Enhancing The Surveillance, Reconnaissance, And Intelligence
SUBJECT AREA - Strategic Issues
Title: Enhancing the Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and
Intelligence Group (SRIG)
Author: Major John E. McKnight, United States Marine Corps
Thesis: The Marine Corps needs to create doctrine for the
Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Group.
Background: Headquarters, Marine Corps, instituted the SRIG
concept to assist the Marine Expeditionary Force Commander in
his decision making process. This concept led to assimilating
military occupational specialties of surveillance,
intelligence, reconnaissance and communications into a common
unit that would support the MEF. The SRIG concept was not
well understood or well received in the Fleet Marine Forces.
Headquarters, Marine Corps, seemed incapable of and unwilling
to provide any practical employment doctrine to
institutionalize the SRIG concept. MEF commanders decided
"who is going to manage the store and how." Without any
guidance from Headquarters, Marine Corps, the three
respective MEF commanders determined the purpose and
organizational structure of their SRIG. This led to three
separate employment philosophies.
Recommendation: The Marine Corps needs to institutionalize
employment doctrine for the SRIG.
Thesis: The Marine Corps redesigned the organizational
structure and procedures for gathering, processing, and
transmitting information by establishing the Surveillance,
Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Group (SRIG). Its purpose
was to optimize the information available to the commander
for use in decision making, but little or no doctrinal
guidance was provided. This created an enormous amount of
uncertainty on "who is going to manage the store and how."
I. Evolution of the SRIG
A. Reorganization of C4I2
B. The philosophy behind reorganization
C. Prior to the establishment of SRIG
II. The Dilemma
A. General Gray's "vision"
B. SRIG's role in Desert Shield/Storm
III. Issues to be resolved
A. Doctrinal relationships and procedures
B. Command and staff relationships
C. Purpose of having a Communication
Battalion in SRIG
D. Rename the SRIG
B. FMFM 3-22
ENHANCING THE SRIG
by Major John E. McKnight,
United States Marine Corps
The Fleet Marine Force Manual-1 (FMFM-1) contains the
Marine Corps' philosophy on warfighting. An important point
in that philosophy is that war is chaotic; it is conducted in
a cloud of uncertainty. The concept of maneuver warfare is to
create as much uncertainty as possible for the enemy and to
take advantage of the opportunities uncertainty creates. The
commander who penetrates the cloud of uncertainty holds an
advantage in controlling the outcome of the battle.
The timely, accurate, and secure flow of processed
information and reports is the key to removing the
uncertainty from the battlefield. The Marine Corps redesigned
the organizational structure and procedures for gathering,
processing, and transmitting information by establishing the
Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Group (SRIG).
Its purpose was to optimize the information available to the
commander for use in decision making, but little or no
doctinal guidance was provided. This created an enormous
amount of uncertainty on "ho is going to manage the store
Evolution of the SRIG
In January 1988, the Marine Corps Force Restructure Study
Group met to discuss and develop the future Marine Corps
organization. The Group recommended that a Surveillance,
Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Group (SRIG) be formed in
each Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF). General Alfred M.
Gray, then Commandant accepted this recommendation. He
reorganized the Intelligence and Command, Control,
Communications and Computers (C4) divisions into the Command,
Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence and
Interoperability (C4I2) department. The next step was to
direct Fleet Marine Forces (FMF) to establish SRIGs within
their respective MEFs. As a result, the 2nd SRIG was
activated in 1988, 1st SRIG in 1989, and 3rd SRIG in 1990.
The philosophy behind combining C4I2 is "to enable the
commander to view interoperability as a total force systems
requirement to enhance the commander's access to accurate
information about the battlefield" in order to assist in the
commander's decision making process. (7:81)
Prior to the establishment of SRIG, the commander of a
Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) had multiple resources for
gathering information and processing and disseminating
intelligence. These assets were found scattered under
different organizations within a MEF--Wing, Division, and/or
Force Service Support Group (FSSG). During exercises, units
reported directly to the MEF Command Element (MEF CE),
General Staff sections from their respective parent unit for
duty. These attachments were inadequately trained to support
the requirements of the MEF. This in effect made the General
Staff sections responsible for their operational training to
support the MEF.
The respective General Staff sections had neither the
time nor manpower to adequately train these attachments. As a
result, their state of readiness (equipment, personnel, and
training) varied widely, depending on the abilities of the
commanding officer. To enhance operational readiness, the
Marine Corps initiated a move to combine these units' assets
into one organization.
The establishment of SRIG organized different military
occupational fields in surveillance, reconnaissance,
intelligence, counterintelligence, electronic warfare, direct
action, air/naval gunfire liaison, communications, and
automated data processing into one unit. Combining these
military occupational specialities within one organization,
freed the General Staff from the administrative, logistic,
and direct tasking burdens associated with attachments, which
allowed the staff to conduct coordination and planning.
General Gray provided the Marine Corps with his vision of
the SRIG i.e., that we should look at "tactical fusion as a
subset of command, control, communications and intelligence
and to develop the means to establish a family of standards
for the full range of data and information used in C4I2
systems...to ensure that standards are developed,
coordinated, deconflicted, maintained and enforced." (7:83)
This vision has created much fiction within the three
SRIGs. From the start, many personnel believed the concept
could not work. Some regard the SRIG as General Gray's, pet
project forced on the Marine Corps. Others see it as an
attempt by the intelligence community to build an empire in
order to create command billets for intelligence officers.
Whatever one's reasons were for opposing General Gray's
vision, friction was self-induced.
The SRIG concept was not well understood or well received
at its inception because the Marine Corps seemed incapable of
and unwilling to provide a practical employment doctrine.
When 1st SRIG, I MEF, deployed to Southwest Asia for Desert
Shield, the then-Commanding Officer, Colonel Brock, had no
Marine Corps-approved mission statement, table of
organization, table of equipment, concept of employment, or
concept of operations.
Desert Shield/Storm was the first real operational test
of the SRIG concept and philosophy. Both 1st SRIG and I MEF
staffs had mixed feelings about the SRIG concept. Some
Marines tried to make it work, but other Marines actively
worked against the concept. After-action reports from 1st
SRIG personnel indicate that they were unable to work out an
agreeable doctrinal relationship with the I MEF staff. When
it became clear that the 1st SRIG's view of its role and
mission was inconsistent with that of the MEF's staff, the
decision was made to return to business as usual. For all
intents and purposes, 1st SRIG ceased to exist for I MEF.
The Commanding Officer of 1st SRIG became a glorified
headquarters commandant for I MEF.
Issues to be resolved
There are several issues that need to be resolved to
enhance the SRIG concept. We need to discuss these issues in
an open forum and decide "who is going to manage the store
Issue. #1. Without doctrine on "who is going to the
manage the store and how" from Headquarters, Marine Corps,
the various MEFs and SRIGs were left to develop their own
doctrinal unique relationships and procedures.
Discussion. This issue suggests that we have three
different concepts pertaining to each SRIG within its
respective MEF. Operational and administrative relationships
between the MEF staff, SRIG commander, and component
commanders of the SRIG are strained. The three MEFs view each
SRIG differently creating an "us vs them" atmosphere. III MEF
issued a Commanding General Policy Memorandum stating, "3rd
SRIG is a separate command within the III MEF Command
Element...neither part of the III MEF staff nor a major
subordinate command...it is a command within the III MEF
whose commanding officer reports operationally and
administratively to the Commanding General...." (4 & 5) II
MEF developed its own way of doing business without diluting
the operational integrity of the warfighting MEF. (3) The
relationship between the SRIGs and their respective MEFs are
based on who had the stronger personality and the ear of the
Furthermore, it is my view that we have three different
concepts on how the MEF acts as a warfighter, which impacts
directly on the SRIG. Without an equivalent to FM
100-15-which provides the warfighting doctrine for a Army
Corps--we continue to philosophize on how to employ the SRIG
to support a warfighting MEF that does not have a warfighting
doctrine. Perhaps, this is why there is so much uncertainty
with the SRIG concept: the MEF has not established doctrine
or standardized its operating procedures. The Marine Corps
tried to standardize the MEFs with a Tri-MEF Standing
Operating Procedures, but it went by the wayside.
We have already experienced the negative results of
having three unique warfighting philosphies. As Marines
transfer from one SRIG to another, they bring along the
philosophy that worked at their last unit. What comes with
this philosophy is a preconceived idea on how the SRIG ought
to work within a particular MEF. It does not make any sense
to have three different concepts on "managing the store."
Recommendation. What is needed is a clear and concise
doctrine on how the SRIG supports the warfighting MEF. The
Marine Corps needs to establish doctrine on how a warfighting
MEF operates in order for the SRIG to support it.
Issue. #2. Command and staff relationships between the
SRIG and MEF have been strained. The SRIG has no clear
tasking on what command and staff responsibilities they have
with the MEF General Staff. These responsibilites are
scattered haphazardly between the staffs.
Discussion. The Achilles heel of a unit is command and
staff relationships. Staff officers have their way of doing
staff work while commanding officers have their way of making
decisions. Command and staff functions differ in perspective
and approach to task accomplishment. Commanders orginally
utilized their staffs to relieve them of administrative
duties and the day-to-day burden of running a military unit.
Today, staffs are functionally specialized in their area of
expertise and provide advice--operational or administrative-
-to the commander. "The commanding officer, SRIG exercises
command of the SRIG through an executive staff." (10)
However, it is uncertain whether the SRIG is an operational
command and or adminstrative command given operational and/or
administrative control: "The commander of the SRIG is
responsible for providing trained and equipped task-organized
detachments to MAGTFs or other designated commands to execute
integrated...operations." The SRIG commander will assist the
MEF General Staff in establishing, operating, maintaining,
planning, and coordinating.
"The SRIG commander is the principal advisor to the MEF
commander in the employment of SRIG assets.... in conjunction
with the principal staff officers in their areas of
expertise." (2 & 8) The role of "advisor" is left open to
interpretation. One interpretation of the SRIG commander is,
"a manager of various assets which does not make him
qualified to be an advisor on organic elements and their
To help clarify what is meant by operational command
(OPCOM), administrative command (ADCON), and operational
control (OPCON) the following definitions are pertinent:
"OPCOM is the authority to perform those functions of command
involving the composition of subordinates forces, assignment
of tasks, designation of objectives, and authoritative
direction necessary to accomplish the mission. OPCOM includes
directive authority for logistics and joint training....and
it should be exercised through the commanders of assigned
normal organizational units or through the commanders of
subordinate forces established by the commander exercising
OPCOM....OPCOM does not, of itself, include such matters as
administration, discipline, internal organizational, and unit
training." (9:3-9) OPCOM is a function of a Unified or
Specified Commander in Chief (CINC). Therefore, the SRIG
commander does not have OPCOM.
ADCON includes matters of administration, discipline,
internal organizational, and unit training. An administrative
commander organizes, trains, equips, and provides a
task-organized unit to support a commander. This type of
commander retains ADCON by being responsible for the Marine's
administration-unit diary, pay, allotments, etc.,. The SRIG
commander is given ADCON of his unit.
"OPCON is the authority to perform the functions of
command over subordinate forces that involve organizing and
tasks, designating objectives, and giving authoritative
direction necessary to accomplish the mission. OPCON includes
authoritative direction over all aspects of military
operations..." (1 & 9) The SRIG commander is not given any
authority in handling operations. This authority is retained
by the MEF commander who exercises his control through the
General Staff during operations.
The SRIG commander is given the authority (ADCON) and
decision-making latitude required to make the SRIG function
as a unit. Headquarters, Marine Corps, decided to provide the
MEF with operational command over the SRIG. One alternative
is to give operational control to the SRIG commander allowing
him to function independently from the MEF General Staff.
What was the SRIG concept behind General Gray's vision?
Only General Gray really knows. General Gray stated that,
"the SRI group/detachment is not a tactical maneuver unit to
be fought as a regiment or a battalion but rather a source of
specialized capabilities specifically structured to provide
improved intelligence support to MAGTFs." (7:84) The SRIG
commander was never designed to be given OPCON. The SRIG was
designed to give the warfighting MEF an organization to
coordinate the planning, training, and equipping as well as
the employment of all MEF assets that conduct intelligence
functions and ground electronic warfare across the full
spectrum of the conflict. One may compare the SRIG concept to
the functions of the Commandant of the Marine Corps--an
administrative command--to organize, train, equip and provide
forces to a CINC of a unified or specified command.
If the SRIG commander is given operational control, would
the SRIG work effectively in a functional organizational
structure? Currently, SRIG operates in a functional
organizational MEF structure. The SRIG is subordinate to the
MEF. Normally, a functional organization structure tends to
be more effective in smaller units that are specialized. The
SRIG's table of organization includes 214 officers and 2389
enlisted, far from a small unit. Consolidating SRIG military
occupational specialities--which formerly were scattered
around the MEF--should enhance functioning of the MEF, but
not operational control between the staffs.
Recommendation. The SRIG commander should retain ADCON
of his unit. What is needed is a clear, concise, and distinct
command and staff relationship. Each staff needs to know when
the other staff is in control of the various components of
the SRIG. This is more difficult than it sounds.
A General Staff officer with operational control of a
unit does not have an appreciation for the commanding
officer's roles and problems or the unit's overall mission.
The staff officer is too narrowly focused on his own
functional area, despite his best efforts to give cooperation
and to do "what's best for the unit." A staff officer's
inevitable tunnel vision imposes a burden on the SRIG in
terms of resolving differences, enforcing joint cooperation,
and opening lines of communication. To resolve this on-going
command and staff problem, the SRIG commander should be given
operational control of his unit to enhance SRIG's full
potential to provide direct support to the MEF. A MEF
commander is too busy fighting the war to control the SRIG
through his General Staff. The General Staff's concerns
should be providing the MEF commander with pertinent advice
to assist the MEF commander in his decision-making.
Issue. #3 What is the purpose of having a
Communication Battalion in a SRIG?
Discussion. There are many views on this subject, ranging
from taking the Communications Battalion out of the SRIG and
making a Communication Brigade to retaining the Communication
Battalion in the SRIG.
To understand why General Gray decided to incorporate the
Communication Battalion in the SRIG, we must go back to the
Joint Tactical Fusion Interoperability Steering Group (JTFI).
The Marine Corps coordinates the JTFI which is chaired by the
Joint Chiefs of Staff J-6 Directorate. "The Joint
Requirements Oversight Committee (JROC) established the JTFI
Steering Group (general officer level) based on the
recommendation of a special study group commissioned to
examine the problem of non-interoperable tactical fusion
This steering group looked at tactical fusion as a subset
of command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I)
in order to develop a family of standards. The Marine Corps
Steering Group and Force Restructure Study Group took the
JTFI advice when they decided to establish the SRIG. Their
intent was to ensure that our future C4I2 systems would focus
on the collection, processing, and transmission that would
foster sound tactical decisions which would enable the MEF
commander to focus his combat power on the enemy's
center of gravity.
Recommendation. General Gray was correct to incorporate
the Communication Battalion in the SRIG during 1988. However,
with major cutbacks taking place, the Communication Battalion
may eventually grow in the next few years. Serious
discussions need to take place on the future of the
Communication Battalion. Will we combine communication assets
and personnel and task-organize them to support the MEF, to
include its components (Division, Wing, and Force Service
Support Group)? If so, why should a newly created
Communication Brigade remain in the SRIG?
Issue. #4 The name "Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and
Intelligence" is not valid.
Discussion. This name is misleading in all aspects.
Approximately 40% of the SRIG comprises of intelligence
units. Communications Battalion accounts for approximately
33% of the entire organization.
Normally, an intelligence officer will command the SRIG.
However, nowhere is it authoritively stated that an
intelligence officer will command the SRIG. The commander can
have any military occupational speciality that is retained in
Recommendation. The SRIG should be renamed so as to show
the type of unit that it truly is--"C4I2 Group."
Thinking out of the Box
According to FMFM 3-22 (coordinating draft), the SRIG is
here to stay. This FMFM attempts to describe SRIG's mission
statement, tasks, purpose, command relationships and
organization structure, and it specifies the duties of
principal staff officers and the commanding officer. The
manual is adequate covering the aforementioned topics and it
elicited lots of input from the Fleet Marine Forces. New
doctrine is coming that dissolves to a considerable extent
the cloud of uncertainty that has plaqued the SRIG. It
addresses the "who is going to manage the store and how" and
should resolve the more contentious issues that I have
covered in this paper. But, I would resolve the problem (lack
of cooperation, understanding, and trust between the MEF's
General Staff and the SRIG) by taking the SRIG out of its
current command structure and making it the fifth element of
a MEF, commanded by a General Officer. The Deputy Commander
of the MEF would be the Commanding General, SRIG-one star.
Creation of a fifth element would simplify the chain of
command over SRIG. This approach offers a logical and
workable means of centralizing responsibility while
decentralizing authority in a large organization. This
structure not only fits the mission but also makes the Deputy
Commander responsible for both operational and administrative
control of the SRIG. The biggest advantage is that it allows
the SRIG to organize its command and control around its
mission to better support the MEF. The MEF General Staff
would be required to support the SRIG staff in its mission
accomplishment. By creating a new command structure the
fundamental problems can be resolved.
1. Armed Forces Staff College. Armed Forces Staff College
2. Commanding General, I Marine Expeditionary Force letter,
"Review of FMFM 3-22 Coordinating Draft," dated 1 Feb
3. Commanding General, II Marine Expeditionary Force
letter, "FMFM 3-22 Coordinating Draft Recommendations,"
dated 4 Jan 91.
4. Commanding General, III Marine Expeditionary Force
letter, "Review of FMFM 3-22 Coordinating Draft," dated
22 Apr 91.
5. Commanding General, III Marine Expeditionary Force
Commanding General Policy Memorandum, "III MEF policy
letter on the 3D SRIG," dated 22 Feb 91.
6. Commanding General, 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade
letter, "Coordinating Draft for FMFM 3-22," dated 17 Oct
7. Gray, A. M. General, USMC, "Marines Streamline C3I,
Merge Interoperability," Signal, Nov 1989: 81-84.
8. Headquarters, Marine Corps, "Table of Organization
Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Intelligence Group Fleet
Marine Force," dated 4 Nov 92.
9. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Unified Action Armed Forces JCS
10. United States Marine Corps. FMFM 3-22 Coordinating Draft
Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Intelligence Group.
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