A Case For Reorganization
AUTHOR Major W.M. Bann
SUBJECT AREA General
TITLE: A CASE FOR REORGANIZATION
I. Purpose: To make a case to restructure the Marine
Corps into permanent Marine-Air-Ground-Task/Forces (MAGTFs)
versus the current division/wing organizations.
Specifically, the recommendation is to build this
restructuring around the Marine Expeditionary Brigade(MEB).
II. Problem: The Marine Corps currently has two
organizational structures: one is organized as divisions and
wings; the other is task organized as MAGTFs. This situation
unnecessarily creates personnel and organizational turmoil,
degradation in training, and a decreased level in combat
III. Discussion: The rationale for reorganization is
convincing; besides, it just makes for good common sense.
Indeed, if the Marine Corps plans to fight as MAGTFs, then it
stands to reason that it should organize all of its peacetime
forces accordingly. In addition, many other arguments are
presented. Some, but not all are: amphibious shipping
limitation, the already working Maritime Prepositioning
Shipping-Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MPS-MEB) strategy,
elimination of duplicate command bureaucracies, warfare
specialization potential, and the enhanced training and
increased combat readiness that would result from
reorganization. A proposed reorganization is also presented
to demonstrate its feasibility. Lastly, counter-arguments
against the proposed reorganization are discussed.
IV. Conclusions: If the MEB is the most likely form of
employment in either low-intensity conflict (LIC) or in the
early phases of general war, and the contingency plans and
strategic lift are apportioned that way, then it makes good
sense to reorganize the Marine Corps accordingly. A three
Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Marine Corps, composed of
nine MEBs ( 1 USMCR ) and two Marine Expeditionary Units
(MEUs) is suggested.
A CASE FOR REORGANIZATION
Thesis Statement: If the Marine Corps plans to fight as
MAGTFs, then it should organize all of its peacetime forces
A. Current organizational structure does not support
B. Currently have two Marine Corps
1. Division/wings for peacetime administrative
2. MAGTFs for warfighting
1. Have only one organization-MAGTFs
A. MEB is most likely form of employment
B. Supports NATO, maritime and amphibious
C. Supports unique Marine Corps role for now
and in future
D. Amphibious shipping limitation
E. Airlift limitation
F. Air-land MEB
H. Low-intensity conflict focus
I. Elimination/reduction of duplicate command
J. Training benefit/increased combat readiness
K. Warfare specialization potential
III. PROPOSED REORGANIZATION
A. Three MEFs, nine MEBs(1 USMCR), and two MEUs
A. By-law Title 10 requirement
B. Not flexible enough
C. Too hard
A. Reorganization makes good tactical and common
B. Rationale is convincing
C. Now is ideal time
D. Result will be increased combat readiness
Clausewitz notes the difference between "organization,"
the peacetime structure, and "disposition," the wartime
employment. In discussing order of battle, Clausewitz
emphasizes the peacetime structure and training as building
blocks for a successful wartime employment. "The army
disposition starts from the basic tactics in which it has
instructed and trained in time of peace-characteristics not
susceptible to basic change once war breaks out" 1
Consequently, if the Marine Corps plans to fight as
MAGTFs, then it should organize all its peacetime forces
accordingly. Furthermore, the current organizational
structure does not support the accomplishment of the Marine
Corps' primary mission. That mission as defined in the
National Security Act of 1947 is to seize and defend advanced
naval bases, to conduct such land operations as may be
essential to the prosecution of a naval campaign, and to be
the Nation's force in readiness. Clearly, the emphasis of
this mission statement is one of amphibious forcible entry
and rapid deployment capability, not on protracted land
warfare campaigns. However, because of the Marine Corps'
historical experiences of land warfare(WWI, Korea & Vietnam)
coupled with its fixation of the Title 10 requirement of
maintaining three division/wings, the Marine Corps tries to
be all things to all people. As a result, the Marine Corps
has two organizational structures: one organized by
division/wings for peacetime and administrative functions;
another task organized by MAGTFs for warfighting. This
practice, while perhaps on the surface, is impressive to
Congress and other outside agencies for its supposed
flexibility to fight in "every clime and place," does not
lend itself to personnel/organizational stability, effective
training or a high level of combat readiness. For example,
if units must reorganize into MAGTFs before deployment,
during deployment, at sea or on the battlefield, combat
readiness and warfighting effectiveness clearly will suffer.
Thus, the purpose of this paper is to make a case to
restructure the Marine Corps into permanent MEFs, MEBs and
MEUs. Specifically, the recommendation is to build this
restructuring around the MEB, the most likely form of
employment in either low-intensity conflict or in the early
phases of general war.
MEB is most likely form of employment
MEUs provide a rapidly available visible presence and
can react to sudden unforeseen crisis involving U.S.
interests; however, their scope and sustainability are
extremely limited. On the other hand, MEBs have the
necessary combat power and sustainability to make a
difference. They have the ground and air striking force to
suppress or contain international disturbance short of large-
scale war. In addition, they also would form the nucleus
unit for follow-on forces in the event the conflict escalates
to general war. Of course, MEFs also have these capabilities
and then some; however, they would, as already indicated, not
be committed unless the U.S. was involved in a large scale
Supports NATO, maritime and amphibious warfare
The employment of the 4th MEB on NATO's northern flank
in Norway is an excellent example of a MEB being employed as
an integral part of NATO's overall strategy. The amphibious
warfare strategy which is a sub-element of the U.S. Navy
maritime strategy is depicted as follows:
Amphibious Warfare Strategy
- Forward deployed MEUs
- LIC operations(MEU/MEB)
Transition to war:
- MPS MEBs (Southwest Asia, Norway, Northeast Asia)
- "Prepo" MEBs (South Korea, Norway)
- Amphibious MEBs (Atlantic and Pacific)
- U.S. Marine Corps Reserve mobilized
Seize the initiative:
- MEBs employed
- Seize advanced naval bases
- MEB raids on Soviet Rimlands
- Composite from amphibious, MPS, and "Prepo" MEBs
- Position for MEF operations
Carry the fight to the enemy:
- MEF assaults on the Soviet Rimlands 2
Clearly, employment of the MEB is the cornerstone of
this maritime/amphibious warfare strategy. Moreover,
divisions/wings with their associated land warfare are
neither mentioned nor considered for employment within this
strategy. In fact, General P.X. Kelley makes some specific
comments regarding how Marine units should be employed:
Those who seek to put Marines on the front in Central
Europe or in other sustained inland roles as land force
division equivalents not only demonstrate their total
lack of appreciation for the effectiveness of our Marine
air-ground team; they also convey the most profound
misunderstanding of the proper use of maritime power,
the depth of our naval heritage, and the pride with
which bear the title of "Soldiers of the Sea." 3
One must then ask the question. Why is the Marine Corps
presently organized into three divisions/wings?
Supports unique Marine Corps role for now and in future
Six times between the years 1829 and 1947, the U.S.
Congress was asked to disband or severely cut back the Marine
Corps, or to make it a part of the U.S. Army. Petitioners
included Andrew Jackson, Theodore Rooselvelt and Harry S.
Truman. Most recently, the prestigious Brookings Institution
also recommended the possible dissolution of the Corps.
There will always be those that see the Marine Corps as
another land army and another air force that should be
incorporated into the existing U.S. forces. Unfortunately,
the current division/wing structure provides ammunition to
those who seek this course of action. Reorganization to
permanent MAGTFs, on the other hand, will make it obvious to
Congress and their staffers that the Marine Corps plans to
fight as MEFs/MEBs, and not as divisions and wings.
Therefore, one of the best arguments for securing the Marine
Corps' unique role as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy
for today and especially for the future is to reorganize
Amphibious shipping limitation
The U.S. Navy currently has sixty deployable amphibious
ships organized into Pacific and Atlantic fleets, available
for amphibious operations. This configuration is depicted
Click here to view image
Since it takes approximately 20-25 amphibious ships to
lift a MEB, the Navy in its current configuration and for the
foreseeable future could only realistically deploy two
simultaneous MEBs, one per fleet. Of course, this scenario
also assumes that the U.S. Navy would not commit its
amphibious ships elsewhere in time of crisis. Meanwhile, the
prospect of attaining additional amphibious ships for
increased lift capability is now highly unlikely with the
recent demise of the 600 ship Navy.
Airlift limitation and planning
The Air force is also limited in the number of aircraft
it can dedicate to lift Marines and their equipment. These
contingency plans are also based on scenarios wherein the
assumption is made that the Air Force is not being committed
elsewhere. Regardless of the limitations, the planning is
for lifting MEBs (Air-Land & MPS MEBs), not divisions and
wings or for that matter MEFs. Thus, this factor also
supports the case for reorganization
The Air-Land MEB
An excellent example of the MEB concept working is the
Norway Air-Land 4th MEB. The significant impact this concept
of employment has had on including the Marine Corps within
the national and maritime strategies, and by giving it a
unique and distinct mission clearly demonstrates the
potential for reorganizing accordingly.
Another example of the MEB being implemented as the
Marine Corps' basic warfighting unit is the MPS-MEB
concept. This new and innovative development in the crisis
response area has added a significant expansion to the Marine
Corps response capability. The MPS-MEB provides another
means of projecting American military power and resolve,
whether employed preemptively into a friendly port or as a
reinforcement for a MEU.
Low-intensity conflict (LIC) focus
The national military strategy recognizes the
requirement for a Navy and Marine Corps capable of reacting
quickly to a myriad of possible theaters across the entire
spectrum of conflict. Current thinking, however, suggests
that deployment of Marines in low-intensity conflicts is the
most probable. Some comments on this issue came from General
A.M. Gray in the September 1987 Marine Corps Gazette:
It is the Third World, the so-called low-intensity
conflict arena, where we are most likely to be
committed in this decade.... You had better break
out the manuals and books on how to fight in this
Moreover, if one reviews the history of LICs coupled with
the current analysis of LIC contingencies, the conclusion
is that they lend themselves to MEB size operations. For
example, some of the Marine Corps' greatest successes in this
arena took place in the early 1900s in the Nicaraqua/Haitian
and Dominican Republic expeditionary campaigns. These
operations were conducted by expeditionary brigade size
units. In today's scenarios, LICs will most likely occur in
Third World countries. MEB size units(MPS,Amphib & Air-land)
with their sustainability and striking combat power seem
most appropriate for these type of operations.
Elimination/reduction of duplicate command structures
At present, the Marine Corps has MEF and MEB war
planning headquarters while their personnel and equipment
remain in the care of a division/wing headquarters until
embarkation or crisis response. When this happens, whether
it be during a training exercise or a real crisis situation,
entirely too much time and effort is spent just getting
organized with a resultant degradation of combat
effectiveness. Besides practicing good common sense,
eliminating these duplicate headquarters would allow the
Marine Corps to increase unit cohesion, to develop a better
sense of teamwork, and to reduce personnel turmoil.
Moreover, the corresponding reduction in manpower would free
up personnel to fill vacant FMF billets and increasing joint
Training benefit/increased combat readiness
Nothing hones the warfighting edge of the Marine Corps
better than effective training; therefore, it makes good
sense then that one should train as one plans to fight. This
is generally not the case in the Marine Corps. The majority
of the training is conducted in the division/wing structures.
In time of crisis, the net result would have to be a decrease
in combat readiness, and this is not what the Marine Corps is
all about. As General A.M. Gray so often states, "The
American people demand that the U.S. Marine Corps be the best
led, best trained, and the most combat ready unit within the
U.S. armed forces." Unfortunately, the current
organizational structures of divisions/wings may be hampering
that effort. On the other hand, a reorganization to
permanent MAGTFs would enhance training, combat readiness,
and warfighting capability.
Finally, and as already mentioned, the Marine Corps
professes to be able to fight in "any clime or place."
Although this may be true, the concern is the effectiveness
of that fighting. Has the Marine Corps become a jack of all
trades, but a master of none? Reorganization centered around
MEBs offers the potential for developing some special
expertise for designated MEBs. For example, the 4th MEB
could be the cold weather warfare experts, while a MEB at
Camp Pendleton/29 Palms could be the desert warfare experts
and an Okinawan MEB could be the jungle warfare experts. The
next part of this essay provides a depiction of how this idea
might be incorporated into a restructured Marine Corps.
The foregoing depicts a three MEF Marine Corps with MEBs
and MEUs for deterring aggression, operating in LICs, having
specialization capability, and conducting operations during
Click here to view image
By-law Title 10 requirement
Yes, Title 10 of the National Security Act of 1947 does
require the Marine Corps to maintain three divisions/wings;
thus, the Marine Corps must be prepared to answer the
question-why three MEFs? Certainly, three MEFs equal three
divisions/wings; it's really a matter of semantics.
Moreover, it is already obvious to Congress that the Marine
Corps plans to fight as MAGTFs, not as divisions/wings.
Congress knows that the United States needs amphibious
forcible entry and rapid deployment capability in the regions
of the world where it does not have the luxury of permanent
based land forces. A three MEF Marine Corps, composed of
amphibious, MPS, and air-land MEBs, can provide these
capabilities either in low-intensity conflicts or general
war.6 Consequently, the Marine Corps would be on solid
ground if it had to defend a three MEF Marine Corps versus a
three division/wing Corps.
Not flexible enough
Detractors will point out that the Marine Corps needs to
be flexible enough to participate in large scale land wars.
Much of the Marine Corps' history supports this position
(WWI, Korea & Vietnam), and the future may require it again.
This argument has validity. On the other hand, maybe the
Marine Corps has become too flexible. Does the Marine Corps
want to be all things to all people? If so, will the cost be
a decrease in overall combat readiness? Or should the Marine
Corps, instead, concentrate on refining its skills in
accomplishing its primary missions of amphibious forcible
entry and rapid response capability?
Too hard, will require a massive effort
This is a valid argument also. It would require not
only a redistribution of people, equipment and possibly
bases/facilities, but a change in thinking as well. This
would require a monumental effort over a long period of time.
The short term costs are bound to be high, but the many
benefits should be more than worth it in the long term. 7
Utimately, the net result should be a more combat ready
In short, if the MEB is the most likely form of
employment in either low-intensity conflict or in the early
phases of general war, and the contingency plans and
strategic lift are apportioned that way, then why not
reorganize the Marine Corps accordingly? 8
Secondly, the rationale as evidenced in this essay is
convincing; besides, it's just makes for good common sense.
It would not be easy, but it can be done, and in the long
run, the benefits would far outweigh the difficulties
Now is the ideal time to reorganize. The Marine Corps
is in the process of equipment modernization, reviewing the
current force structure, and changing over to the
expeditionary mode of thinking. In addition, it has a new
Commandant who is receptive to new ideas and change if the
result is a better trained and more combat ready Marine
1Karl von Clausewitz, On War, edited and translated by
Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1984), p. 292.
2Captain M.H. Decker, USMC, "Three MAFs for the Corps,"
Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute, November 1987, p. 76.
3General P.X. Kelley, USMC(Ret.) and Major H.K.
O'Donnell Jr., USMC, "Amphibious Warfare Strategy," The
Maritime Strategy Supplement, U.S. Naval Institute, January
1986, p. 26.
4Captain M.H. Decker, USMC, "Three MAFs for the Corps,"
Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute, November 1987, p. 76.
5General A.M. Gray, USMC, "29th Commandant Speaks to the
Corps," Marine Corps Gazette, September 1987, p. 18.
6Captain M.H. Decker, U~MC, "Three MAFs for the Corps,"
Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute, November 1987, p. 81.
7Captain J.L. Kreinbring, USMC, "Let's Organize for the
Mission," Marine Corps Gazette, October 1987, p. 66.
8Captain M.H. Decker, USMC, "Brigading the Marine
Corps," Proceedings, U.S. Naval Institute, November 1987, p.
Bartlett, Merrill L., USMC(Ret.). Assault From the Sea.
Naval Institute Press, 1983.
Crowl, Philip A. and Isley, Jeter A. The U.S. Marines and
Amphibious War. Princeton University Press, 1951.
Decker, Michael H., Captain, USMC. "Brigading the Marine
Corps." Proceedings, (November 1987), 80.
Decker, Michael H., Captain, USMC. "Three MAFs for the
Corps." Proceedings, (November 1987), 74-81.
Kreinbring, Jeffrey L., Captain, USMC. "Let's Organize for
the Mission." Marine Corps Gazette, (October 1987)
Lowery, John S., Colonel USMC, Scharfen, John C., Colonel,
USMC(Ret.) and Stewart. James J., Colonel USMC.
"Maritime Prepositioning, Flying Brigades and Flying
Arsenals." Amphibious Warfare Review, (November 1984),
Pomfret, John J., Colonel, USMC. "MPS: Can One Get it All?"
Marine Corps Gazette, (August 1986), 29-32.
U.S. Naval Institute. The Maritime Strategy Supplement.
Naval Institute Press, 1986.
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