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The Extinction Of Ground Reconnaissance: A Preventable Tragedy
CSC 1993
SUBJECT AREA - Intelligence
Title:  The Extinction of Ground Reconnaissance: A Preventable Tragedy
Author:  Major William J. Corcoran, United States Marine Corps
Thesis:  The FSPG's recommendation for the reorganization of
reconnaissance will create a lack of unity of effort in the areas
of training management and will denigrate the effectiveness of
our reconnaissance Marines in combat.  The long range effect will
be the inability of reconnaissance units to provide the division
commander stealth reconnaissance for the extended close and
amphibious reconnaissance mission.  Presently, there are
recommendations on the table that will avoid the extinction of
ground reconnaissance.
Background:  In the fall of 1991 the Marine Corps formed a study
group, the Force Structure Planning Group (FSPG), to determine
how the Marine Corps could restructure to a reduced manning level
of 159,100.  This study included an evaluation of the
requirements and capabilities of the Marine Corps in the 21st
century.  The FSPG concluded that reconnaissance units needed
mobility to keep up with the increasingly mobile divisions.
Additionally, the FSPG recommended that the present battalion
reconnaissance units be reconstituted  to three LAV mounted
regimental reconnaissance companies and one reconnaissance
battalion.  This plan strips amphibious and stealth
reconnaissance away from the Division Commander and effectively
emasculates reconnaissance as an effective intelligence gathering
force.  In an attempt to rescue the Marine Corp's only HUMINT
collection capability, the First and Second  Marine Divisions
conducted a reconnaissance planning conference where they
brainstormed a solution to the problems created by the FSPG. The
Reconnaissance Planning Group proposed that a division
reconnaissance company (DRC) be reconstituted in lieu of light
armored reconnaissance.  This DRC would provide the division
commander the "bare bones" minimum reconnaissance assets to meet
his forward presence and contingency requirements.
Thesis:  The FSPG's recommendation for the reorganization of
reconnaissance will create a lack of unity of effort in the areas
of training management and will denigrate the effectiveness of
our reconnaissance Marines in combat.  The long range effect will
be the inability of reconnaissance units to provide the division
commander stealth reconnaissance for the extended close and
amphibious reconnaissance mission.  Presently, there are
recommendations on the table that will avoid the extinction of
ground reconnaissance.
I.	Force Structure Planning Group recommendation
	A.	Present reconnaissance structure
	B.	Recommended reconnaissance structure
II.	Secretary of the Navy's Grand Vision
	A.	Shift in emphasis to the world's littoral
	B.	Focus on regional crisis
	C.	Maintain the U.S.'s primacy of forward
III.	Inherent problems with the FSPG s recommendation
	A.	Fragmentation of reconnaissance assets
	B.	Inefficient training and dichotomy of
	C.	Unit commander focus
	D.	Specialization of reconnaissance
	E.	Overall shortage of division reconnaissance
IV.	Solution
	A.	Establishment of Reconnaissance Study Group
	B.	Establish one ground reconnaissance company
		per division.
V.	Conclusion
	In the fall of 1991, the  Marine Corps formed a study group,
Force Structure Planning Group (FSPG), to determine how the
Marine Corps could restructure to a reduced manning level of
159,100 Marines.  This study included an evaluation of require-
ments and capabilities of the Marine Corps in the 21st century.
"The base force division of the future must have more tactical
mobility than its predecessors.  To build that mobility, we
introduce the Combined Arms Regiment (CAR).. "(2:4)  Once the
division's mobility problem was addressed, the FSPG turned to the
issue of mobility and expanded roles for the division's recon-
naissance battalion:
	In the area of reconnaissance, the FSPG foresaw an
	expanded role for the reconnaissance units on future
	battlefields expanding. . . These units must be able to
	conduct not only reconnaissance but also security and
	economy of force operations.  Further, they rnust be
	able to conduct limited offensive or delaying
	operations, which use their firepower and
	mobility. (2:4)
The  product of the FSPG is called the "USMC 2001 Plan."  The
2001 Plan  recommended structure changes  that will provide the
Division Commander with a less than satisfactory human intelli-
igence (HUMINT) gathering capability.  In redefining recon's
future role, the foot mobile, classic dismounted  reconnaissance
seems have been the biggest casualty.  The FSPG's recommendation
for the reorganization of reconnaissance will create a lack of
unity of effort in the areas of training and management, and will
denigrate the effectiveness of our reconnaissance Marine.  The
long range effect will be the inability of reconnaissance units
to provide the division commander enough stealth reconnaissance
resources for the extended close reconnaissance mission.
Presently, there are recommendations on the table that will
provide the division commander with a "bare bones" minimum amount
of stealth and amphibious reconnaissance.
                              FSPG Recommendation
	Before we study the impact of the FSPG on reconnaissance we
must first look at the present structure and functions of our
reconnaissance units.  Under the present tables of organization
1428G and 1423J, the battalion reconnaissance units in both First
and Second Marine Divisions have four companies with 12 platoons
each.  This gives the division commander 36 separate teams to
employ throughout the division.  However, in reality, first
Reconnaissance Battalion restructured and redesignated to become
First Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.   The Second Recon-
naissance Battalion is  actually staffed at two companies vice
the four companies as authorized on their table of organization.
The Third Marine Division has a total of three companies with one
company permanently based in Hawaii.
	In addition to the battalion reconnaissance units, each
Marine Expeditionary Force has a force reconnaissance company
with six platoons containing three-four man reconnaissance teams.
Under this present table of organization there are enough recon-
naissance assets to support the division commanders, and the
deploying MEUs.  This T/O made allowances for maintenance stand
downs and various training evolutions.  Additionally, it provided
for. limited quality of life.
			FSPG Recommendation
	The FSPG recommended that the current organization of three
reconnaissance battalions, one in each division, be reconstituted
by fiscal year 93.  Under the new structure, the reconnaissance
units are reconstituted as four separate reconnaissance entities:
one light armored reconnaissance company within the combined arms
regiment, two reconnaissance companies to support the two infan-
try regiments, and one separate reconnaissance battalion-light
armored (LA) in support of the division as a whole.  Each of the
regimental reconnaissance companies will have three platoons.
Finally, the  force reconnaissance company will remain with the
Surveillance Reconnaissance Intelligence Group (SRIG) in the MEF
command element.
     The former T/O was focused on stealth, foot mobile, human
intelligence gathering operations.  The latter T/O is obviously
focused on speed, firepower, mobility, and a limited capability
to fight.  "In reality, USNC 2001 defines the reconnaissance
battalion as a light cavalry organization with an emphasis on
light armored reconnaissance."(2:5)  In addition to their
traditional intelligence gathering activities, the newly formed
Light Armored Reconnaissance Company (LAR) is assigned such
missions as economy of force, deception, screening, scouting and
other functions as shaping the battlefield.
                Secretary of The Navy Grand Vision
	This restructure seems to counter the Department of the
Navy's new shift in their roles and missions.   In a Navy and
Marine Corps White Paper, the Secretary of the Navy spelled out
his grand vision of the Naval Service's role in the next century.
Central to that theme is the Naval Service's  shift in emphasis
to the littoral regions of the world.  This new shift will
require increased emphasis and training in amphibious reconnais-
sance.  The Secretary of the Navy's White Paper provides reasons
for possessing the amphibious reconnaissance capability:
	. . . examples of how naval forces will implement the
	concept of joint operations include focusing on the
	littoral area. By maintaining this focus the Navy and
	Marine Corps can seize and defend an adversary's port,
	naval base, or coastal air base to allow the entry of
	heavy Army or Air Force forces.  The success of modern
	U.S. military strategy depends on forces organized,
	trained, and equipped for that division of labor.(6:2)
In the same White Paper the Secretary of the Navy stressed that
naval forces operating forward will demonstrate U.S. commitment
overseas.  "Naval Forces also contain crisis through forward
 operations and rapid response with flexible and sustainable sea-
 based forces."(6.)  Over the past few years, forward operations
 and rapid response have become increasingly important.  It is
 universally understood that although our main adversary, the
 Soviet Union is no longer a threat, the world today is much more
 dangerous and volatile.  Regional conflicts have  increased as a
 result of religious, ethnic, and racial tensions.  There are
 literally dozens of potential flash-points throughout the world
 that are nearly impossible to predict and that will require an
 immediate contingency response.  At this critical time when the
 Marine Corps' roles and missions have become more acutely focused
 towards the world's littorals, we are faced with an increased
 need for amphibious reconnaissance.  The authors of ". . From the
 Sea" under score the importance of focusing on littoral warfare:
	For the Naval Service, then, dominating the battle
     	space means ensuring effective transition from open
     	ocean to littoral areas, and from sea to land and
     	back, to accomplish the full range of missions.  This
     	is the essence of naval adaptability and flexibility,
    	which are keys to contingency response. (6.)
Under the Marine Corps 2001 plan, the emphasis on our ground and
amphibious reconnaissance capability is going in the opposite
direction from where it should be headed.  Under the USMC 2001
Plan, the light-armored reconnaissance battalions/companies  are
more focused on mechanized operations with the light-armored
vehicle as the primary insertion/extraction platform.  This is a
much different maneuver than the traditional scuba, parachute, or
helicopter form of insertion, not to mention it is devoid of any
stealth or secret means of employment.  The  deployment of  our
reconnaissance units in LAVs not only decreases their  amphibious
reconnaissance capability, but is sure to degrade their stealth
collection ability.
             Problems With The FSPG Recommendation
      	    Fragmentation of Division Reconnaissance
One of the many flaws with the FSPG's recommendation is the
fragmentation of the division's reconnaissance assets.  As
previously discussed, under the structure prior to USMC 2001, all
the division's reconnaissance assets were located  under one
battalion commander.  The benefits of this monolithic organi-
zation were its inherent unity of effort, standardized training,
and more effective use of reconnaissance as an intelligence
collector.  With all the reconnaissance assets in one battalion,
the commander can orchestrate the battalion's efforts in one
direction at the same time.  Deploying infantry units would use
the time tested procedure of task organizing for operations by
requesting support through higher headquarters.   Under USMC
2001, the units are spread over four different commands within
the division, each unit  operating autonomously on its own.
Although each regiment has its own reconnaissance assets, when
reconnaissance is needed at the division level the division
commander will have to request support from the subordinate
(regiment) headquarters.
	Inefficient Training and Dichotomy of  Employment
	Because of USMC 2001, training in amphibious and stealth
reconnaissance will be greatly affected.  It is wise to assume
that each of the reconnaissance units will be required to meet a
standard set of performance objectives.  The problem is the
disparate quality of training in each of the units, and subse-
quently, their varying levels of proficiency.  Weaker units will
tend to stay weak while the units with effective trainers will
get stronger.  This new organization also portends duplication of
effort, which equates to wasted time and effort by conducting the
same training in the separate reconnaissance units.  With the
down-sizing of the Marine Corps, equipment and personnel will be
in shorter supply. In the spirit of "Total Quality Management" we
should be managing our time and resources more efficiently. The
difficult task of getting helicopter support for rapelling, spie
rigging, helicasting, fast-roping, etc. , will become even more
difficult.  If the reconnaissance companies train in these skills
at all, the chances are great that they will be requesting multi-
ple frags from scarce assets. This duplication of effort will
exhaust a capability that is already stretched too thin. The same
situation will be true for fixed wing support for parachute
	The other problem with training is the fact that the employ-
ment of light armored reconnaissance (LAR) is directly opposite
from the employment of stealth, foot-mobile reconnaissance.  Both
concepts of employment contradict one another.  We cannot hide
the fact that in reality, LAR is cavalry employed to exploit its
speed, mobility, and firepower.  Ground reconnaissance, although
less mobile, exploits stealth and secrecy through the doctrinal
manner in which it is employed.  LAR engages the enemy and ground
reconnaissance does not.  When employing LAR and stealth recon-
naissance together, important decisions must be made.  In his
proposal to modify the FSPG, LtCol Kiser raises several conflict-
ing decisions:
	Combining reconnaissance and  LAR into one unit forces
     	such dilemmas as choosing between sending foot patrols
     	out or maintaining vehicle security, conducting only
     	short term surveillance on key points of interests
     	because the vehicles need to be moved for security,
     	utilization of the vehicles in restricted/close terrain
     	where the enemy might be at risk of endangering the
     	vehicles, and how to apportion LAR missions between
     	information collection for the Commander and
     	exploitation of the LAV-25' s, mobility and firepower as
     	a component of the scheme of maneuver.(3:1-2)
	What the FSPG failed to realize is that fighting recon and
stealth recon are two totally different missions.  Employing
recon in LAVs inherently- implies "fighting reconnaissance," which
means aggressively looking for enemy gaps, salients, and other
opportunities and exploiting them immediately.  "Fighting recon
requires quick reaction and exploitation.  This mission is
normally controlled by the G-3. "(4:41)  On the other hand,
stealth reconnaissance, requires a static or slowly developing
situation (low intensity conflict) to allow for detailed planning
and close surveillance.  Stealth reconnaissance is more of an
intelligence gathering asset and as such is conducted by the G-2.
(4: 41)
     Maintenance and training, two areas which are time
dependent, will be competing for the reconnaissance Marine's
attention.  The LAV is a complex, maintenance intense vehicle.
Routine preventive maintenance must be performed throughout the
LAV: vehicle hull, communications gear, intercom system, secure
voice equipment, optical system, grenade launcher, and fire
control system.  This routine preventive maintenance is performed
by the crewmen while in garrison, on ship during deployments, as
well as in the field during in-place halts, when the vehicle is
parked for the night, and at other miscellaneous times.  Who is
going to perform the daily preventive maintenance on the vehi-
cles?  Valuable MOS training time will be spent in the critical
tasks of performing preventive maintenance on the vehicles.
	The reconnaissance MOS has 86 individual training standards
(ITS) that must be mastered.  The light armored infantryman has
97 ITSs he must maintain proficiency in.  Most of these ITSs are
incompatible for concurrent training.  "When the 183 ITSs are
combined with the extraordinary maintenance requirements of the
LAV and its armament it is unrealistic to expect a platoon com-
mander to develop an effective training plan "(3:1-2)  even if
the platoon commander is able to develop a training plan, will
his Marines ever be able to master all the skills, and maintain
proficiency in them?
			Unit Commander Focus
	Problems with roles and missions of reconnaissance will
occur because of the focus (or lack) of the unit ,commander.  Many
commanders harbor resentment of the reconnaissance community
because of their "elitist" reputation.  Also, there are many
commanders who don't understand or don't appreciate the benefits
of effectively employed reconnaissance.  Although the idea of a
commander's negative attitude towards recon may sound parochial,
it is a very real concern that must be dealt with. Reconnais-
sance skills are specialized and highly perishable requiring
continual practice.  Only a unit commander who appreciates the
skills and employment of reconnaissance will ensure that those
skills are maintained.  One reconnaissance battalion commander
summarized a primary reason for the lack of understanding of
	The Marine Corps does not train it's future GCE
    	commanders, S3s, or S2s, on proper reconnaissance
     	employment.  Amphibious Warfare School allocates only
     	one three hour block of instruction.  As a result, most
     	GCE staffs do not appreciate the reconnaissance unit's
     	abilities and restrictions.(5:1)
	Regimental intelligence officers do not know how to plan for
stealth or reconnaissance operations. They do not know how to
employ reconnaissance teams and consequently, the S-3's often
take over and misemploy reconnaissance.
		Specialization of Reconnaissance
	It should be clear that a great deal of time and effort goes
into train our reconnaissance Marines.  These Marines receive
intense training in SCUBA diving, spie rigging, rapelling, fast
roping, helicasting, communications, small unit patrolling,
inflatable boat operations, not to mention lesser, known skills
such as morse code, vehicle recognition, sketching, and photo-
graphy.  If these skills are not used they are quickly denigrat-
ed.  FMFM 2-2, the amphibious reconnaissance doctrinal training
publication, states that "the reconnaissance training cycle
should be a minimum of one year in order to properly train
personnel in the required skill and techniques."(1:41)  It is
recognized that amphibious reconnaissance is a highly specialized
brand of warfare.  That is why after completion of their train-
ing, reconnaissance Marines are assigned the MOS of 0321.  This
specialization calls for unique requirements to be met if the
reconnaissance units are going to operate effectively. Additional
pitfalls of merging specialized reconnaissance units with LAVs
were identified most recently in a staff study submitted by the
battalion commander of First Reconnaissance Battalion:
	Because they are specialized, they require specialized
     	equipment (budgeting), training, manning, and staff
     	support. The regimental reconnaissance companies are
     	unlikely to get the required level of attention in an
     	organization surrounded by people who are under the gun
     	to answer key issues surrounding the training,
     	equipping, and manning of our fighting infantry. (2:4)
		Shortage of Reconnaissance
	Training, maintenance and specialization aside, the biggest
deficiency with USMC 2001 is the disregard for critically needed
stealth and amphibious reconnaissance at the division level.
". . . a problem brought on by the USMC 2001 is that the reconnais-
sance battalion (LA) can no longer provide the division commander
an amphibious reconnaissance capability. "(2:6)  In June 1992, the
Commanding General of the First Marine Division implemented the
USMC 2001 PLAN as it pertains to reconnaissance.   Keeping within
the constraints of USMC 2001, the First Marine Division has con-
ducted four command post exercises under different plans  and
found that they routinely run out of reconnaissance assets within
the first 48 hours of operations.  The resultant effect is for
the division to dip into the CAR and regimental reconnaissance
units to support the division's recon needs.  The unnatural act
of higher headquarters asking a subordinate headquarters for
support not only doesn't make sense, but it is sure to leave the
regimental commander with out any recon assets, and could create
disharmony between the two commanders.  The FSPG plan becomes
self defeating if every time the division commander has a need
for more reconnaissance he takes it from the regimental
	Under the 2001 Plan the MEU commanders are sure to get short
changed.  The decreased number of reconnaissance platoons will
not be enough to support the myriad of real world contingencies:
ACF or MPF commitments, annual cold weather commitments, an extra
periodic MAGTF commitrnent, CAX and mountain warfare training and
other major exercises. In response to the FSPG's recommendations,
Headquarters Marine Corps and the First and Second Marine
Divisions sent representatives to Camp Pendleton on 17 November
1992, in order to brainstorm how the divisions will deal with the
recommendations of the FSPG.  The division representatives felt
that while the USMC 2001 plan supports reconnaissance in a fast
paced, shoot and move environment, it does nothing to support a
slower paced, restricted terrain environment where light infantry
troops in  a third world country are involved.  The 2001 plan
simply does not support combat in a low intensity conflict.
LtCol McKenzie, a former reconnaissance battalion commander,
provIdes a cogent argument for maintaining stealth reconnais-
	At the low intensity end, stealth recon is vital to
     	finding the enemy as he makes maximum use of cover and
     	concealment, operates in very small units and masses
     	only for short periods to obtain surprise in order to
     	achieve a limited objective.(4:30)
     	Instead of adding reconnaissance companies to the regiments,
the planners at the reconnaissance conference recommended that a
division reconnaissance company (DRC) replace the existing recon-
naissance battalion and supersede the proposed light armored
reconnaissance battalion.  This plan  will provide DRCs wIth 12
officers and 227 enlisted men for the 1st and 2nd Divisions and a
company of 6 officers and 88 men for the 3rd Division. (The 3rd
division gets a smaller company because of reduced contingency
requirements).  This proposed plan will provide the Marine Corps
with twenty one traditional foot-mobile, stealth and amphibious
reconnaissance platoons who provide the capability  to support
the division's current and foreseeable forward presence and rapid
response requirements.
	The concept of employment calls for teams of five to six men
to operate in the division and regimental zones conducting the
various types of traditional missions assigned to reconnaissance
units.  They will report to the tactical commanders  whose zones
they are operating in.  Platoon and company command elements will
deploy with the units they will be supporting in order to advise
on employment and to assist in the intelligence section.
	There are a few drawbacks to this plan.  Obviously the plan
removes the regimental (scout) capability.  However,  the  capa-
bility to support the regiments exists at the division level. The
ground reconnaissance conference showed that In order for the
division to meet its forward presence and contingency operations,
a minimum of 21 platoons are required Corps-wide.  This plan does
not consider the impact that staffing goals, fleet assistance
programs, or any other sources of personnel turbulence  will have
on the reconnaissance units.  The plan does not provide any depth
to these units.
	The many strengths to this proposal oat weigh by far the
weaknesses.  Of primary importance,  Division Commander's
operational requirements.  It reflects the  Secretary of the
Navy's primacy of forward presence which he articulated in his
White Letter.  It recognizes the Navy Marine Corps relationship
which was also discussed in the Secretary of the Navy's White
Letter.  The proposal also incorporates the current and emerging
doctrines of the 1990s.  Additionally, the proposal centralizes
reconnaissance assets and their efforts under the Division Com-
manding General.  This maximizes the division's tactical
flexibility and standardizes training.  Finally, the ground
reconnaissance assets can be tailored to meet each division's
forward presence and contingency requirements without exceeding
the FSPG's limitations on staffing.
	In light of the unholy marriage between reconnaissance  and
LAVs, the importance of the foot mobile, stealthy, intelligence
gatherers cannot be understated.  Their capabilities of conduct-
ing distant and deep reconnaissance are invaluable assets for the
division commander.  HUMINT intelligence gathering skills are not
easy to come by.  These skilIs in stealth operations, insertion
and extraction, and working in their small units  must be con-
tinually honed in order to maintain their proficiency.  Merging
ground reconnaissance with light armored vehicles will emasculate
the reconnaissance community by shifting the focus of employment
away from stealth recon to fighting recon.   It is inconceivable
that our Commandant who co-authored the White Letter ". . From the
Sea," which emphasized the importance of forward presence,
contingency operations, and a focus on the world's littorals,
would allow the Marine Corps to degrade our critically needed
amphibious and stealth reconnaissance capability.
	Adding the light armored vehicle to the reconnaissance
mission increases recon's training and maintenance time, which
stretches an already busy training regimen.  We should not make
the mistake of confusing fighting reconnaissance with stealth
reconnaissance which are two different missions on opposite ends
of the spectrum.   The issues of commander's focus, expertise of
the trainers, and unity of effort will all have a negative impact
in the area of training and employment.  To get at the heart of
the problem we must ask ourselves; what are we gaining and what
are we giving up?  I question the wisdom of giving up our
amphibious/extended reconnaissance capability in order to gain
another maneuver element.
	Since June 1992, the First Marine Division has operated
within the "constraints" of USMC 2001 and has categorically
refuted its utility.  The Commanding Generals of the two CONUS
divisions recognize the impact that LAR will have on their
amphibious and extended reconnaissance capability.  They both
agree that what they need more than an  additional "ride-along-
infantry" unit in LAVs, is their old battle tested amphibious/
extended  reconnaissance capability.  The division's proposed
plan is within the staffing constraints of the FSPG and will
provide the Marine Corps a bear minimum of reconnaissance assets
to support the myriad of contingency  and presence missions.
Additionally,  it is in keeping with the spirit of the Secretary
of the Navy's ". . .From the Sea"  White Paper.  Consideration of
the reconnaissance conference's proposal will provide  the
divisions what they need in HUMINT and  prevent the tragedy of
the possible extinction of stealth/amphibious  reconnaissance.
1.	FMFM 2-2 Amphibious Reconnaissance. Quantico, Virginia, 19 March 1976.
2.   Kelly, LtCol John. "Restructuring Recon in the Marine Corps." Staff Study, 
1st Reconnaissance Battalion,  October 92.
3.   Kiser, LtCol J.B. "Proposed Modifications to USMC 2001 Plan;
Division Reconnaissance Companies." 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, Draft Copy,
4.   McKenzie, S.W. "The Case For Division Reconnaissance."  Command and
Staff College Archives, November 1992.
5.   McKenzie, S.W. "Reconnaissance Issues Within the Marine Corps." 2nd
Reconnaissance Battalion, Ltr to 2nd CG MarDiv, 3000/ADJ, 20 June 1991.
6.   Okeefe, Sean C. Secretary of the Navy, "From the Sea: A New Direction for the
Naval Services." Sept 1992.
7.   "Recon Issues Conference Daily Summary." After Action Report. HQTRS Marine 
Corps, POR-25, 23 November 1992.

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