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C3:  Does The United States Marine Corps Have Enough To Operate In A 
Joint Environment?
CSC 1993 
                         EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Title:  C3: Does the United States Marine Corps have enough to
operate in a joint environment?
Author: Major Christopher M. Weldon, United States Marine Corps
Thesis: The Marine Corps command, control and communications
(C3) assets are inadequate for affecting simultaneous
command and control (C2) of a Joint Task Force and component
command headquarters.  This deficiency can be corrected with
increased attention, additional C3 assets and training.
Background: The Goldwater-Nicholds Reorganization Act of 1986,
provided the foundation for the Armed Forces of the United
States to employ joint forces; which are carefully tailored to
accomplish future military missions.  During the Gulf War the
US military forces observed the complexity and demands
associated with joint warfare.  Specifically, the U.S. Marine
Corps got a very good assessment of the command relationships
required for joint operations and the command, control, and
communications required to be successful in this new and
evolving form of military operations.  The Marine Corps C3
systems experienced difficulties in providing reliable and
flexible communications to the command element of the Marine
Expeditionary Force.  The difficulties experienced, validated
communicators assumptions that joint operations requires
additional assets not presently held by the Corps.
Recommendations: The Marine Corps needs to give increased
attention to communications, obtain additional C3 assets, and
continue to emphasize training in joint operations.
Thesis Statement: The Marine Corps command, control and
communications (C3) assets are inadequate for affecting
simultaneously command and control (C2) of a Joint Task Force
and component command headquarters simultaneously.  This
deficiency can be corrected with increased attention,
additional C3 assets and training.
I.  The National Military Strategy stress the use of joint
military forces to counter future threats to our national
security interests.
    A.   When tasked, Service component commands must have
the C3 assets to establish communications with the combatant
CINC, their subordinate commands and function as a Joint Task
Force headquarters.
    B.   The Marine Corps does not own the required amounts
of equipment and personnel for continuous operations in
a joint theater.
II. During the Persian Gulf War, the USMC component command
(I MEF) experienced difficulties communicating with the CINC
and subordinate commands.  The command relationships
established by I MEF were unique and highlighted deficiencies
Marine forces confronted then and still confront today.  Some
of these deficiencies are listed below.
    A.   Satellite communications equipment required was not
on-hand in sufficient quantities; moreover, interoperability
problems were experienced with other services equipment.
    B.   Heavy reliance was placed on leased commercial
telephone systems to augment tactical telephone networks in
    C.   I MEF staff was forced to make significant system
adjustments to receive and transmit Air Tasking Order (ATO)
    D.   New communication systems proved to be benifical;
however, extensive training was necessary to produce the
required service.  Systems employed included computers, GPS,
cellular telephones and hand held radios.
    E.   Shortages of C3 assets for internal communication
requirements and liaison teams were also experienced.
III.     C3 asset are key elements required by a commander in
order to effectively command and control a Joint Task Force.
Adequate and interoperable communications assets helps the
commander to command and control his forces.  Today, the USMC
does not own the required assets to operate as a combatant
Joint task Force headquarters.  In order to correct these C3
deficiencies, a three phased solution package is required.
     A.   Phase I.  Communications equipment shortfalls,
requirements, and procedures must be identified by USMC
commands (FMFPAC/FMFLANT) responsible for establishing USMC
Joint Task Force headquarters.  Requirements must than be
forwarded to appropriate agencies for validation and
implementation.  A key element for the implementation of this
phase is the publishing Fighting the MEF (FMF 2-1).
     B.   Phase II.  Immediate steps must be taken to
establish a Memorandum of Agreement with other services to
fill C3 shortfalls, while simultaneous actions are in
progress to obtain USMC organic assets.
     C.   Phase III.  The expeditious fielding of replacement
C3 assets, and continue realistic training in the FMF with an
emphasis on joint operations must accompany the above-cited
phases.  Additionally, flag rank officers must continue
emphasis on improving communications  , but specifically those
areas that will enhance USMC readiness for in joint
    The Persian Gulf War identified significant deficiencies
in the Marine Corps' ability to operate in a joint
environment.  Specifically, the Marine Forces command element
was greatly limited in its ability to provide responsive and
reliable telecommunications service.  Today, Marine Corps
command, control and communications (C3) assets are inadequate
for affecting simultaneous command and control (C2) of a Joint
Task Force and component command headquarters.  This
deficiency can be corrected with increased attention,
additional C3 assets and additional training.  The deficiency
is not new; however, it is becoming a major concern to general
officers, because of the significance of Joint Task Force
(JTF) command.
    The National Military Strategy stresses the use of joint
forces to counter future threats to our national security
interests. (4:24)  In joint operations service component
commands are required to provide telecommunications services
to the combatant CINC and subordinate commands.  Moreover,
services must start to perform Joint Task Force headquarters
duties.  The Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff emphasizes
joint operations in his 1992 National Military Strategy of the
United States.
     Future threats to US interest are inherent in the
     uncertainty and instability of a rapidly changing world.
     We can meet the challenges of the foreseeable future with
     a much smaller force than we have had in recent years.
     Our force for the 1990s is a Base Force -- A Total Force -
     A Joint Force -- a carefully tailored combination of our
     active and reserve components.  Ships, planes, tanks, and
     most importantly, trained soldiers, sailors, and marines,
     and the leadership to make the force work in joint and
     combined operations cannot be created in a few days or
     months.  This strategy provides the rational for a reduced
     yet appropriate military capability -- a capability which
     will serve the Nation well throughout the remainder of the
     1990s. (4:1)
In the past twenty-four months all three Marine Expeditionary
Forces (MEF) have been involved in a joint operation, and
tasked to function as a JTF headquarters: III MEF,  Operation
Provide Comfort; II MEF, Haitian Relief Operation; and I MEF,
Operation Restore Hope.  The operations reinforced the
position Marine have and will continue to operate in the joint
    Although the three MEFs successfully accomplished
noncombatant assigned missions, their success hinged on
augmentation provided by other services.  Dependence on other
services' C3 assets significantly degrades the credibility of
the Marine Corps and limits the readiness of the total force.
These C3 deficiencies negatively affects the Marine
commanders' ability to command and control (C2) joint and
organic forces.
    The ability to operate in this evolving joint arena is
essential to the future of the Marine Corps because it
validates our versatility and flexibility as a force in
readiness. (3:15)  In order to correct these C3 deficiencies,
the Marine Corps must act quickly.  The Commandant of the
Marine Corps is charged by the United States Congress to man
and equip the Corps; therefore, the initiatives to solve C3
deficiencies must originate from his staff at Headquarters,
U.S. Marine Corps (HQMC).  As actions by HQMC cannot totally
solve this problem; the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) must play an
active role as well.  FMFLANT/FMFPAC are the operational
commands which fulfill the CINC's requirements, these commands
must be instrumental in indentifying operational requirements
to combatant CINC's and service headquarters.  This was done
by I MEF after the Gulf War.
    Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield identified the
glaring difficulties the MEF suffered in establishing
communications connectivity with CENTCOM and its subordinate
commands.  Command relationships discussed below set a
precedent on how Marine forces will operate in future joint
    During the Gulf War, the commanding general of I MEF was
also the MARCENT commander, responsible for both component and
tactical command of Marine forces ashore.  In order to
discharge his component command duties, MARCENT assigned a
deputy commander to Riyadh, designated MARCENT (Rear), to
represent MARCENT.  While MARCENT provided liaison officers
(LNO) and staff officers to CINCCENT to coordinate tactical
matters, the MEF commander did not feel the need to establish
separate tactical and component command elements; instead, he
retained responsibility for both functions.  Later, the
MARCENT commander reported he was in constant communication
with CINCCENT and believed tactical and component issues could
be resolved.  CINCCENT's style of leadership gave considerable
latitude to subordinate commanders. (1:553)
    In order to coordinate fully with other component
commanders, MARCENT  provided LNO and communications to
ARCENT, JFACC, and adjacent Coalition units.  Although there
was only one commander, two staffs evolved to handle the
different challenges of a component and a tactical command.
An additional requirement surfaced with the arrival of
amphibious forces in theater, particularly during the planning
for an amphibious assault on the Kuwait shoreline. Marine
forces ashore came under the MARCENT command, while USMC
forces afloat were under NAVCENT command.  Although plans
provided for I MEF to command all Marines ashore, coordination
of amphibious forces with Marine land operations before and
during the initial stages of an amphibious assault presented
unforeseen problems.  Details of landing sites, airspace
coordination, fire support coordination, tactical
boundaries and control measures, as well as tasking for future
operational planning had to be routed officially through a
command chain that included CENTCOM and NAVCENT.  The process
was often complicated by  distances between the commanders and
staffs.  To resolve this difficulty, MARCENT located a forward
headquarters (MARCENT (FWD)) with NAVCENT aboard the USS Blue
Ridge in mid-January 1991.  The small staff conducted detailed
coordination with NAVCENT and ensured ground and amphibious
plans were fully coordinated. (1:554)
    Ashore, I MEF exercised both tactical and administrative
command of all Marine forces: 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions
(MARDIV), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, 1st Force Service Support
Group, 1st Surveillance Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group,
and UK 1st Armored Brigade (for a three-month period).  Faced
with a significantly expanded force, and coupled with the
requirement to provide LNO and staff officers to adjacent and
higher headquarters, I MEF command element was augmented
by personnel and equipment from organizations throughout the
Marine Corps.  The Army and Air Force provided communications
equipment to I MEF to ensure interoperability.  Structured for
expeditionary and amphibious operations, the MEF found itself
controlling the operations of a corps-sized force operating
across extended inland distances, and interfacing with
joint/combined forces. (1:554)
    The enormous communications architecture and rapidly
changing command structure, overextended the MEF's inherent
communications capability and required it to seek assistance.
Upon entering the theater of operations, real-time
requirements were crucial: I MEF connectivity via secure
telephone to CENTCOM, and its Air Combat Element (1ST MAW),
were essential due to vast distances of separation.  This
evolution not only took too much time, it was also very
unreliable because of interoperability problems.  Concurrently
while experiencing the above problems, users found the secure
telephone instruments to be complicated and difficult to
operate.  This was due to the lack of familiarization by
users, causing a substantially large number of outages and
lack of confidence in the telephone system.(5:1-5)
Additionally, during the early stages of the operation
communicators were reduced to nothing more than telephone
    Increased requirements and the early outages of the
tactical telephone system forced the purchase of leased
commercial satellite communications systems.  These terminals
provided leased circuits that interfaced and augmented the
joint and component tactical telephone networks in theater.
(1:565)  Additionally, units who accessed the leased
commercial telephone system often misused and abused
the system.  In future operations, Marine forces may not be as
fortunate as they were during the Gulf War to rely on leased
commercial communications.
    The constant demand for automation and the subsequent
communications capacity to support it, proved the demand for
information is insatiable in joint warfare.  The Gulf War
reinforced notions that; current Marine Corps communications
infrastructure is inadequate to support MEF warfighting
requirements moreover; the various files of data were too
large for the communications systems employed.  Resulting in
backups or stoppages which disrupted operations.  Limitations
existed despite the fact that "we put more communications
connectivity (in Saudi Arabia) than we've had in Europe during
the past 40 years." (6:64)
    A glaring example, was the Air Tasking Order (ATO).  The
ATO is a document published daily to inform commanders of air
operations; during the Gulf War, it was too voluminous to be
readily transmitted via an inadequate communications system.
Various alternate methods were attempted for delivering the
ATO, including couriers, facsimile machines, and local area
networks. However,  required reliability and responsiveness
was not achieved via alternate methods.
    Computers, also in high demand throughout the MEF, created
problems.  Staffs became enslaved to their garrison style of
operations where computers were a common item of equipment
used to perform mundane office functions.  Marine forces did
not have sufficient numbers of computers to supply all staff
sections; this issue dissatisfied staff members.  The
additional requirement burdened not only the Communications
and Information Systems Officer (G-6), but forced the
procurement of additional assets.
    The employment of computers and other new communications
devices such as global positioning system (GPS),
handheld radios and laptop computers proved beneficial to
operations.  Although new systems filled some requirements,
they also created additional training and frequency management
problems for the communicators.  The new systems often caused
friendly interference, because of the lack of transmission
frequencies and unfamiliarity of their capabilities by users.
Finally, valuable time was devoted to basic training for
users; the dedicated time could have been avoided if training
was conducted before to deployment.
    Shortages of basic radiotelephone equipment's (VRC-12
family of radios) also restricted the MEF's ability to
reliably communicate internally and provide assets to liaison
teams.  Radio shortages resulted in liaison teams begin
dispatched to other component commands and coalition forces'
headquarters without or insufficient quantities of
communications assets.  The high demand for high VRC-12 series
radios and satellite communications radios caused this
problem.  The VRC-12 series radios experienced extensive
alignment, reliability, and availability of associated
ancillary equipment (cryptographic cables and antennas)
problems. (1:574)  This prompted immediate requisitions from
supply depots in the continental United States that proved to
be futile.
    The problems experienced by Marine forces significantly
degraded the commanding generals ability to command and
control his forces effectively.  Additionally, the command
relationships employed by Marine Forces during the Gulf War,
gave the Marine Corps an indication of the complexities and
enormous amounts of C3 assets required to operate in an joint
environment.  The war reinforced the notion that, C3 is an
important element of joint operations, it affords the MEF
commander connectivity to higher, component, and subordinate
headquarters.  C3 must be robust and capable of adapting to
constantly changing situations. (5:1-1)   The Marine Corps has
serious problems with communications; however, there are
corrective actions which can be taken to correct the problem.
    In order to correct the Marine Corps C3 deficiencies, a
three-phased solution package is required.  First, identify C3
shortfalls and requirements of the MEF in the joint
environment.  Second, seek Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) from
other services to fill C3 shortfalls until the Marine Corps
can acquire and field their own.  Finally, expedite the
fielding of purchased C3 assets and correct communications
procedural problems with training in the FMF.  The phases
discussed below should be conducted simultaneously because of
the severity of this problem.
    The first phase should be implemented as soon as possible;
to gain momentum on solving the problem.  Tasks to be
accomplished are:
A.  Communications requirements must be defined and documented
by Marine Corps commands (FMFPAC/FMFLANT) which are possible
Joint Task Force headquarters.  This would identify the
necessary requirements for the JTF commander to command and
control joint/organic forces and assist in the planning
B.  The requirements must then be forwarded to the Marine
Corps Combat and Development Command (Warfighting Center) for
validation and implementation.  A key-element to this phase is
the publishing of Fighting the MEF (FMFM 2-1).  Additionally,
FMFM 3-30 (Communications) requires significant revision, in
order to align communications doctrinal procedures with MEF
warfighting procedures described in FMFM 2-1.  At present,
FMFM 3-30 currently has a two page chapter titled
"Communication in Joint Operations," the chapter by no means
includes the essential subjects for communicators to
effectively operate in joint operatLon.  A few recommended
topics such as; communications networks architecture, Host
Nation communications support, and liaison team requirements
must be included in FMFM 3-30. (5:4-17)  The publishing and
revision of the two manuals discussed would provide doctrinal
guidance to the FMF on matters pertaining to C2/C3 operations
in joint and service operations.
    During Phase II, Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) with other
services would be established, implemented and tested to fill
C3 equipment and personnel deficiencies.  Simultaneously,
measures to develop and procure the C3 shortfalls would be
initiated by HQMC.  The MOAs would provide immediate C3 assets
(GMF satellite terminals) to accomplish assigned joint
missions and allow time for HQMC to acquire the needed C3
assets.  The MOAs must be established now and remain effective
until the C3 assets are obtained.
    The final phase, includes acquiring new C3 equipment to
replace outdated items, placing emphasis on training, and
actions required by commanders.  In order to achieve this the
following steps must be taken.
A.  Continue the fielding of C3 systems that have been
procured and get them to the units now.  Expediting fielding,
will give new equipment to the communicators who are now
operating with antiquated assets.  Additionally,  systems such
as SINCGARS and GPS increase the reliability of the
communications services provided. (1:574)
B.  Continue realistic training in the FMF.  Operational
exercises must employ the C3 system planned for warfighting
and stress it to the maximum extent possible.  Besides
traditional activities such as exercises, deployments, port
visits, military-to-military contacts, security assistance,
countering terrorism and protecting American citizens in
crisis areas; Marine forces may be called upon to execute
fewer traditional operations.  These included newly defined
roles for the military in the war on drugs and in providing
humanitarian assistance. (4:14)  In order to increase
readiness of the Marine forces who will execute future
missions, Marine Corps training must incorporate the lessons
learned from previous joint operations.  When realistic
training is conducted the results are, improved communicators
skills and increased users familiarity.  Also, training and
knowledge of the communications system by the user improves
confidence and the ability to use the system.
C.  Finally, the commander is responsible for adequate and
proper use of communications within his command.  Although the
authority to establish, maintain, control, and coordinate the
employment of communications may be delegated to a member of
his staff, responsibility for communications remains with the
commander. (5:1-4)  Therefore, continued emphasis must be
placed on improving communications by commanders, specifically
commanding generals who will be required to employ
organic/joint forces.  Simply delegating this responsibility
to the G-6, will not be enough in today's joint military
environment.  Future JTF commanders will employ complex joint
communications systems, which will facilitae their ability to
command and control forces.  A lack of understanding will
undoubtedly decrease commanders success in joint operations.
    The JTF commander needs to be supported with a " system of
systems" for surveillance and communications.  This system
must function across the services and agencies for air, space,
sea and ground operations.  It must be scalable from support
unit to theater level, as well as robust, flexible,
reconfigureable, transparent, and affordable.  This concept
will provide an total architecture that will permit
reliability.  The JTF communications systems must be capable
of carrying out surveillance of the earth at regular useful
intervals, with a capability to focus on any one area as
needed.  It must convey essential information to intelligence,
command and control systems, and fighting forces with
timeliness and accuracy for effective mission execution.
    The first requirement for JTF communications, will be a
command and control link to the unified command, followed by
users who will need to communicate outside the crisis area.
To satisfy these needs are the usual tactical military systems
predominantly employed.  What is needed are wide-ranging
capabale C3 systems, both commercial and military, that are
readily available for use by the commander. (7:85-86)
    C3 systems are important elements of JTF operations, they
provide the commander a means to exert personal influence in
the exercise of command and control of forces, supporting
fires, and combat service support over larger areas than would
otherwise be possible.  Command, control, and communications
systems must be reliable, flexible, and capable of adapting to
constantly changing situations.  Intelligence, operations, and
logistics depend heavily on a flexible and reliable C3
system as well. (5:1-1)
    Communications is the voice of command and it must be
responsive to the needs of the commander.  Above all,
confidence by the operator is essential.  Confidence cannot be
won by just employing high technology equipment, hoping that
it will live up to its advertised capability.  If steps are not
taken to correct the deficiencies discussed above, the Marine
Corps will continue to operate at an undesirable level of
proficiency in joint operations.
1.  Department of Defense, Final Report to Congress, "Conduct
         of the Persian Gulf War". April 1992:553, 554, 565, 574.
2.  Department of Defense, "Defense Science and Technology
         Strategy". July 1992:II-6.
3.  Department of Defense, " Defense Strategy for the 1990s:
         The Regional Defense Strategy". January 1993:15.
4.  Department of Defense, "The National Military Strategy of the
         United States". January 1992:1, 24.
5.  FMFM 3-30 Communications. Quantico, VA: Marine Corps
         Combat Development Command, 1989:1-1, 1-4, 1-5, 4-17.
6.  Nordall, Bruce D. and Phillip J. Klass, " Key Desert Storm
         Technologies Vital to Future Competitiveness," Aviation Week &
         Space Technology (3 June 1991):64.  Remarks by LTG James
         S. Cassity Jr. US Air Force.
7.  Meyer III, John J. Col USA, "JTF Communications: The Way
         Ahead" Military Review, March 1993:85-86.

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