Find a Security Clearance Job!


AUTHOR Major Tommy S. Gray, USMC
CSC 1990
SUBJECT AREA Foreign Policy
                        EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
THESIS: Along with the responsibility to command, the MAGTF
commander must coordinate the supporting arms for the complex
structure of today's MAGTF, thus a need exists for a Fire
Support Coordination Center (FSCC) at the MEB and MEF level.
ISSUE: Today's battlefield is more crowded and complicated
than ever before.  New technology, like the Remotely Piloted
Vehicle (RPV) brings new dimensions to fire support control and
coordination.  In order to efficiently coordinate the
supporting arms acquired by this system and others like it, the
MAGTF command element must be involved.  The MAGTF commander
cannot expect harmony between MAGTF elements by merely stating
his intent or designating a "focus of main effort".  Priorities
for fire support must be set and continuously shifted as the
situation dictates.  Systems under operational control of the
MAGTF commander that can shape the battlefield should not all
be piecemealed out.  If all naval gunfire ships are in direct
support of the GCE, or if the air element is used only for
close air support, the MAGTF commander gives up flexibility.
This concept lends credit to the Surveillance, Reconnaissance,
Intelligence, Group (SRIG), which is a MEF, not a division
asset.  With SRIG organized as it is, RPVs, Force
Reconnaissance, and other units can provide support to the
MAGTF as a whole instead of being divided equally among GCE
      The rear area for the MAGTF is vulnerable to threats from
enemy air or ground attack.  Plenty of fire support assets will
be available to support the rear area and they must be
coordinated.  There is no FSCC currently in existence that can
adequately perform that function, since they are all located in
the GCE.  Similar problems arise when there is more than a
single command in the GCE.  The senior GCE's FSCC is usually
the answer to all fire support coordination tasks within the
MAGTF.  Yet the senior FSCC cannot function in support of the
MAGTF as a whole for the same reason the MAGTF commander should
not be dual-hatted as the GCE commander.  The senior FSCC will
be busy coordinating fires for its command and will not be able
to do the same for others, much less the entire MAGTF.  Fire
support coordination for the MAGTF should be left to the MAGTF
command element.
CONCLUSION: There are challenges to be met in order for a
MAGTF FSCC to operate, including a new T/O that will not be a
burden or form just another bureaucracy.  The MAGTF FSCC should
be further tested, studied, and considered for adoption into
Marine Corps doctrine if we are serious about fighting the
MAGTF.  If not, the Marine Corps will be back to fighting the
GCE with the other elements in a support role only.
                      A NEED FOR A MAGTF FSCC
THESIS STATEMENT.  Along with the responsibility to command,
the MAGTF Commander must coordinate the supporting arms for
the complex structure of today's MAGTF, thus a need exists
for a FSCC at the MEB and MEF level.
                A NEED FOR A MAGTF FSCC
      Currently, the Marine Corps has Fire Support
Coordination Centers (FSCC) at the infantry battalion,
regiment, and division levels.  There is no FSCC at the
MAGTF level, despite the size or composition of the MAGTF.
There is a Supporting Arms Special Staff (SASS) in the MAGTF
command element that functions in a quasi fire support
coordination role.  FSCCs did exist in the Landing Force
Headquarters element once, besides the FSCCs at the
subordinate commands.  Between the years 1967 to 1970, at
least three students at Command and Staff College wrote
staff studies analyzing the concept of a single Landing
Force/Division FSCC.  The consensus of those studies
recommended a single FSCC for the Landing Force and Division
unless the Landing Force has more than one ground maneuver
element.  The problems identified with the Landing Force or
MAGTF FSCC were redundancy in coordination and a crunch on
personnel and equipment; there was not a Table of
Organization (T/O) for the Landing Force FSCC, so Marines
identified for the landing force FSCC had to come from
division personnel.  The students further argued that the
need for coordinating fires could be filled by the FSCC of
the ground combat elements involved. (3)
     The FSCC at the Landing Force/MAGTF level was
eliminated, but the caveat about a FSCC at the Landing Force
level when there is more than one ground maneuver element
seemed to have been disregarded.  That leads to the problem
that exists today in the MAGTF.  The battlefield is getting
more crowded and complicated with multiple ground maneuver
elements (that may speak different languages) and new
technology, increasing the importance for MAGTF commanders
to command and not referee.  Along with the responsibility
to command, the MAGTF commander must coordinate the
supporting arms for the complex structure of today's MAGTF,
thus a need exists for a FSCC at the MEB and MEF level.  For
sake of simplicity and an obsession with triangular systems
(three elements for every unit), the Marine Corps strives to
keep the MAGTF limited to an air combat element (ACE), a
combat service support element (CSSE), and a GCE.  In
reality though, the Marine Corps will more than likely find
more than a single command in its GCE and many other
"elements" in the MAGTF.  The Marine Corps needs a separate
FSCC in the MAGTF command element for the same reason the
GCE commander should not be dual-hatted as the MAGTF
commander.  If there is more than one division in the MEF's
GCE, for example, the division chosen to coordinate the fire
support for the MAGTF will be very busy.  That FSCC also
will naturally spend more time coordinating its own fire
support and possibly ignore what is happening in the larger
picture.  Even when there is only one division in the MEF,
the GCE commander will be more concerned with fire support
coordination in his own arena and put less emphasis on
others.  Examples such as separate maneuvers by the ACE and
fire support coordination in the rear area are only part of
the big picture the GCE will be responsible for if it acts
as the MAGTF FSCC.
     Marine Corps policy calls for control being
decentralized down to the lowest level possible.  This is
sound policy and the major reason each infantry battalion
has its own FSCC.  New technology might be changing that to
a degree though.  Consider the remotely piloted vehicle
(RPV) that is already in operation. (8) Its use will be
unlimited, providing commanders an enhanced reconnaissance
capability, electronic countermeasures to protect close air
support (CAS) missions, target acquisition/designation,
communication relay and jamming, and may even provide a
platform for delivering lethal weapons. (5:45-52) One of the
important roles of the RPV for commanders on the ground will
be its assistance in observing and adjusting supporting
arms.  The control of supporting arms has been with the
forward observer (FO) for artillery and mortars, and with
the forward air controller (FAC) for CAS.  The problem for
these Marines is, that no matter how far forward they are,
their visibility is normally severely obscured by terrain,
vegetation, smoke and other "fog" on the battlefield, not to
mention the fact that they are extremely vulnerable to enemy
fire.  The RPV will be controlled by an internal pilot
somewhere to the rear of frontline units.  A FO could
monitor the view of the RPV in the battalion rear, read
coordinates, and call for and adjust artillery or mortar
fire.  This is not a bad deal considering the good "look
down" visibility of the target by the RPV.  The trade-off is
obvious though--control will be centralized at least at the
battalion level, as opposed to the decentralized control
down to the platoon/company level that we are used to.
Infantry companies cannot afford to be bogged down more than
they already are with electronic equipment and there will
not be enough RPVs for every company to have one.  If there
were, the airspace would be even more cluttered and harder
to control.
     The RPVs have already proven themselves on the
battlefield; the Israelis used them effectively in an
electronic warfare role against Syrian anti-air defenses in
Lebanon in 1983.  Reconnaissance drones were used to overfly
the Bekaa Valley for months prior to the preemptive invasion
to "fingerprint" the surface-to-air radars, an operation
that gave Israeli intelligence the necessary frequency
documentation for later jamming operations.  As the actual
invasion got underway, Mastiff mini-RPVs located the missile
emplacements (SA-6), while Scouts, a highly sophisticated
electronic intelligence (ELINT) version of the RPV,
intercepted radar signals and relayed them back to the
ground control stations for analysis.  The Mastiff's
appearance confused the Syrian radar operators, making them
think that an advanced unit of fighter or reconnaissance
aircraft was approaching.  This caused the Syrians to "turn
on" the electronic sensors of their weapons systems.
Electronic data was intercepted by the ELINT RPV, relayed to
the E-2C Hawkeye, and then passed to the Boeing 707
electronic countermeasures (ECM) aircraft, which effectively
jammed Syrian SAMs and ground-based air search radars. (2)
     Although not proven in battle, another piece of
equipment performing missions similar to those of the RPV is
the Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV).  This vehicle will be
capable of travelling far forward of front line units with
cameras, radios, target acquisition/designation equipment,
and even direct fire weapons. (9) Unlike the RPV, these
vehicles could be controlled from a company commander's
position, but as in the case of the RPV monitor, fighting
units must remain light in order to move quickly on the
battle field.  There are other problems associated with
small units controlling such heavy laden gadgets.  To begin
with, commanders at the company and battalion level are kept
busy with maneuvering their units and looking after their
Marines.  They cannot afford to be inundated with more tasks
such as operating complex equipment.  Survival is another
major concern; electronic countermeasures (ECM) are
important security measures the commander must employ.
Normally we associate these measures with high tech
equipment found at radio battalion, but here, it is simple
precautions such as low power radio transmissions and
reducing radio communications traffic to a minimum.
Operating equipment such as an UGV will increase the
electronic signature of the unit operating it unless the
UGV's fiber optic cable is used instead of radio/data link.
Those operating the equipment in the rear could direct more
attention to ECM and free the company commanders up front to
fight the battle.  Also, in many cases, the UGV will operate
out of the company commander's area of influence.  The
appropriate level for coordinating equipment such as RPVs
and UCVs is the MAGTF level.  The RPV companies are already
part of the surveillance, Reconnaissance, Intelligence Group
(SRIG), which is a MEF asset, not division.  The key reason
for this is so that the MEF commanders can retain
flexibility in their SRIG assets by keeping them in general
support of the MAGTF when necessary.  The many uses of the
RPVs as discussed above provide support to every element in
the MAGTF.
     What does centralized coordination of new technology
have to do with fire support coordination?  It means that
the level at which equipment is used for controlling
indirect fire and air strikes will require the same level or
higher to coordinate those supporting arms.  Since the
coming of the FSCC, commanders have not expected it to be
responsible for production besides its coordination and
planning responsibilities.  This does not need to be
changed:  Those actually controlling the supporting arms
should be located at the lowest level possible.  This should
not, however, rule out the capability or practice of the
FSCC actually putting steel on target if required, even at
the MAGTF level.
      Making the fire support coordination business even more
complicated now days are new weapons systems.  One is the
Light Armored Vehicles (LAV).  The Marine Corps now has a
Light Armored Infantry (LAI) Battalion to support each
division.  These battalions are capable of operating
independently well forward of main battle units and can
function in many different roles.  The primary role of this
battalion is reconnaissance, but it also can perform screen,
guard, cover missions for the division or MAGTF.  Its
organic firepower includes 25mm chain guns, mortars, TOWs,
and will soon add an assault gun and air defense variant.
This heavy fire power enables it to become decisively
engaged with the enemy.  If the LAI battalion is operating
as a covering force ten kilometers or more in front of
leading regiments, for example, it would more than likely
have artillery in direct support.  Who coordinates the fire
support?  As Marine Corps policy has it, and as advocated
previously, fire support is controlled and coordinated at
the lowest level possible.  This means that the LAI
battalion may coordinate its own artillery, mortar, and
close air support.  This will work only if the LAI
battalion's FSCC can be as mobile as the rest of the
battalion.  If the LAI units are operating closer to front
line units, then the fire support coordination becomes
tricky for the MAGTF.  As a screening force, the LAVs are
likely to be spread across the battlefield and not
concentrated in one area.  They also may be in support of
the MAGTF as a whole, which may include support of more than
the GCE.  This being the case, coordination of fire support
will need to be handled outside the GCE level.  It is
obvious that any ground combat element commander will be
only concerned with coordination of fires within his own
area.  That is all he should be expected to coordinate for
reasons already discussed.
     Other weapon systems being added to the Marine Corps
inventory include the Multiple Rocket Launcher System
(MRLS).  MRLS will be employed similar to artillery but will
provide more firepower in greater mass.  It also will
provide greater range and less accuracy.  Taking that into
consideration, one can only imagine the fire support
coordination complexities involved when using this system.
It will require more centralized control and a MAGTF FSCC
would be instrumental in coordinating this powerful piece in
the family of combined arms.
     To make the MAGTF operate within current Marine Corps
doctrine, the MAGTF commander must be able to utilize each
element of it as a focus of main effort at the appropriate
time and place.  One must not view, as in the past, the GCE
as the only element that can be the focus.  To operate
efficiently, the ACE or even the CSSE must be prepared to
function as the focus of main effort.  As part of that
concept, the GCE must be prepared to be a supporting
element, something that it is not familiar with.
     When the ACE is being used as a maneuver element and/or
the focus of main effort, it would be awkward and difficult
for the GCE to coordinate fire support.  The GCE command
element will again have its hands full dealing with it's
own action on the ground.  This is a situation where the
MAGTF command element must be directly involved; a MAGTF
FSCC should be coordinating the fire support.  We normally
view the ACE as a supporting arm providing close air support
(CAS) or deep interdiction.  It makes sense to have the GCE
control and coordinate CAS missions since these missions are
in support of the GCE.  Deep interdiction, or air strikes
beyond the Fire Support Coordination Line (FSCL) will not
present a coordination problem for the GCE since that is the
purpose of the FSCL.  Those missions not considered CAS but
short or the FSCL, sometimes referred to as BAI (Battlefield
Air Interdiction), will require fire support coordination.
(4) These type of missions may be of direct concern to the
GCE commander since he probably will have security forces
operating in that area.  Yet due to the fluidity on the
battlefield with various elements operating in zones, i.e.,
SRI group, LAI battalion, the MAGTF command element must
have a hand in coordinating fire support.  Consider the
likely scenario of the ACE given the mission of securing the
flank of the MAGTF; any supporting fires should be
coordinated by the supported unit, in this case the ACE.
Since this is not feasible, then the MAGTF FSCC would be an
appropriate agency to coordinate these fires as well as
assigning priorities to the ACE.
     With the MAGTF rear area so vulnerable to enemy ground
and air attacks, fire support must be coordinated there.
Support units or ground units operating in the rear area
provide plenty of fire power to be coordinated.  The ACE may
be employed there, and even artillery.  The Rear Area
Security Officer may even be assigned helicopter gunships in
direct support.  The division FSCC cannot feasibly
coordinate the fire support in the MAGTF rear area.  A MAGTF
FSCC would be an appropriate organization to coordinate fire
support in the MAGTF rear area since the area is controlled
by the MAGTF commander.  Also, utilizing a MAGTF FSCC would
avoid duplication, since without one, the Rear Area Security
Officer would have to somehow coordinate that fire support.
During SOLID SHIELD-89, II MEF established a Landing Force
FSCC with 2d Force Service Support Group (2d FSSG) Rear Area
Security Operation Center (RASOC) monitoring the LFFSC net.
When a requirement for fire support was identified, the
RAOC, 2d FSSG, would request fire support from the LF/FSCC
using the LF/FSC Net.  According to the II MEF After Action
Report, this structure was adequate for the coordination of
fire support in the II MEF Rear Area.  The report also
recommended that in future exercises when the rear area is
designated, that the establishment of a Landing Force FSCC
be continued for the allocation of fire support assets for
the entire force. (6:83)
     To allow fire support coordination to operate smoother,
the Direct Air Support Coordination Center (DASC) is
normally collocated with the senior FSCC.  In the case of a
one division MEF, the DASC would then be located near the
division FSCC.  This works fine until one considers the
problems that may arise for the GCE FSCC as previously
discussed.  When these problems for the senior GCE's FSCC do
come up, they may apply equally to the DASC.  The obvious
solution then would be to locate the DASC with the MAGTF
FSCC.  This also would alleviate the problem of the DASC
moving too slow to keep up with the GCE.
     So far, examples of fire support coordination problems
have been examined primarily on the MEF level.  Law requires
the Marine Corps to be able to fight with a MEF, yet
realistically, our Corps will more than likely be fighting
as a MEB.  Consider the threat to our nation today.  Central
and eastern European countries are now holding free
elections.  The Soviet Union is having so many internal
problems, it is not likely to attack any country in the near
or perhaps distant future.  If the Marine Corps is going to
prepare to fight, it should prepare to fight in a low
intensity conflict (LIC).  The Commandant of the Marine
Corps stated this long ago and it rings true each day.  The
point is, a MAGTF FSCC would operate even more efficiently
at a MEB level.  This is true since the MEB will likely be
formed from compositing several commands.  It's GCE could be
made up of an infantry regiment, one or more infantry
battalions, two regiments, or many other combinations.
Often the MEB will be participating in a combined action.
The latest Team Work exercise consisted of participants from
Norway and other allied countries, some of which were
elements of the 4th MEB's GCE.  The MEB used a MAGTF FSCC so
that it could efficiently coordinate the combined arms of
the total force. (1) The fact is, that when the Marine Corps
fights with a MEB, it is likely to have multiple commands in
it's GCE as well as a large and complex composite squadron
as it's ACE.  As already pointed out, one of the more
important reasons for having a MAGTF FSCC, is to resolve
conflicts with two or more commands.  In the joint arena,
liaison personnel will be required in higher headquarters to
coordinate operations. The language barrier and gaps formed
by different operational procedures will have to be
bridged.  These liaison personnel will be as valuable to
fire support coordination as to any other agency in the
combined force structure.  It may not be feasible to have
liaison personnel at every FSCC, so the appropriate location
would be at the MAGTF level.  This is the hub of the wheel
and the key to making the concept of an air ground task
force work.
     A MAGTF FSCC will not operate efficiently without first
addressing some inherent problems.  One that is obvious is
the manpower and equipment shortage.  Everyone knows that
Marine units rarely have the personnel authorized by their
T/O.  But it is much more difficult forming any organization
without the Marines authorized for it regardless whether
they are already part of an organization or not.  For this
reason there should be a T/O created for a MAGTF FSCC.  Like
anytime a unit is created or enlarged, another unit must be
decreased in size or eliminated.  In the case of the MAGTF
headquarters, however, a unit is not being created and some
personnel are already in place to perform duties in the
FSCC.  The fire support officer, his assistant, the target
information officer, and the air officer is a good start.  A
few more enlisted would be necessary for operating radios.
As proven on recent combined exercises, liaison personnel
from our allies may be of great assistance in bridging the
communication gap and filling the shortages.  Additional
equipment would also be required, mostly communications.
Like personnel, some of it is already in the MAGTF command
element.  During TEAMWORK 90, as previously mentioned, the
4th MEB command element planned for a MEB FSCC.  Although
the FSCC never went ashore, personnel and equipment
requirements were filled and operated efficiently.  Besides
the Marines already on the 4th MEB staff, major subordinate
commands augmented the FSCC with a NGF Liaison Officer,
Target Information Officer, and clerks.  8th Comm Battalion
provided additional radio operators and nets. (1) Had there
have been a T/O in existence, the augmentees for the FSCC
would have been identified in advance.
     Once personnel are in place and nets are operating, the
actual communicating will be another challenge the MAGTF
FSCC will be meeting.  Operating in the rear will probably
require more reliance on radio relay, especially for VHF
communication nets.  Hopefully, this problem is already
being worked out; if not, how have MAGTF commanders been
communicating with their subordinate commanders?
Communication problems with the DASC have been solved by
putting it airborne when required.  Perhaps this same
concept would work with a MAGTF FSCC.  It would not require
additional aircraft since it could be collocated with the
airborne DASC.  Radio relay is not a primary function of a
FSCC but Marines are taught that there is always someone out
there that can be reached by radio.  Alternate nets should
be stressed as a means of communicating between units and an
airborne FSCC could certainly perform that extra function
when required.
     A MAGTF FSCC may appear to be a duplication of effort,
overlapping already existing FSCCs.  This could serve as
another good reason for having one.  Everyone is aware of
how vulnerable command and control centers are and FSCCs fit
into that category.  So, redundancy built into the system
could be very beneficial.  Certain situations may not
require a permanent FSCC at the MAGTF level, and one of the
last things the Marine Corps needs is another bureaucracy
that stifles operations.  The plan for establishing one and
having trained personnel identified to man one, however, is
a necessity.  The FSCCs in existence at all levels today are
not permanent staffs, but are made up of personnel that may
perform other functions when the FSCC is not functioning;
the organization could be similar for the MAGTF staff.  Some
MEF and MEB commanders have experimented with MAGTF FSCCs
successfully and have recognized their benefit.  The MAGTF
FSCC should be further tested, studied, and considered for
adoption into Marine Corps doctrine.
1. BARTCH, R. O., Capt. USMC, Assistant Fire Support
       Officer, 4th MEB H.Q., personal interview about 4th
       MEB fire support coordination during TEAMWORK 90, 15
       March 1990.
2. CUBILLO, Francis X., Capt. USMC, and WATTERS, Stephen L.,
       USMC, "C3CM... A Warfighting Strategy Whose Time Has
       Arrived", Marine Corps Gazette, 73(September 1989),
3. DOKOS, C. G., Maj., USMC, "Fire Support Coordination for
       a Marine Expeditionary Force", Individual Research
       Project, AY 1967-70, Marine Corps Command and Staff
       College, Education Center, Marine Corps Schools,
       Quantico, Virginia.
4. DONNELLL, Steven B., Maj., USMC, "The ACE as a Maneuver
       Element", Marine Corps Gazette, 73(August, 1989),
5. KARCH, Lawrence G., Col., USMC, "CAS, SEAD, and UAVs",
       Marine Corps Gazette, 7(February 1990), 45-52.
6. II MEF After Action Report for FTX SOLID SHIELD- 89,
       conducted by USCINCLANT on 19 May 1989.  Marine Corps
       Lessons Learned System, (MCLLS), number 80151-17023
7. PIRHALLA, Paul P., Maj. USMC, "Single Landing
       Force/Division FSCC", Individual Research Project, AY
       1966-67, Marine Corps Command and Staff College,
       Marine Corps Educational Center, Marine Corps
       Schools, Quantico, Virginia.
8. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Combat Development
       Command. Remotely Piloted Vehicle Employment, OH 2-2.
       Quantico, Virginia, April 1987.
9. U.S. Marine Corps. Marine Corps Combat Development
       Command.  Required Operational Capability (ROC)
       for an Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) System.
       Quantico, Virginia, undated.

Join the mailing list