Marine Maneuver Warfare And The Omnibus Agreement
AUTHOR Major Frederick J. Klauser, USMC
SUBJECT AREA Foreign Policy
MARINE MANEUVER WARFARE AND THE OMNIBUS AGREEMENT
The Marine Corps has adopted maneuver warfare as its
doctrinal method of warfighting. However, the role of the
ACE in Marine maneuver warfare is not certain. While
specific roles for Marine aviation continue to be hotly
debated, the MAGTF commander must be prepared to conduct
maneuver warfare on a moments notice. One of the MAGTF
commander's constraints in joint operations is the policy
contained in the Omnibus Agreement of 1986. What effect
does the agreement have on the MAGTF commander's ability to
to employ his entire MAGTF in maneuver warfare, and can the
ACE be effectively employed as a maneuver element under the
Marine commanders must demoralize the enemy and make
his fighting force ineffective. One of his primary tools
is combined arms, and one of the most effective and
important combined arms weapons is the ACE. Therefore,
retaining the ACE should be a key priority for the MAGTF
commander. This may be difficult because the Omnibus
Agreement allows the Joint Force Commander (JFC) to control
the ACE if he deems necessary.
Since World War II, MAGTF commanders have
historically been unsuccessful at maintaining MAGTF
integrity when the JFC has chosen to centralize control of
aviation. Additionally, differences in Marine and Air
Force doctrine have complicated the MAGTF integrity issue.
Even though Joint doctrine acknowledges Marine doctrine,
the MAGTF commander must educate and convince the JFC that
MAGTF integrity is in the JFC's best interest. In order to
do this, the MAGTF commander must have a thorough knowledge
of ACE capabilities and employment.
To attain knowledge of the ACE, Marine officers must
take the initiative to self-educate themselves.
Additionally, the Marine Corps must provide its officers
with the educational vehicles, through resident and
nonresident programs, to arrive at an adequate level of
knowledge. The MAGTF commander can fully employ his MAGTF
and ACE in maneuver warfare if he has the knowledge and
ability to influence the JFC. If he does not, Marine
history will repeat itself.
MARINE MANEUVER WARFARE AND THE OMNIBUS AGREEMENT
Thesis Statement. If the MAGTF commander is expected to
employ the ACE in maneuver warfare during joint operations,
then he must have a thorough knowledge of Marine aviation
capabilities and employment.
I. Marine Maneuver Warfare Doctrine.
A. Need to destroy enemy moral/physical cohesion.
B. Destroy cohesion with several tools, including
C. ACE is an essential part of combined arms
II. Omnibus Agreement of 1986.
A. Major points of the agreement.
B. Intent of the agreement.
C. Reality of agreement terms.
III. History of Joint Operations.
A. World War II.
D. Lessons learned.
IV. Aviation Doctrine Differences.
A. Marine doctrine.
B. Air Force doctrine.
C. Consequences for MAGTF commanders.
V. Marine Corps Efforts.
A. Future doctrinal guidance.
B. MAGTF commander's responsibilities.
C. Success limiting factors.
VI. Future Requirements for MAGTF Integrity.
A. Marine officer self-study.
B. Revision of Marine education programs.
C. Immediate action.
MARINE MANEUVER WARFARE AND THE OMNIBUS AGREEMENT
In recent years, maneuver warfare has been the
subject of great discussion, debate, and speculation within
the Marine Corps. The increased destructiveness and
accuracy of modern weapons have raised the cost of
attrition warfare to unacceptable levels; the United States
can no longer afford the cost in lives, equipment, and
national wealth of waging wars of attrition. As a result,
maneuver warfare has become the focus of Marine Corps
doctrinal thinking. Officially, the Marine Corps declared
its intent to employ maneuver warfare doctrinally in
Warfighting, FMFM 1. Yet, questions concerning maneuver
warfare remain. In particular, the employment of the
Aviation Combat Element (ACE) of the Marine Air-Ground Task
Force (MAGTF) in maneuver warfare continues to be hotly
debated. Controversy concerning the ACE in maneuver
warfare is widespread. Some authors, such as William S.
Lind and MGEN Dailey, have addressed tactics and individual
weapons systems, while others have studied operational
employment and doctrinal control. (2,12,20)
The object of this paper is to address the ACE in
maneuver warfare in context with the Omnibus Agreement of
1986. This document's agreement or lack of agreement with
Marine Corps Doctrine is not an issue. Whether Marines
like it or not, the Omnibus Agreement makes too much sense,
from a "joint" perspective, to be changed or cancelled.
There are other important issues, however. First, what
effect does the Omnibus Agreement have on the MAGTF
commander's ability to employ his entire MAGTF in maneuver
warfare? Second, can the ACE be effectively employed as a
maneuver element under the provisions of the Omnibus
Agreement? Before these questions can be properly
addressed, several areas must be reviewed in order to
provide some logical bases for the answers.
The Marine Corps' doctrinal concept of maneuver
warfare provides the primary focus for the employment of
all Marine forces, including the ACE. According to
The aim of maneuver warfare is to render the
enemy incapable of resisting by shattering his
moral and physical cohesion--his ability to
fight as an effective, coordinated whole--rather
than to destroy him physically through
incremental attrition. . . (italics mine).
The Marine Commander shatters the enemy's moral and
physical cohesion through selective application of
firepower, operational tempo, concentration of strength
against critical vulnerabilities, and surprise. (27:60-6l)
When the enemy is surprised, his vulnerabilities are
exploited, fires are massed upon him, and he cannot keep
operational pace, he will become demoralized and
ineffective as a fighting force. (27:60)
In order to effect the demoralization and
ineffectiveness of the enemy by these means, the Marine
commander is expected to utilize a number of tools. Some
of these tools are the assignment of missions to
subordinate commanders, the specification of the
commander's intent, the identification of the focus of
effort, the exploitation of enemy weaknesses, and the
utilization of combined arms. (27:70-75) In regard to
combined arms, FMFM 1 states:
Combined arms is the full integration of arms
in such a way that in order to counteract one,
the enemy must make himself more vulnerable to
another. We pose the enemy with not just a
problem, but a dilemma--a no win situation.
This statement implies that the MAGTF commander must use
all of the assets at his disposal to create a situation
which will render the enemy ineffective. Therefore, the
ACE, as one of the MAGTF commander's combat elements,
should be fully utilized in schemes of maneuver to achieve
desired combined arms effects. (24:18)
Although it may be hard to visualize how to use the
ACE as a maneuver element, it should not be hard to grasp
the idea of the MAGTF commander waging more efficient
maneuver warfare with an integrated ACE. Unfortunately,
the MAGTF commander has more to contend with than just
realizing the importance of his ACE in maneuver warfare.
He must also deal with the constraints of the "1986 Omnibus
Agreement for Command and Control of Marine TACAIR in
Sustained Operations Ashore."
The primary purpose of the Omnibus Agreement was to
formally confirm the relationship between the MAGTF
commander and the Joint Force Commander (JFC) for command
and control of Marine Tactical Aviation assets during joint
military operations. The relationship outlined in the
Omnibus Agreement was not a new concept. Marine doctrinal
publications such as FMFM 0-1 and FMFM 5-1 described the
same relationship when they were published in 1979.
However, the Omnibus Agreement announced the acceptance of
the relationship by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on behalf of
their respective Services. Briefly, the major points of
the Omnibus Agreement are:
1) The MAGTF commander will retain operational
control of his organic air assets.
2) During joint operations, the MAGTF air assets
will normally be in support of the MAGTF mission.
3) The MAGTF commander will make sorties available
to the JFC, through his Air Component Commander, for
air defense, long-range interdiction, and long-range
4) Sorties in excess of MAGTF direct support
requirements will be provided to the JFC for tasking.
5) The Theater JFC has the authority to exercise
operational control, assign missions, redirect
efforts (E. G., reapportion and/or reallocate MAGTF
sorties when it has been determined by the JFC that
they are required for higher priority missions), and
direct coordination among his subordinate
commanders. . . .(5:2-4)
The intent of the agreement was to maintain the
integrity of the MAGTF and to employ it as a whole unit
while supporting the JFC in his mission. However, the
agreement also sought to ensure that the JFC's authority
would not be restricted during the conduct of his mission.
Therein lies the rub.
Most people are willing to admit that endeavors do
not always turn out as planned. Depending on their level
of pessimism, some may contend that few undertakings ever
turn out as planned. Consequently, some Marines are
concerned about the JFC's authority to reapportion sorties
or, worse yet, reassign operational control of the ACE.
GEN P. X. Kelly explained it best when he wrote, "The
bottom line is that the Joint Force commander is in
charge." (5:1) Although the Omnibus Agreement's implied
intent is to maintain the integrity of the MAGTF, the
reality of the matter is that the JFC has the authority to
do whatever he deems necessary to accomplish his mission.
This does not imply that he will arbitrarily take actions
to limit the MAGTF commander's capabilities, but it does
imply that MAGTF integrity is not guaranteed.
From a historical perspective, the concerns cited
above are not unfounded. Several precedents reinforce
apprehensions that joint commanders will alter command and
control relationships for the ACE when they believe it is
appropriate. Major M. D. Becker identified most of the
pertinent examples in his article published in the Marine
Corps Gazette. (2:53-54) For example, during World War II,
Marine Corps air assets were primarily under Navy control
in the Pacific. (14:379,407) The only significant
exceptions to that relationship took place in the
Guadalcanal, Bouganville, New Britain, Peleliu, and Okinawa
campaigns. On Guadalcanal, BGEN Geiger had complete
control of all the aviation assets (Army, Navy, and Marine)
which comprised the Cactus Air Force. (13:68) In the
Okinawa campaign, Marine assets were under the command and
control of the 10th Army Tactical Air Force.
Coincidentally, the 10th Army Tactical Air Force was under
the command of MGEN Mulcahy, a Marine. (21:325) Despite GEN
Vandergrift's and LTGEN Holland Smith's efforts to
emphasize the employment of Marine units as integrated
forces, Marine air assets were rarely under the Marine
Corps' unhindered control. (21:324)
The command and control situation during the Korean
Conflict was similar to World War II. When the 1st
Provisional Marine Brigade arrived to fight in the Pusan
Perimeter, Marine aviation assets were dispersed to
aircraft carriers and to the 5th Air Force in Japan. (15:Vol
I, 89-90) Later, the 1st Marine Air Wing (MAW) commander
was assigned as X Corps Tactical Air Commander during the
Inchon-Seoul Operation. As the Tactical Air Commander, he
maintained command and control of the 1st Marine Air Wing
which supported both the 1st Marine Division and the 7th
Army Division during the operation: (15:Vol II, 71) After
the Inchon-Seoul Operation, however, the 1st MAW was placed
under the operational control of the 5th Air Force and
remained there until conflict termination in 1953. (14:502)
The Vietnam War provided a further example of Marine
aviation command and control during joint operations. In
1967, GEN Westmorland, ComUSMACV, believed that it was
necessary to consolidate the control of all Tactical Air in
South Vietnam in order to provide for the adequate defense
of Khe Sanh. Accordingly, he assigned GEN Momyer, the 7th
Air Force commander, as ComMACV Deputy for Air. His
function was to act as the central coordinator for all
TacAir in South Vietnam. (11:274;19:22,85) The MAGTF
commander was tasked with providing all Tactical Air
sorties which were not in direct support of Khe Sanh's
defense to the central controlling authority. Although the
MAGTF commander maintained operational control of his
aircraft, the Marine Corps' position was that the
arrangement violated the integrity of the MAGTF.(11:38)
The dispute was later resolved in favor of GEN Westmorland,
and the Marine Corps complied with his organization for
tactical sortie control until Marine units withdrew from
Vietnam in 1971. (11:137;14:27,587)
In his study, Major Becker noted that Marine aviation
units supported Marine ground units in most of the cases
described above. The fact that Marine ground units were
given priority for Marine aviation sorties is important
because it demonstrates that JFCs have historically
attempted to employ Marine aviation as it was intended to
be employed. There is another, more important lesson,
however. None of the situations which caused the JFCs to
change command and control relationships were identical.
Although there were many similarities, the circumstances
which caused each JFC to make changes were different. The
lesson, then, is that the JFC's decisions on how to command
and control his subordinate forces are situation
dependent. Each JFC will organize his forces in a way that
he believes will best accomplish his mission.
Unfortunately, the JFC's concept for command and control of
Marine aviation assets has historically differed from the
Marine commander's concept.
In addition to the historical precedents which have
been set, the MAGTF commander must also be concerned with
the differences in doctrine among the Service components
assigned to joint operations. Specifically, the MAGTF
commander must be concerned with the differences between
Marine Corps and Air Force doctrine. In joint operations,
the primary subject of dispute between the Marine Corps and
the Air Force is the role of the Joint Force Air Component
Commander (JFACC). The JFACC concept was developed and
implemented in 1986 by the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the
intent that the JFACC would assure centralized coordination
of Tactical Air sorties, thus enhancing the JFC's ability
to complete his mission.
Marine Corps doctrine recognizes the need for the
MAGTF commander to support the JFC and to provide him with
excess sorties for the benefit of the Joint Force's overall
mission.(23:4-54) It also agrees with the concept of the
JFACC as the JFC's agent for coordination and planning.
The significance of this relationship is that the MAGTF
commander supports the JFC while maintaining operational
control of Marine aviation assets. By maintaining this
arrangement, the MAGTF commander still has the ability to
employ the ACE as part of his combined arms team. He has
the option of employing the ACE in support of the Ground
Combat Element (GCE) or as a separate maneuver element in
his maneuver warfare scheme.
Air Force doctrine, in contrast to Joint doctrine,
associates the JFACC with the Air Force Air Component
Commander (ACC) . From the Air Force's point of view, joint
forces should be organized by function, with all Theater
aviation assets under the operational control of the
ACC. (6:4) While this arrangement is legal and makes
perfect sense to a single function organization such as the
Air Force, it is unacceptable to the Marine Corps because
it takes operational control of the ACE away from the MAGTF
commander. The obvious consequences of this relationship
are that the MAGTF commander must ask for his air support,
and his ability to employ combined arms or use the ACE in
maneuver is severely curtailed.
What do these historical relationships and doctrinal
differences signal to the MAGTF commander? They signal
that the MAGTF commander will always be confronted with the
possible breakup of his MAGTF whenever he is involved in
joint operations. The MAGTF commander must realize that
the JFC may not fully realize the benefit of maintaining
MAGTF integrity. He should also realize that commanders
from other Service components may seek to convince the JFC
that "functional" task organizations are preferable to
separate combined arms forces.
The Marine Corps is not blind to the MAGTF
commander's potential plight in this area. Presently, the
subject is being addressed in several doctrinal
publications under development. (22;24) The draft document
for FMFM 2 identifies the ACE's importance in maneuver
warfare and states:
The failure to employ a Service or type of
unit wisely can lose the war. For the MAGTF
commander, the ACE has the potential to be his
most effective means of influencing a developing
situation because of the mobility and firepower
inherent in the ACE and the ability of the ACE
to perform combat functions. (24:5-15)
It also identifies the focus of responsibility for
maintaining the integrity of the MAGTF:
If the commander under whom the MAGTF
commander has been placed believes the
accomplishment of his mission is best served by
breaking up the MAGTF, the MAGTF will be broken
up. The responsibility for convincing Joint and
Combined Force Commanders to keep the MAGTF
intact rests primarily with the MAGTF
commander. If the MAGTF commander can (1)
educate the Joint Force Commander on the
benefits to that commander of keeping the MAGTF
intact, on the strengths and weaknesses of a
MAGTF, and on the circumstances in which the
MAGTF can be most effectively used and (2) then
accomplish the missions assigned to the MAGTF
commander, the MAGTF will be left whole. If the
MAGTF commander cannot accomplish its assigned
mission, the Joint force Commander will be
tempted to break up the MAGTF. (24:4-6)
The MAGTF commander, then, bears the burden of educating
his JFC concerning MAGTF employment. His best opportunity
to accomplish this is during the planning stages of a joint
When educating the JFC, there are two major areas of
concern with respect to the ACE. First, the MAGTF
commander must convince the JFC that the ACE should remain
part of the MAGTF combined arms team, and that a functional
task organization which breaks up the MAGTF will
significantly reduce the MAGTF's combat power. Second, he
must also convince the JFC that excessive apportionment of
ACE sorties to achieve Joint Force missions will also
substantially degrade MAGTF capabilities, even when the
MAGTF commander retains operational control of the
ACE. (22:6-5) If he can do these things and then follow
through with mission accomplishment, he will probably
maintain MAGTF integrity.
Considering the MAGTF commander's potential
situation, educating and convincing the JFC may not be easy
tasks. He may be the junior ranking Service component
commander involved in the joint operation. He will surely
have to convince the JFC that he can better control his ACE
than an Air Force officer who deals exclusively with
aviation on a full time basis. The MAGTF commander, if he
wishes to be successful, must tackle these tasks with
credibility and confidence. This is not only in the MAGTF
commander's best interest, but in the Marine Corps' best
interest as well. Clearly, the Marine Corps must take
steps to ensure the MAGTF commander's increased opportunity
for success in such endeavors. Not only must the MAGTF
commander strive to attain a thorough knowledge of ACE
employment, but the Marine Corps must provide its MAGTF
commanders with the educational tools to gain that
Major John Saxman, an Air Force officer, made some
acute observations concerning the Marine Corps' training of
its future MAGTF commanders:
If the curriculum at the Marine Corps Command
and Staff College is representative of the
amount of aviation related instruction given at
Marine schools, then the problem is not the
aviator's lack of knowledge of ground operations
but rather the ground officer's lack of exposure
to aviation. During the 1988-89 school year,
the Command and Staff College had only one,
three-day exercise that emphasized the
employment of airpower. (20:62)
Major Saxman's comments continue to apply for the 1989-90
academic year. Although aviation considerations are
included in most phases of instruction, the instructional
emphasis is on ground maneuver. Rarely, if ever, are
students forced to deal with the issues of command and
control of assets or apportionment of sorties. During
wargame exercises, student MAGTF commanders retained
complete control of all aviation assets and sorties.
Except for advising the Command and Staff student of the
potential problems associated with the ACE in joint
operations, the curriculum does little to ensure that each
officer has a firm grasp on effective ACE employment when
he graduates. When one considers the fact that the Command
and Staff College is the Marine Corps' highest level
school, it is surprising that more emphasis is not placed
on an area which has historically been a problem in joint
Major Saxman also postulated that the majority of
MAGTF commanders are ground officers and that a number of
them have little concept of what aviation can do for them
or how it can be best employed. (20:62) Based on my own
personal observation of students in planning exercises and
wargames during academic year 1989-90, I agree with Major
Saxman's statements. However, I contend that the lack of
knowledge is not limited to ground officers. If Command
and Staff students are representative of FMF officers and
if the assessments presented above are correct, then there
are some commanders who are going to have a tough time
trying to educate a JFC on a subject they do not fully
The Marine Corps can do very little for officers
already in command. Hopefully, all MAGTF commanders will
be able to maintain the integrity of their combined arms
teams through self-education and lucid articulation.
However, the Marine Corps can, and must, affect the MAGTF
commanders of the future by incorporating more
comprehensive instruction on aviation employment into its
resident and nonresident education programs. Only in this
way can the Marine Corps increase the likelihood of
employing the ACE according to Marine doctrine.
In conclusion, the questions posed at the beginning
of this paper should be answered. What effect does the
Omnibus Agreement have on the MAGTF commander's ability to
employ his entire MAGTF in maneuver warfare? The answer is
very little, if he can educate and convince the JFC of the
benefits of proper MAGTF employment. In order to do that,
the MAGTF commander must have a thorough knowledge of his
MAGTF's capabilities, especially the ACE. The Marine Corps
must provide its officers with the educational means to
attain this requisite knowledge. Can the ACE be
effectively employed as a maneuver element under the
provisions of the Omnibus Agreement? Yes, under the same
conditions as listed above. The key to success in
maintaining MAGTF integrity and employing the ACE in
maneuver warfare is the education of Marine officers.
Without a thorough knowledge of aviation capabilities and
employment, MAGTF commanders will find it difficult to do
either. The Marine Corps should take action now to ensure
the future success of its MAGTF commanders. Of course,
there is an alternative to taking action. The Marine Corps
can allow history to repeat itself.
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