplies prepositioned aboard the ships and the MAGTF forces flown
into the area.  Accordingly, the NSE operates the ships' systems
(such as cranes), all lighterage, and organizes and controls the
beach (beachmaster functions) and/or port to ensure effective
ship-to-shore movement. (35:1565-16; 37:D-1)
     AMC, while not an official component of MPF operations,
provides two essential services.  They provide the aircraft sorties
for the MAGTF and NSE FIE forces (using both strategic aircraft and
civil contract carriers), as well as the refueling support for both
the FIE and the MAGTF's ACE flight ferry.  Since the purpose of MPF
operations is to combine the speed of airlift with the hauling
power of sealift, the approximate 250 sortie limit is an important
constraint.  This factor-is especially important as one MPF is
estimated to save more than 3,000 C-141 aircraft equipment sorties.
As the MAGTF personnel and equipment structure changes, the MPF
program must be constantly reviewed to ensure this FIE sortie
threshold is not exceeded. (4:31-32; 35:1565-5; 37:7-7/7-9)
     Although the previously discussed organizations all play a
vital role in MPF operations, there is probably no organization
more important that the Blount Island Command (BIC) located in
Jacksonville, Florida.  BIC is a subordinate organization to the
Commander, Marine Corps Logistics Bases and although not an
official component of MPF operations, it is responsible for the
maintenance of MPF equipment and supplies.  This effort involves a
60-day cycle whereby a ship is off-loaded and while it undergoes
maintenance and Coast Guard recertification, its precious cargo
receives the necessary corrective maintenance, preventive
maintenance, and modernization prior to reloading.  It is this
biennial maintenance cycle (BMC) which ensures the combat readiness
of the MPF operations. (4:31; 17:48-49; 37:E-3)
     The varying roles of MPF operations offer a combatant commander
(Commander-In-Chief [CINC]) several choices.  They serve both as an
alternative to other forms of power projection (such as an
amphibious assault), as well a reinforcement of an amphibious
operation (such as the use of a MEU as the enabling force in an
opposed landing).  They can effect a rapid and pre-emptive
occupation and defense of key points, occupy and reinforce advanced
naval bases, and augment fleet defense by supporting air operations
from ashore.  MPF operations are capable of a wide spectrum of
influence from their establishment of a sizeable force ashore in
support of a sustained operation to sending political signals in
support of an ally or other friendly power. (3:34-35; 38:123)
     It is important to recognize not only the benefits of MPF
operations, but also their key limitations, considerations, and
     MPF operations require an early employment decision,
particularly for the MPS squadron.  Although they represent an
economy of force measure, they require a benign environment.
Specifically, a secure airfield and port/beach is vital.  All such
terminals must be large enough and have the requisite facilities--
commonly called throughout capacity--to permit timely force
closure.  There must be an adequate transportation network (roads
and/or railroads) to permit a timely and safe merger of airlifted
personnel and sealifted equipment. (37:1-3)
     Another key consideration of MPS operations is in their
sequencing of forces ashore; herein, the preponderance of the
ground element is usually introduced into the area after
significant combat service support elements are ashore to initiate
off-load actions. (3:36-37)  The security of the MPS squadron, an
obvious factor as it transits from its normal operating area into a
crisis environment, requires the efforts of many headquarters given
their approximate $400 million per ship investment. (26:30)  The
main variables influencing MPF operations are the size and
composition of the MAGTF being employed, the number of MPS and the
airlift sorties required, the geography and infrastructure of the
arrival and assembly area, and the time required to complete MPF
operations. (35:1100-16)
     There are four distinct phases of an MPF operation: planning,
marshalling, movement, and arrival and assembly. (37:1-6)
Throughout these phases, there are four organizations which
accomplish actions vital to the success of MPF operations: Off-load
preparation Party (OPP), Survey, Liaison, and Reconnaissance Party
(SLRP), advance party, and the off-load, arrival, and assembly
party. (4:33; 5:15; 35:1100-17/18/19)
     Planning, while occurring throughout the entire operation, is
particularly evident in the period prior to marshalling.  It
consists of both contingency and execution planning, with the
latter beginning upon receipt of a warning order.  This action
involves the cooperation of all previously identified MPF
components.  While MPF operations are essentially naval in
character, they take place within a joint force environment and are
dependent upon USTRANSCOM support. (37:1-6/3-1)
     During the marshalling phase, units complete final preparations
for movement to aerial ports of embarkation and loading aboard
aircraft.  The marshalling phase begins upon arrival of the first
element at the designated marshalling point and ends upon departure
of the last element from a departure airfield. (37:1-6)
     The movement phase consists of the movement of the forces by
air and sea to the arrival and assembly area (AAA).  The movement
phase begins upon lift-off of the first aircraft from the departure
airfield, or when the MPS squadron begins its transit to a
designated AAA.  The phase ends when both the last FIE aircraft (to
include the ACE flight ferry) lands and the last MPS ship has
arrived at the AAA.  It is during the movement phase that the four
previously identified MPF organizations begin their deployment to
the AAA. (37:1-6/7-2)
     The arrival and assembly phase is the most crucial period of
MPF operations.  This phase begins with the arrival of the first
aircraft of the main body or the first MPS squadron ship.  This
phase ends when the goal of MPF operations has been attained--the
MAGTF is operationally ready for combat. (37:1-6/7)
     The OPP, created from the MAGTF and NSE, deploys to the MPS
squadron while en route to prepare the ships and prepositioned
equipment for debarkation and provide any required internal
security.  The SLRP, also created from the MAGTF and NSE, deploys
to the AAA to conduct the initial reconnaissance, establish liaison
with local authorities, determine the extent of host nation support
required, and generally prepare for the arrival of the main body of
ships and personnel.  They also form the nucleus of the command and
control organization for the off-load actions. (4:33; 5:15;
35:1100-18; 37:7-1)
     The advance party, also-created from the MAGTF and NSE,
arranges for the reception of the main body and FIE.  The off-load,
arrival, and assembly operations is marked by the arrival of the
main body and the ACE flight ferry, throughput of all or selected
prepositioned equipment-and supplies, and MAGTF unit assembly with
their initial operating capability. (4:33; 5:15; 35:1100-17/19;
Why MPF?
     MPF operations marked a significant change in Marine Corps
philosophy.  Previously, the Marine Corps' primary role was an
infantry-intensive arm with a heavy dependence on fixed- and
rotary-wing aircraft for firepower and mobility.  This concept was
epitomized in the Marine Corps main function--conventional
amphibious assault, or forcible entry--which formed the backbone of
the forward deployment foundation of our national military
strategy. (38:122; 39:52)
     The early through mid-1970s marked a time of conflicting
trends.  The military confronted increasingly poor public support
as a result of the Vietnam War, and this mood directly translated
into institutional problems marked by reduced budgets and severe
personnel problems.  During the period after the Vietnam War, a
review of this World War II philosophy of amphibious assault
demanded a change.  There were two primary reasons for this
actions.  First, the type of military/political crises seen for the
foreseeable future called for the existence of rapid intervention
forces, both airborne and amphibious.  Secondly, the current
amphibious assault philosophy required more amphibious lift than
was available.  Therefore, the Marine Corps needed to combine a
rapid intervention force that still maintained substantial organic
mobility and firepower. (38:122; 39:52)
     Additional historical influences were also at work at this
time.  The October 1973 Arab-Israeli War caused the Marine Corps to
question the survivability of its amphibious forces in a new "high
tech" battlefield using modern weaponry.  This war also ended an
era which identified the Marine Corps' primary opponent as only
lightly armed Third World countries.  Now, the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction and the emerging role of the Marine
Corps within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)--with
the Warsaw Pact's formidable armor-heavy and firepower intensive
forces--increased the urgency of this review. (39:52)
     By the late 1970s, this situation was changing.  While the
domestic support for the military was improving, the focal point of
our national interests now included the economically valuable
Southwest Asian region.  Given the geography of this region and the
potential adversaries, a heavier mechanized force would be needed.
This change enhanced the requirement for a power projection
capability, yet did not immediately translated into the mobility
improvements necessary to deploy and ultimately employ a capable
force. (39:52)
     The result of this deficiency between requirements and
capabilities ultimately resulted in today's MPF; however, this
process evolved over time.  The Navy first developed the idea of
maritime prepositioning of military supplies for the Army or Marine
Corps during the mid-1960s; however, the Vietnam War delayed its
implementation for over a decade.  Between February 1977 and
February 1979, the Carter administration had determined that a
requirement existed for an improved non-NATO military capability.
This decision marked the beginning of both the MPF program and the
Rapid Deployment Force (RDF), a totally distinct program. (3:35;
     Between March and August 1979, the RDF program continued to
grow and was subsequently renamed the Rapid Deployment Joint Task
Force (RDJTF)--today's Central Command.  As this process continued,
the Secretary of the Navy directed that the Navy Department
initiate a program of enhanced mobility for Marine Corps forces.
Although not specifically titled as such, this decision marked the
beginning of MPF.  The feasibility studies initially considered
various draft designs for a series of warships; however, concurrent
tests of this concept by modifying a group of chartered commercial
vessels was also conducted.  The success of these tests and the
advent of hostilities in Iran and Afghanistan in 1979 resulted in
the birth of the Near Term Prepositioned Ships (NTPS). (3:35-36;
     Deployed in 1980, NTPS initially involved six commercial ships
loaded with sufficient equipment to sustain a 11,200 man Marine
Corps brigade for 15 days.  During the next two years, an expanded
effort--Enhanced NTPS (ENTPS)--increased the number of ships to 12,
expanded the sustainment for the brigade to 30 days, and also
included ships containing Army and Air Force supplies.  In 1983,
NTPS and ENTPS merged and became known as the Near Term
Prepositioning Force (NTPF).  The portion of this force remaining
after the deployment of the MPS squadrons in 1985 and 1986 became
today's afloat prepositioning (another subset of MSC's strategic
sealift assets). (3:36; 9:E-15; 17:48; 31:21)
     Prior to August 1990, MPF operations were still in their
infancy.  Just beginning to be incorporated into the various CINCs'
campaign plans, MPF employment during major exercises was able to
test major portions of the entire operation.  With this as a
background, their use in Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM can
only be viewed as an unqualified success.  This comment is even
more noteworthy given the fact that all three MPS squadrons were
     Validated under real-world pressure, MPF operations provided
the first truly capable force in northern Saudi Arabia.  The goal
to unload ships and marry equipment with arriving units was
achieved within the expected 10 days.  In fact, the first brigade
(7th MEB) occupied its defensive positions within four days of its
arrival.  The first nine MPS ships, off-loaded by the first week of
September 1990, provided the equipment and 30 days sustainment for
two-thirds of the Marine Corps forces ashore.  The late deployment
of Army logistics forces strained Marine Corps logistics
capabilities, and the Marine Corps found themselves not only
providing support beyond the 60-day sustainment, but also providing
selected support to Army combat forces from MPS stores. (9:E-15/
F-11; 14:73)
     MPF operations proved themselves to be a wise investment of
scarce mobility assets.  The prepositioned equipment removed from
their temperature- and humidity-controlled storage holds was in
good shape.  This fact is a testament to the BMC and its upkeep of
both the shipboard facilities and the equipment itself, as well as
the periodic unloading exercises which occurred.  The spread
loading concept was validated as late arriving ships (due to
ongoing BMC actions at the time hostilities commenced) did not
result in any critically short items.  A particular highlight was
the responsiveness and professionalism displayed by the merchant
crews. (27:44)
     The ships, themselves, proved to be the most reliable of all
MSC assets.  Several MPS ships transferred to common user status
and assisted in transporting the Army's heavy European units.
Additionally, MPS ships did not suffer as many mechanical problems
as the MSC's fast sealift ships because of their superior
propulsion plant design and their state of constant readiness.
     As important as the successes, there were also several crucial
lessons learned.  Although not unique to MPF operations, the lack
of a compositing doctrine confused the integration of the 1st and
7th MEBs, as well as the later arriving 2nd MEF, into the senior
Marine Corps organization--lst MEF.  The lack of an earlier
decision to sail the MPS squadrons because of political
considerations reduced the CINC's options in the early days of the
crisis.  The OPP concept, only used once in its intended form
because of the uncertain tactical situation in early August 1990,
was also validated.  The T-AVBs worked well once in theater;
however, they require more frequent exercising to ensure rapid
response. (9:xi/E-31; 15:18-19; 35:936-13)
     The reduced accountability for MPF assets off-loaded to 7th MEB
was also chiefly driven by the uncertain tactical situation in
early August 1990; however, the doctrinal FIE sequencing of combat
service support elements is sound.  The overall supply operations
during the MPF off-load and issue to MAGTF units required
improvement, particularly in its logistics automated information
systems.  Additionally, although the MPS ships have significant
container carrying capability, this operation revealed a lack of
training focusing on accountability procedures for the contents, as
well as insufficient materiel handling equipment (MHE). (9:xi)
MPF Since Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM and the Future (?)
     While Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM did validate the
MPF concept, two points must be emphasized.  First, the Saudi
Arabian port facilities were most probably the "best case scenario"
the Marine Corps will ever witness.  As a contrasting example, the
ongoing Somalian peace-making operation, while still successfully
employing MPF, confronted a meager infrastructure.  The importance
of turning the lessons learned into improved doctrine and enhanced
capabilities can not be overstated.  Second, the impact of this
operation to our current readiness posture is highlighted by the
estimated $90 million cost to restock and refurbish the three MPS
squadrons by 1994. (7:99)
     Following, Operations DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM, the Marine
Corps made a significant change to MPF operations which will permit
increase flexibility and responsiveness to a broader range of
regional contingencies.  Specifically, the crisis action modules
(CAMs) and deterrent force modules (DFMs) were introduced.
CAMs/DFMs enhance the force deployment flexibility by using
specific MPF ships to support specific contingencies. (29:19-20)
They may also be used in "building blocks" of forces to provide the
CINC even greater leverage. (25:14)
     A total of four force modules were developed concurrent with
the reconstitution of the three MPS squadrons.  The first module
provides the ability to support a MEU-sized force throughout its
wide range of special operations capable missions.  The next two
modules involve the forward echelon of a MEF (MEF[Fwd]) configured
for a low-intensity conflict scenario.  They vary by number of MPS
ships assigned, the use of a FIE, and the ability to deploy to two
locations simultaneously.  The final module reflects the same heavy
mechanized MAGTF (the now obsolete term "MEB") noted in the
pre-1990 time frame. (29:19-20)
     While these CAMs/DFMs have their aforementioned strengths,
several issues must be resolved to maximize their effectiveness.
The FIE must be restructured from its long accustomed form.  The
same MHE problems noted in Southwest Asia must be resolved, or they
will be passed on to the MEU level.  Regarding the MEU level, MPF
operational knowledge--never before a requirement for this size
MAGTF--must now be expeditiously acquired through training and
painstaking practice.  Finally, the Navy must provide the task
organization for the NSEs associated with these CAMs/DFMs. (29:20)
     This concept of-merging capabilities has been taken to even a
farther extreme with the idea of amphibious battle groups.  Here,
the recommendation involves combining the ships of a carrier battle
group (CVBG), an amphibious group (PHIBGRU), in addition to
selected MPS ships.  The desired goal is a PHIBGRU with the
increased combat power provide by the CVBG and the sustainment
provided by the MPS.  The problem with such an idea is not having
enough of a particular (or all) strength to cope with today's
uncertain challenges to our national interests. (21:103)
     While these CAMs/DFMs promote increased flexibility of MPF
operations, they are also constrained by the recent dissolution of
the MEB headquarters.  Caused by the on-going military reductions,
the impact of this change will be critical for the short term in
the areas of training and planning.  It will be awhile before the
MEF headquarters can lay claim, as the MEBs once did, to being the
bastion of MPF operational expertise. (29:20)
     As a result of the MEB headquarters dissolution, an idea worthy
of consideration is the conversion of BIC into a prepositioning
command.  Although the MEF headquarters is also being expanded at
this time to address their operational tempo, the MPF
responsibilities inherited from their respective MEB headquarters
are extensive--not to mention the recent advent of CAMs/DFMs.
Without dedicated expertise and consistency in planning and
training, the impact on MPF operations could be felt where we can
least afford it--the ability of a MAGTF to be combat ready in a
timely manner. (5:14-15)
     Remembering the approximate $400 million investment per vessel,
MPS ship security remains an issue for debate.  While there have
been recommendations to "arm" a MPS ship by placing a squadron
landing team aboard, their replacement of the current OPP concept
would degrade the ship's capability to debark equipment and
supplies in the AAA.  Additionally, the ability of CAMs/DFMs to
link selected MPF ships with a MEU should provide the augmented
security locally.  Of course, the time-honored policy of CINC
security for a MPS squadron as it transits his area of
responsibility remains the key for pre-AAA movement. (22:52; 26:30;
     The utility of MPF operations is their ability to permit a CINC
to address the following pillars of our national military strategy:
the foundation of crisis response and the principles of strategic
agility and power projection. (10:2-4/2-8)  This capability is
derived from combining the advantages of airlift's speed with
sealift's capacity for bulk lift for rapid deployment of
expeditionary forces and accompanying supplies to an objective
area. (36:2-5)  Therefore, rather than a liability, MPF operations
represent an important strategic lift multiplier. (9:D-17)
     The Marine Corps' MPF doctrinal manual says it best: "MPF
operations provides a capability that is global in nature, naval in
character, and is suitable for employment in a variety of
circumstances." (37:ES-1)  A wise investment, MPF operations is
able to realize a certain economy due to their use of merchant
ships instead of combatant ships and aircraft sorties, while
generating substantial strategic/operational and tactical leverage
through its forward deployment of heavy  equipment to potential
crisis areas. (16:27; 39:52)
     It is important to reiterate that while MPF operations offers a
CINC increased flexibility, it does not replace the forcible entry
or amphibious assault capability.  It does, however, provides a
rapid pre-emptive response capability by positioning a significant
force before a conflict to  enhance global response with, if
necessary, a force-building alternative. (38:123)
     The task for the Marine Corps today is to build on the success
of MPF operations in Southwest Asia.  We must apply the lessons
learned--particularly those associated with insufficient doctrine,
equipment, and accountability--to refine this valuable strategic
asset.  We must pursue the opportunities presented by CAMs/DFMs and
continue to seek a better way to accomplish the mission.  Finally,
we must continue to stress training and ensure it remains the
backbone of this program.
     General P.X. Kelley, former Commandant of the Marine Corps,
said this about the MPF program in 1988: "The most important and
innovative of our critical response enhancements is now a
reality. .. I am a firm believer that an ounce of prevention is worth
a pound of cure..." (24:113) Given the uncertainties of the
world--home and abroad-- five years later, that prevention becomes
even more important.
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