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How Will The Marine Corps Fulfill The Forward Presence Mission In 
The Future?
CSC 1993
SUBJECT AREA - Strategic Issues
                         EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Title:  How will the Marine Corps Fulfill the Forward Presence
Mission in the Future?
Author: Major Edward M. Hatcher Jr., United States Marine
Thesis: The forward deployed Marine Air Ground Task Forces'
(MAGTFs) current organization does not support the wide
spectrum of missions the MAGTF must conduct in the future.
The Marine Corps must identify the weaknesses and use the
assets of the Marine Corps and CINCs to ensure the MAGTFs can
fulfill the forward presence missions in the future.
Background:  The need for our military forces to provide a
forward presence will continue into the 21st century.  The
reduction in permanently deployed forces will increase the
need for expeditionary forces to fulfill the forward presence
missions.  These forces must be able to respond to a wide
spectrum of forward presence missions:  crisis response,
humanitarian, peacekeeping, noncombatant evacuations, low
intensity and the build-up to major conflicts.  These forces
must build a small expeditionary force into a Joint Task Force
(JTF).  The Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) should be the
force to provide the nation with this capability.  The MEU's
organization should enhance the build-up of a MEU into a JTF.
Recommendation: Organize the MEU with a JTF liaison team.  A
small JTF liaison team would deploy with each MEU.  This team
would coordinate their service assets and bring specialized
capabilities to the MEU.  The JTF liaison teak and a greater
emphasis on joint operations training, would enhance the MEU's
ability to expand into a task organized JTF.  The MEU with a
JTF liaison team is a more effective forward presence force
than the United States has today.
Thesis:  The forward deployed Marine Air Ground Task Forces'
(MAGTF) current organization does not support the wide
spectrum of missions the MAGTF must conduct in the future.
The Marine Corps must identify the weaknesses and use the
assets of the Marine Corps and CINCs to ensure the MAGTFs can
fulfill the forward presence missions in the future.
     I.  An expeditionary force for forward presence
          A.  Navy and Marine Corps team provide the
              expeditionary force
          B.  Expeditionary force is a MAGTF
                1. Must support a wide spectrum of missions
                2. Should be joint
     II. MAGTFs current weaknesses
          A.  Command and control
                1. As an enabling force for a JTF
                2. As a JTF headquarters
                3. As part of a JTF
          B.  Communications
                1. Joint
                2. Embassies
                3. Training
          C.  Intelligence
                1. Collection and dissemination
                2. Special operations
          D.  Liaison teams
                1. Public affairs
                2. Army and Air Force
                3. United Nations
     III. Solutions to the MAGTFs weaknesses
          A.  Organize the MEU as a JTF
          B.  Support the MEU from external cells
          C.  Organize the MEU with a JTF liaison team
                         IN THE FUTURE?
     The National Security Strategy of the United States
needs an expeditionary force that can support its basic
demands: forward presence with the ability to act in crisis
response, power projection, humanitarian or peacekeeping
missions.  These missions are often characterized by high
intensity, short duration conflict, with little time to plan.
The United States needs a force that can quickly expand into a
joint warfare or combined force to fulfill these missions,
     In September 1992, the United States Navy and Marine
Corps released the White Paper From the Sea.  The new
direction of the Navy and Marine Corps team, both active and
reserve, is to provide the nation with Naval Expeditionary
Forces - Shaped for Joint Operations.(4:2)  The Navy and
Marine Corps sent a clear message to the nation:  they would
fulfill the forward presence missions with forward deployed
MAGTFs (primarily the Marine Expeditionary Unit {MEU}).
Unfortunately there is a problem.  The forward deployed
MAGTFs' current organization does not support the wide
spectrum of missions the MAGTF must conduct in the future.
The Marine Corps must identify the MAGTF's weaknesses and use
the assets of the Marine Corps and CINCs to ensure the MAGTFs
can fulfill the forward presence missions in the future.
                          MAGTFs CURRENT WEAKNESSES
     As part of the forward presence mission, the Marine
Corps must act as an enabling force for a Joint task force
(JTF).  An enabling force must quickly respond to a crisis and
facilitate the movement and build-up of forces into a crisis
area.  The Marine Corps currently uses the MEU to fulfill this
mission.  The MEU can conduct many low-intensity missions, but
it cannot face a large hostile military force without
augmentation from a larger MAGTF or other United States
military component forces.  When these follow-on forces
augment the MEU, they can quickly overwhelm the MEU's command
     The MEU's command element cannot effectively sustain
command of a joint or combined task force without augmentation
from a higher headquarters.(16:22)  The MEU requires assets
from higher headquarters and other service components to help
command these follow-on forces.  In a joint warfare
environment the MEU command element must often act as a Marine
component (MARCOM) headquarters, MEU headquarters, and
JTF/Combined headquarters simultaneously.  The MEU command
element cannot act as three headquarters without degrading its
ability to command its own elements.
     During Operation Provide Comfort, the MEU operated as
part of a JTF without a MARCOM headquarters.  A Marine liaison
cell attached to the JTF headquarters, (that subsequently
became a Combined Task Force (CTF) headquarters) was located
in Incirlik, Turkey as Operation Provide Comfort progressed.
This cell was to provide administrative and logistic support
to Marine Corps follow-on units, but was not assigned to
support the 24th MEU.
     The 24th MEU continued to support itself, even while
the liaison cell with the JTF headquarters continued to
support follow-on Marine Corps units (administratively and
logistically) as they entered the area of operations.
Since the MEU represented itself and the liaison cell
with the JTF headquarters represented the follow-on Marine
Corps units, there was no central MARCOM command element that
the JTF could contact for "Marine issues."(18)  The MEU did
not enhance the build-up of Marine forces into the Area of
Responsibility (AOR), but merely acted as the first Marine
Corps element in the AOR.
     The effect of not having a MARCOM as part of the JTF is
summarized by the MCCLS report by Lieutenant Colonel
Morgan, who observed:
     There appeared to be no plan or systematic approach to
     the deployment of additional forces or staffing the Joint
     Task Force (JTF) Headquarters (HQ) as the force and
     command and control requirements of the JTF grew.(3)
Although the MEU did support the JTF, it did not support
follow-on forces as an enabling force.  There was no plan to
use the MEU command element and augment it from higher
headquarters to support the follow-on forces.
     The MEU must communicate with all service components,
higher command authorities and U.S embassies.  Acting as the
forward element of a JTF, the MEU needs the capability to
communicate with higher headquarters via satellite.  The MEU
should tie into the Defense Information Systems Network, as
well as internal JTF communications links.  Although the MEU
can maintain most of these communications links afloat, once
ashore their communications capabilities are not adequate.
The MEU does not have the communications equipment needed to
operate in the highly complex joint warfare environment.
     The MEU must obtain the means to communicate with
United States embassies via secure voice communications.  The
embassies do not currently have this capability themselves.
During Operation Eastern Exit, (in which U.S. Marines acting
as part of a JTF had to evacuate the U.S. embassy in
Mogadishu, Somalia) all communications between the Marines and
the embassy were through an unsecured radio.(17:vi)  The
opportunity for a terrorist organization to intercept
communications and sabotage the Noncombatant Evacuation
Operation (NEO) is obvious.  The MEU needs secure voice
communications with U.S. embassies now!
     Communications with a different service component
requires highly trained communications personnel, familiar
with other services' communications formats and terminology.
Although Joint Interoperability of Tactical Command and
Control Systems (JINTACCS) has reduced some of the confusion
between services, MEU communications personnel are not
familiar with other services terminology and communications
formats.  There has been little emphasis on joint
communications training in the past at the MEU level.  The MEU
needs communications personnel that are experts in joint
     Can the MEU identify its communications strengths and
weaknesses as the forward element of a JTF?  Each MEU
operation in a joint warfare environment adds new lessons
learned.  A great deal is learned from these successful
operations.  However, the time to make mistakes and
learn lessons is not during operations.  There is not
enough joint warfare training conducted to identify and
prevent future operational mistakes.  The MEU must exercise
the force build-up from MEU to JTF, to determine the equipment
and training  needed to support various joint warfare
     One of the most important tasks a forward deployed MEU
has in joint warfare, is the collection and dissemination of
intelligence.  This intelligence allows higher headquarters
to make well informed policy decisions, thousands of miles
from the crisis.  The MEU has limited assets to accomplish
this task.  The MEU's current organization supports only its
organic elements with intelligence at a very basic level.  Its
organization does not allow it to provide intelligence to
follow-on forces or higher headquarters.  The MEU does not
have the equipment, personnel or training to utilize national
military intelligence assets.
     The MEU intelligence section has not adapted itself to
support the wide range of special operations the MEU can
conduct.  The MEU has no unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to
gather intelligence afloat or ashore.  The MEU does not have
an imagery dissemination system to receive or pass imagery.
The MEU intelligence section cannot communicate with higher
headquarters (JTF...) through a dedicated circuit to pass or
receive information by voice or message.  The MEU needs a
dedicated circuit to quickly exchange information in the fluid
environment of a crisis response.  The MEU's intelligence
section must improve its capabilities to allow the MEU to
support JTF intelligence requirements.
     Marine forces are capable of global operations along the
entire operational continuum from deterrence through crisis to
war.(12:2)  The MEU must cover a wide spectrum of missions as
the Marine Corps' forward deployed unit.  The MEU does not
have the personnel to cover many of the missions it has faced
and will face in the future.
     The MEU does not have an effective public affairs
section.  The MEU participates in high visibility operations,
hat quickly effect public opinion at home and abroad.  A
recent article in the Marine Corps Gazette summed up the
importance of using the media as a weapon:
     One important lesson from Southwest Asia that we must
     not overlook is the definitive role of media on the
     battlefield.  We can no longer ignore the press, or
     simply tolerate reporters' annoying presence.  The press
     is here to stay, and they can be counted on to attend any
     future war in staggering numbers.  We must do more than
     simply accept the media - we must understand their
     strength and exploit that strength as a weapon.(5:30)
     The Marine Corps cannot ignore the media's influence on
the battlefield.  The media can have a direct influence on the
perceived success of any MEU mission.  This perception will
often be more important than anything the MEU does in an
operation.  The media's ability to cover and immediately
report MEU operations as they occur emphasizes the need for a
public affairs section.
     Since the MEU is co-located and has a habitual
relationship with the Navy, its primary need for liaison is
with the Air Force and Army.  Due to fiscal constraints and
limited assets, the Marine Corps is becoming more dependent on
other services for support.  The MEU will need quick liaison
with Army and Air Force units to conduct many of its
operations.  Without the benefit of Army and Air Force liaison
teams, the MEU must plan for the use of other services' units
without detailed knowledge of their capabilities.
     In the execution phase of an operation the need for
liaison teams is even more important to overcome problems as
they occur.  During Operation Eastern Exit, United States Air
Force AC-130s were unable to provide Marine forces with
scheduled overhead cover against suspected enemy artillery.
This lack of support was due to poor communications between
Marine Corps and Air Force units.  The lack of air cover could
have resulted in numerous casaulties.(17:44)  This problem
could have been avoided if the Air Force had a liaison team
co-located with the supported Marine forces.
     The MEU must be capable of closely coordinating
operations with United Nations' forces.  The MEU's
peace-keeping missions will undoubtedly lead to the MEU acting
as an enabling force for United Nations' forces.  This may
occur without the formulation of a JTF.  The requirement for a
MEU liaison team to work directly with United Nations' forces
will cause additional unforseen problems.  The MEU must
identify how it will make liaison with the United Nations'
forces, and how it can support these forces in a humanitarian
or peacekeeping environment.
     The Marine Corps must make the MEU more responsive to
the forward presence-joint warfare missions, without degrading
its effectiveness as a fighting force.  Additional
equipment and personnel must augment the MEU to enhance its
capabilities.  The MEU must add the new capabilities without
greatly increasing the size of the MEU.  The balance between
increased capabilities, while maintaining the current
effectiveness of the MEU is delicate.
     The Marine Corps must solve this delicate problem now.
Then it can effectively conduct the forward presence missions
of the future.  There are three possible solutions to this
     1.   Organize and train the MEU as a JTF.  Assign the
          necessary equipment and personnel needed to the MEU
     2.   Support the MEU from external cells to increase
          capabilities.  Identify the personnel and equipment
          needed in these cells.  Train these cells with the
     3.   Organize the MEU with a JTF liaison team.  Augment
          the MEU with external cells to increase the
          capabilities.  Identify the personnel and equipment
          needed in these cells by working closely with all
          services through the CINCs.  Train these cells with
          the MEU.
     The first alternative, organizing the MEU as a JTF, would
make the MEU capable of fulfilling a wide spectrum of joint
warfare missions a CINC would assign.  The MEU would become a
floating JTF, primarily manned by Marines, but also augmented
by other service personnel.
     The MEU would maintain its own command structure, while
forming a JTF headquarters to command the MEU and other
service assets.  The Marines manning the JTF headquarters
would come from Marine Forces Pacific (MarForPac) or Marine
Forces Atlantic (MarForLant).  MarForPac/Lant would coordinate
the augmentation of the JTF headquarters with the appropriate
CINCs and MEUs.  This would ensure the MEU had the support of
a JTF and MARCOM headquarters.
     The MEU can solve its need for communications at the JTF
level by attaching a JTF communications center, as part
of the JTF headquarters with the MEU.  This communications
center would be the link between the CINCs and all subordinate
units in the JTF (including the MEU).  The MEU would not need
additional communications equipment or personnel, since it
could communicate directly with the co-located JTF
     A Joint Intelligence Center (JIC) would be co-located
with the JTF and MEU.  The JIC would bring all the necessary
intelligence equipment and personnel to work in a joint
warfare environment.  The MEU would not need any additional
manpower or equipment.  The MEU would get its intelligence
through the JIC, and the JIC would maintain contact with
national intelligence assets.
     The MEU can reduce its need for liaison teams when it
deploys as a JTF.  Army and Air Force liaison personnel would
be part of the JTF headquarters.  The JTF headquarters would
work closely with the CINC to coordinate any operations with
the United Nations.  The CINCs representatives at the JTF
headquarters would handle any public affairs requirements.
In summary, the need for liaison teams would become the JTF
headquarters' responsibility.
     Obviously the first alternative can operationally handle
most of the problems the MEU would encounter in forward
presence missions.  Unfortunately, the large number of assets
required to man a JTF headquarters are not readily available
to a MEU.
     During a period of military draw-down, assigning a
complete JTF headquarters to a MEU may not be the most
feasible solution.  It would cost too much to add the JTF
headquarters.  Adding the JTF headquarters could increase the
size of the amphibious ready group (ARG).  This would add
additional costs also.  Rear Admiral John B. LaPlante (Vice
Director/Deputy Director for Mobilization, J-4, Joint Staff)
clearly indicated his views on the size of future ARGs during
a presentation at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College:
"The MEU needs to get smaller, because ARGs are getting
smaller-but missions are becoming more varied, complex-joint
and combined."(11)  Although the first alternative is viable,
the commitment of a full JTF headquarters to a MEU is not the
best solution.
     The second alternative, using external cells to enhance
MEU's capabilities for the wide spectrum of forward presence
missions offers some definite advantages.  By bringing cells
in to augment the MEU, the MEU's size and basic structure does
not change.  The CINC would activate Fly-in cells that could
quickly fly to the MEU and augment it in a crisis.  These
cells would come from the MEF, MarFor or CINC level
headquarters (or their designated representatives).
     The command element of the MEU would request augmentation
through operational channels as a situation developed.  The
MarFor would quickly establish a MARCOM headquarters element,
that would facilitate the build-up of the JTF headquarters.
These cells, previously identified and trained, would move to
the vicinity of the MEU and establish their headquarters.  The
JTF headquarters would manage the build-up of the JTF, freeing
the MEU to conduct operations as an element of the JTF.
     The immediate establishment of a JTF headquarters negates
the need for additional communications, intelligence or
liaison assets.  The MARCOM is the forward element of this JTF
headquarters.  As the forward element, the MARCOM would
receive assets from the CINC to facilitate the build-up f the
JTF headquarters.
     This alternative solution definitely expedites the build-
up of a JTF, but it requires all assets to fly-in to the
crisis area.  It does not take advantage of the MEU's forward
deployed position to begin preparing the crisis area for the
follow-on JTF.  Although this solution enhances the MEU's
current capabilities through external augmentation, it does
not adequately utilize the MEU's capabilities to support the
     The third alternative, organizes the MEU WITH a JTF
liaison team and augments it with fly-in external cells from
higher headquarters.  It is a hybrid solution of the first two
alternatives.  It utilizes the strengths of a forward deployed
JTF liaison team to begin the preparation of the crisis area
for the JTF.  The third alternative also maintains the
flexibility of fly-in cells to adapt to a variety of missions,
     A small JTF liaison team would deploy with the MEU's
command element.  This liaison team would contain highly
trained advisors from each of the services.  Each would be
capable of advising the JTF liaison commander on the
capabilities of its service,  The JTF liaison commander would
work closely with the MEU commander during a crisis.
     During a crisis, the JTF liaison commander would decide
(with the advice of the MEU commander) whether or not to
establish an active JTF.  The JTF liaison commander would also
decide which external cells to use for the crisis.  The JTF
liaison commander would request the external cells from the
appropriate CINC.  While waiting for the fly-in cells, the JTF
liaison team would work closely with the MEU and prepare
initial estimates and plans for JTF operations.
     The MEU would improve its communications to support
the JTF liaison commander.  This would include the addition of
satellite communications for secure telephone access ashore
and autodin entry.(7)  The Marine Corps also would request
secure voice communications for Marine Security Guards (MSG)
at each embassy.  In a crisis the MSGs would activate their
secure voice radios and monitor them to assist with NEOs and
other operations as required.  This action would take
advantage of forward deployed Marines, without the knowledge
of hostiles.
     The JTF liaison team would have an intelligence officer,
and a small intelligence cell to support the MEU during the
initial stage of an operation.  This cell would have improved
imagery capabilities, UAVs, and would communicate via a secure
link with the CINC's JIC.  This secure link would give the JTF
intelligence cell access to national intelligence assets.  The
level of intelligence provided to the JTF liaison commander
would be adequate for situational assessment and operational
planning.  Fly-in echelons would provide any additional
intelligence needs.
     The JTF liaison team would reduce the need for many
specialized liaison teams.  The JTF liaison team would include
an officer and a small cell trained in public affairs; host
nation agreements, and legal matters.  This cell would be
versatile enough to plan and advise the JTF liaison team
commander on problems in these areas.  Again, fly-in echelons,
provided with information from this cell, would normally
handle the actual operations if possible.  External/fly-in
cells would also handle specialized requirements (such as the
MEU acting as an enabling force for United Nations' forces).
This would allow the MEU to maintain its limited size, while
expanding its versatility
     Although each of the solutions enhance the MEU's
capability to fulfill the forward presence missions of the
future, the third solution is the most effective.  It
overcomes the limits of the MEU's command element while using
its organizational versatility.  By providing a JTF liaison
cell with the MEU, the MEU can conduct a variety of missions,
while allowing the JTF liaison cell to plan for follow-on
forces and special requirements.  The JTF liaison cell
supports the MEU's special needs, while giving the CINC the
capability to establish a JTF with limited augmentation.
     The future of United States' military operations is
clear, it will be joint!  The forward deployed element of the
United States should reflect the nature of that doctrine.  The
MEU will continue to provide the United States with a forward
presence that is capable of quickly responding to any crisis.
     The time when operations could be planned well in
advanced has passed.  Future operations will be characterized
by high intensity, short duration, night operations, joint and
combined, with little or no planning time.(11)  The nation
needs a forward deployed, highly versatile, well trained and
equipped military unit to respond to this future.  The MEU,
augmented by a JTF liaison team and fly-in augmentation, can
quickly respond to the missions of the future.  It is time for
the MEU to become joint!
1.  Component Issue in Operation Provide Comfort Executive
          Level Lessons Learned submitted by LtCol. Morgan
          MCCLS Long Report, number 91054-84925 (04229).
2.  Corps Establishes Component Commands, Marine Corps Gazette
          March 93:  7.
3.  Force Offering and Staffing the JTF HQ Operation Provide
          Comfort, submitted by LtCol Morgan MCCLS Long
          Report, number 91055-06088 (04230).
4.  From the Sea, Navy and Marine Corps White Paper,
          September 92:  2.
5.  Haddock, Capt. Ellen K.  "Media on the Battlefield:
          An Underestimated Weapon."  Marine Corps Gazette
          October 92:  30-32.
6.  Hoffman, Maj. F.G. USMCR,  The New National Security
          Strategy, Marine Corps Gazette February 92:
7.  Improving MEU Utility in Joint Operations, CG MCCDC
          Quantico VA draft MSG dtd 011930Z DEC 92.
8.  Improving MEU Utility in Joint Operations, COMMARFORLANT
          MSG dtd 261626Z OCT 92.
9.  Improving MEU Utility in Joint Operations, COMMARFORPAC
          MSG dtd 222024Z OCT 92.
10. Jenkins, MajGen Harry W.,  Tactical Intelligence and
          Related Activities:  Report from the Director of
          Intelligence, Marine Corps Gazette September 92:
11. LaPlante, RADM John B., Views of the Commander,
          Amphibious Task Force Briefing.  Command and Staff
          College, 19 March 1993.
12. Marine Corps Capabilities Plan, Volume One, 26 June 92.
13. MEU as a Joint Task Force, submitted by LtCol Linn,
          MCCLS Long Report, number 80282-43168 (06598).
14. National Security Strategy of the United States, The
          White House, August 91.
15. Owens, Col. Mackubin T., USMCR, The Marine Corps and the
          New National Strategy, Amphibious Warfare Review,
          Summer 91:  84-89.
16. Rudd, LtCol. Gordon W., "The 24th MEU (SOC) and
          Operation Provide Comfort:  A Second Look."
          Marine Corps Gazette, February 93:  20-22.
17. Siegel, Adam B., "Eastern Exit:  The Noncombatant
          Evacuation Operation (NEO) From Mogadishu,
          Somalia in January 1991."  Center for Naval
18. Summary - Operation Provide Comfort Executive Level
          Lessons Learned, submitted by LtCol. Morgan,
          MCCLS Long Report, number 91054-29676 (04228).
19. The Role of the Marine Corps in the National Defense,
          21 June 91.

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