Amphibious Warfare And The Composite Warfare Commander
Concept: Doctrine In Need Of Change
SUBJECT AREA - Warfighting
Title: Amphibious Warfare and the Composite Warfare Commander
Concept: Doctrine in need of change
Author: Major J. V. Medina, United States Marine Corps
Thesis: Amphibious warfare doctrine requires significant
revision to incorporate the Marine Corps doctrine of maneuver
warfare into the Navy's composite warfare commander (CWC)
Background: Amphibious warfare doctrine demonstrated its
worth during and immediately following World War II. The Navy
developed the CWC concept to enable the fleet to effectively
carry out a multi-threat defense for a carrier battle group.
According to this concept, the CWC exercises control through
subordinate warfare commanders while retaining overall respon-
sibility for the force. The Marine Corps' warfighting philoso-
phy changed dramatically with the recent adoption of maneuver
warfare. Maneuver warfare is easily applied to amphibious
operations, but current amphibious doctrine is incompatible
with the CWC concept. While the Navy's fleet doctrine has
evolved to cope with quickly developing technology, amphibious
doctrine has remained virtually unchanged. During any future
large scale amphibious operation, simultaneous application of
these two doctrine will prevent optimum utilization of naval
forces. The time has arrived for revision of amphibious doc-
trine to allow maneuver warfare to be incorporated into the
CWC concept. Four options are considered as possible solutions
to this dilemma.
Recommendation: A serious review of amphibious doctrine must
be conducted, with the purpose of making it more than compli-
mentary to the CWC concept. Amphibious warfare doctrine should
be modified to include the AWC and CLF as separate warfare
commanders and to realign the responsibilities to include the
Composite Warfare Commander.
AMPHIBIOUS WARFARE AND THE COMPOSITE WARFARE COMMANDER
CONCEPT: DOCTRINE IN NEED OF CHANGE
Thesis Statement. Amphibious warfare doctrine requires
significant revision to incorporate the Marine Corps doctrine
of maneuver warfare into the Navy's composite warfare
commander (CWC) concept.
I. Composite Warfare Commander (CWC) Concept
A. Development of CWC
B. CWC Organization
II. Maneuver Warfare and Amphibious Warfare Doctrine
A. Principles of Maneuver Warfare
B. Amphibious Warfare at the Operational Level of War
III. Changing Missions of the Navy
IV. Significant Problem Areas
A. Dilemma of two doctrine
B. Defensive versus offensive orientation
C. Unity of Command
V. Alternative Solutions
A. Modify each situation
B. Integrate the ATF and the CVBG (senior officer as CATF)
C. CATF as Warfare Commander (CLF subordinate)
D. Modify Doctrine: AWC and CLF as Warfare Commanders
VI. Recommendation: Modify Doctrine, AWC and CLF as Separate
Warfare Commanders, and assign CWC specific responsibilities
AMPHIBIOUS WARFARE AND THE COMPOSITE WARFARE COMMANDER
CONCEPT: DOCTRINE IN NEED OF CHANGE
by Major J. V. Medina, USMC
Amphibious warfare requires the closest practicable
cooperation by all the combatant services both in
planning and in execution, and a command organization
which definitely assigns responsibility for major
decisions throughout all stages of the operation,
embarkation, overseas movement, beach assault, and
subsequent support of the forces ashore.
Admiral Henry K. Hewitt, USN
Nothing is so important in war as an undivided command.
Napoleon: Maxims of War
Since 490 B.C. when the Persians were repelled during their
amphibious assault on Marathon, amphibious warfare has under-
gone many changes. For the United States, the two decades
following World War I were a watershed in the development of
amphibious doctrine. Refinements to this doctrine during World
War II resulted in an extremely effective doctrine for amphi-
bious warfare.1 This doctrine was institutionalized in the
naval service as Landing Force Manual (LFM) 0-1 and has since
become joint doctrine as JCS PUB 3-02 (JOINT DOCTRINE FOR
AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS). During the last forty years this doc-
trine has remained relatively unchanged.
Fleet doctine for the operating forces of the Navy has
undergone significant changes since the World War II era. In
the mid 1960's, increasing ranges and technical complexity of
new weapon systems led the Navy to develop the Composite
Warfare Commander (CWC) concept. This concept was intended to
enable the officer in tactical command (OTC) to effectively
carry out the multi-threat defense of a carrier battlegroup
(CVBG). In most instances, the OTC is also the CWC. Although
still undergoing change, this doctrine is contained in the
Naval Warfare Publication (NWP) 10-1.
Amphibious warfare doctrine and CWC doctrine are both
currently in use in the operating forces, but not without
significant problems. In many instances (Southwest Asia for
example) "quick-fixes" are made to overcome blaring deficien-
cies. Amphibious warfare doctrine requires significant change
to incorporate the Marine Corps' doctrine of maneuver warfare
into the Navy's CWC concept.
COMPOSITE WARFARE COMMANDER (CWC) CONCEPT
Naval warfare has experienced a growing reliance on com-
plex technical systems, greater threats from increased ranges
of enemy weapon systems, and greater likelihood for informa-
tion overload with corresponding reduced response times. As a
result, the Navy attempted to provide for varying degrees of
decentralization through the assignment of subordinate warfare
commanders to handle specific responsibilities and the delega-
tion of authority to carry out these responsibilities. The
technique which evolved to meet this need is the CWC concept.
NWP 10-1 spells out the specifics of the CWC concept.
Briefly, the CWC retains overall responsibility for the force
but exercises his control through subordinate warfare comman-
ders. Three subordinate warfare commanders are specifically
designated, although NWP 10-1 allows that "under certain cir-
cumstances the OTC/CWC may find it convenient to assign com-
manders and coordinators above and beyond those shown."2
Those detailed in NWP 10-1 include Anti-air Warfare Commander
(AAWC), Anti-submarine Warfare Commander (ASWC), and Anti-
surface Warfare Commander (ASUWC). In actual practice, how-
ever, current fleet operations include a Strike Warfare Com-
mander (STWC) as a fourth subordinate warfare commander. This
change is already contained in the recently published JCS PUB
3-04 (Doctrine For Joint Maritime Operations). Figure 1 de-
picts the doctrinal CWC command structure.3
Click here to view image
Other subordinates may be designated as coordinators to
assist in the management of specific assets of the force.
The Air Element Coordinator (AREC), Submarine Element
Coordinator (SEC), and Electronic Warfare Coordinator (EWC)
are examples. The difference in the warfare commanders and
the coordinators is spelled out as follows:
The supporting coordinators differ from the war-
fare commanders in one very important respect. When
authorized by the CWC, the Warfare Commanders have
tactical control over resources assigned and may
automatically initiate action. The supporting coordi-
nators execute policy, but do not initiate autonomous
MANEUVER WARFARE AND AMPHIBIOUS DOCTRINE
The warfighting philosophy of the Marine Corps changed
dramatically with the adoption of FMFM-1. The key principles
of this doctrine are: to orient on the enemy rather than on
terrain, avoid his strength and attack his weaknesses, disrupt
his cohesion, exploit tactical opportunities (therein lies the
importance of mission orders), and being able to operate in
uncertainty (the fog of war).5 In essence, the aim is to be
better at creating and exploiting advantages over your enemy.
Maneuver warfare recognizes that amphibious forces offer
greater opportunities for military actions at the operational
level of war than would normally be the case considering the
relatively small size inherent in today's amphibious forces.
Amphibious doctrine of the 1940's and 1950's demonstrated
that the application of a relatively small force employed in
an amphibious role could successfully be applied at the opera-
tional level. An excellent example is the Inchon landing
early in the Korean War. This amphibious assault led to the
collapse of the North Korean offensive and contributed signi-
ficantly to the expulsion of all North Korean forces from
South Korea in a matter of weeks. Unquestionably it was the
Amphibious Task Force's (ATF) superb execution which made this
happen. We should recall that this ATF consisted of several
carriers in addition to the amphibious shipping with the
embarked landing force.6 The task organization of this ATF
cannot be emphasized enough. The CATF fully understood his
purpose and applied the synergistic effect of his entire force
towards this goal. This is a key to successful application of
maneuver warfare during amphibious operations. As stated by
LCDR Terry Pierce in the Naval Institute Proceedings:
To employ maneuver warfare successfully during
amphibious operations, we need a commander who can
visualize the entire campaign at the operational
level, who can combine the results of individual
tactical actions to fulfill the needs of strategy.
Joint doctrine has dictated that this person be the
CATF. As a result, the Marine Corps depends upon the
CATF to command and to delineate a commander's
clear intent at the operational level of war,
which should convey the CATF's overall scheme for
accomplishing the strategic aim.7
Amphibious warfare clearly exemplifies the principles of
maneuver warfare. The breakdown is not between maneuver war-
fare and amphibious warfare doctrine, but rather between
amphibious warfare and CWC doctrine.
CHANGING MISSIONS OF THE NAVY
Since Alfred Thayer Mahan published The Influence of Sea
Power Upon History 1660 - 1783, the U.S. Navy has focused on
sea control as the primary mission of a world class navy.
Early in the 20th century, we began to incorporate the "Nelson
at Trafalgar" model (i.e. sea control) in the structure of our
navy.8 By the end of World War II, we saw the need for, and
effectively applied, the "Nelson at Copenhagen" model (i.e.
power projection) in the Pacific. However, upon war's end it
was quickly forgotten.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has become clear
to Department of Defense planners that a navy designed pri-
marily around a mission of sea control is not logical. The
national security strategy of the United States includes a
mission to maintain regional stability.9 For naval forces
that translates into power projection. This is not a totally
new idea. Over thirty years ago Timothy Shea noted:
The seas are no longer a self contained battle-
field. Today they are a medium from which warfare is
conducted. The oceans of the world are the base of
operations from which navies project power into land
areas and targets. The mission of protecting sea-
lanes continues in being, but the navy's central
missions have become to maximize its ability to pro-
ject power from the sea over land and to prevent the
enemy from doing the same.10
SIGNIFICANT PROBLEM AREAS
When these two doctrine are applied together, as they must
be during any large amphibious operation, major problems sur-
face. Unless current amphibious doctrine is modified to incor-
porate the CWC concept, key commanders will always be faced
with the dilemma of having to select which doctrine to apply
or to how to modify both. Since each situation generates
different sets of circumstances, and the various commanders
will have different backgrounds and levels of knowledge, it
should be expected that personalities will significantly im-
pact how doctrine is applied and what modifications are made.
The importance of command relationships during amphibious
operations was a lesson we learned long ago from Gallipoli,
and one we had better not forget!
CWC was developed as a defense-oriented doctrine. The addi-
tion of strike warfare gives it an offensive capability,
however, its basic design was built on the need to protect a
large naval force. The Amphibious Task Force (ATF), on the
other hand, is offensively-oriented.
Another potential disaster area due to conflicting respon-
sibilities is unity of command. Amphibious doctrine has codi-
fied that the Commander Amphibious Task Force (CATF) is res-
ponsible for all aspects of the amphibious operation. In order
to accomplish this, he is given command of all military activ-
ity in the Amphibious Operation Area (AOA).11 Yet, what hap-
pens when forces belonging to a Carrier Battle Group (CVBG)
are needed to support the ATF? Does the CWC take a back seat
to the CATF? This is not likely to happen since the CWC is
often senior to the designated CATF. While not executed,
Desert Storm plans for both the assault at Ash Shuaybah and
for the raid on Faylakah contained extremely small AOAs,
approximately 20 by 30 nautical miles. The Commander Naval
Forces recognized the need for CVBG support of the ATF, how-
ever the CVBGs would remain outside of the AOA and would not
fall under the command of the CATF. A surface threat to the
ATF also existed, and a surface combatant screen was desig-
nated to protect the ATF's seaward flanks. This force was also
to remain outside the AOA and not under the direct control of
Will there be sufficient resources made available to the
CATF/CLF to accomplish the amphibious mission? This includes
not only carrier air, but naval gunfire, special warfare,
logistics support, and in-transit escort. As long as the CATF
(the commander who receives the mission) does not command all
the assets required to accomplish the mission, there will be
problems with priorities and allocation of scarce resources.
SOLVING THE DILEMMA
In solving the problem of two conflicting doctrine, four
possible alternatives exist. They are:
(1) Leave the two doctrine separate, and handle each
situation by adapting the command relationships to fit.
(2) Integrate the ATF and the CVBG when the mission
requires both forces, and assign the senior officer as the
(3) Make the CATF a separate warfare commander in the CWC
concept with a subordinate CLF upon embarkation.
(4) Use the CWC concept and modify existing amphibious
doctrine so that the CWC assumes certain responsibilities
previously held by the CATF.
The first alternative appeals to many amphibious warfare
purists. "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" Although I agree
it's not completely broken, command relationships can cer-
tainly be much better. The following comments were made in a
study following the recent war in Southwest Asia.
During Desert Storm, a strike warfare commander
was included in the structure, but amphibious warfare
was not. The comments from Marine Officers centered
around the confusion created when different doctrine
or structure does not fit the situation. Several
senior officers stated that this issue needs to be
resolved before the Marine Corps can make decisions
on our structure and doctrine for Component Commander
and compositing issues in amphibious operations.
Interviewees also felt that there are too many
questions left to be answered on who fulfills CATF
and CLF roles as it relates to the CWC concept... The
major impact on the Marine Corps is the CWC influence
on CATF selection, CATF/CLF relationships, and how
current amphibious warfare doctrine fits into the CWC
structure. CWC procedures vary by fleet and
condition. These differences must be taken into
account when considering command and support
Clearly, there was a problem in trying to get the command
relationships to conform to doctrine in Southwest Asia. This
was not solved, and, unless it is solved, it will again be a
problem during any future large scale amphibious operation.
The second option, integrating the ATF and the CVBG(s) with
the senior officer as CATF, offers many benefits. It also has
serious problems which must be considered. Let's look at a
hypothetical situation In which it is determined that in order
to accomplish the mission a force of one Marine Expeditionary
Brigade (MEB) is required as the landing force. Thirteen or
more amphibious ships will make up the assault echelon ship-
ping. It is further determined that one CVBG is required to
support the amphibious operation. Using this option, we would
integrate all naval forces into one combined task force.
Further, let's call the commander of this organization the
Commander ATF-CVBG Task Force (CACTF). In coining this new
title, my purpose is to look at the tasks and responsibilities
of the CACTF without getting confused by the current doctrinal
responsibilities of the CATF.
In the situation I have described above, the CACTF is the
commander of all naval forces. He has responsibility for the
amphibious mission which is spelled out in the initiating
directive. He can utilize the CWC concept for defense of the
force and to accomplish the amphibious mission. He has the
carrier air and naval gunfire assets to ensure the landing
force is adequately supported, which is not the case for most
current CATFs. Before we immediately jump on this bandwagon,
however, we should look at the drawbacks. The CACTF will
probably be the commander of the CVBG. He and his staff may
have very little, if any, amphibious warfare experience.
Amphibious warfare is the most difficult of all military
operations and requires detailed planning and coordination.
Since the best platform for command and control of amphibious
operations, the LCC, is no longer available to amphibious
forces, the CACTF will probably locate on a carrier. This
platform may have good command and control capabilities for
carrier operations, but it does not have adequate capabilities
for amphibious operations. The CACTF could not accomplish the
responsibilities as presently assigned the CATF under current
amphibious warfare doctrine. This solution offers definite
advantages, but the problems it creates makes it a poor alter-
The third alternative, making the CATF a separate CWC
warfare commander with a subordinate Commander of the Landing
Force (CLF), would solve the problem of which doctrine to
follow. Current JCS amphibious doctrine would have to be
modified to indicate that the CWC has overall command, other-
wise we again have conflicts. The problem with this alterna-
tive is that the CATF and CLF become "bit players" in a major
play. Since the CATF will not own everything he requires, he
will have to compete for scarce CWC assets to accomplish his
mission. This will be an even bigger problem for the CLF. What
happens when he feels he Is not getting sufficient support?
Does he go to CATF? Since his direct superior, CATF, does not
own naval gunfire, carrier air, submarines, etc., he is likely
to find the landing force without adequate support to accom-
plish the mission in the most effective manner.
The fourth option is a combination of the previous two. It
optimizes the advantages and eliminates some deficiencies.
Amphibious doctrine can be modified to fit into the CWC con-
cept. Major realignments of responsibilities will have to be
made. First, we must get rid of the term CATF! The term has
definitive meanings to everyone in the naval service, and
continuing to use it will only slow down or confuse required
changes. There are three key commanders for the conduct of
modern amphibious warfare: the commander of all landing forces
(still the CLF), the commander of Navy amphibious ships (what
is called the Amphibious Warfare Commander (AWC) in current
operational experiments), and the commander of all naval
forces, which I labeled CACTF in the hypothetical situation
described with option two. The title is not important, it is
the function this commander performs that is. Figure 2 con-
tains a matrix which displays current responsibilities of the
CATF and CLF in arriving at the twelve key decisions required
in amphibious operations.14
Click here to view image
The AWC will still have responsibility for detailed planning with the
CLF, and will remain responsible for several of these decisions.
Key decisions for the CLF will remain the same. Some decisions will
now be made or approved by the CWC/CACTF. While this appears
similar to option two, what makes it different is that several major
decisions and responsibilities formerly belonging to the CATF
will now be delegated to the AWC or CLF. This decentralization
is already an inherent characteristic of the CWC concept. The
key points are that the CWC will now be tasked in the initia-
ting directive with accomplishment of the amphibious mission,
he will control all forces necessary to accomplish this mis-
sion, and the CLF and AWC can address him directly as subordi-
nate warfare commanders to resolve problems. Figure 3 is a
depiction of recommended realignments of these responsi-
Click here to view image
Amphibious warfare doctrine demonstrated its worth during
and immediately following World War II. The Navy developed the
CWC concept to enable the fleet to effectively carry out the
multi-threat defense of a carrier battle group. While the
Navy's fleet doctrine has evolved to cope with quickly deve-
loping technology, amphibious doctrine has remained virtually
unchanged. During any future large scale amphibious operation,
simultaneous application of these two doctrine will prevent
optimum utilization of naval forces. The time has arrived for
revision of amphibious doctrine to allow maneuver warfare to
be incorporated into the CWC concept.
A serious review of amphibious doctrine must be conducted
with the purpose of making it more than complimentary to the
CWC concept. Amphibious warfare doctrine should be modified to
include the AWC and CLF as separate warfare commanders and to
realign responsibilities to include the Composite Warfare
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