WASHINGTON — The U.S. Marine Corps commandant wants to forge a new command focused on information operations and improved coordination.
The creation of the Marine Corps Information Command, or MCIC, was included in a May 9 update to Force Design 2030, Gen. David Berger’s plans, criticized by some for being out of touch, to optimize the Corps and counter contemporary threats.
“We believe that in a conflict with a peer adversary, first moves may be in space and cyber, so we must enable our stand-in forces,” expeditionary units and expeditionary forces “to integrate with, and have access to, those capabilities now,” the document states.
Force Design 2030 was first published in March 2020 and was amended a little more than a year ago. The latest update, arriving this month, placed particular emphasis on reconnaissance, data collection and maintaining a low profile. The information command could streamline collaboration and reduce burdens “at the headquarters level,” it said.
The document directs officials to develop options for the creation of the MCIC, among other instructions. No specific timeline was provided.
“Although we began three years ago heavily focused on lethality, which remains important, now coming to the fore is the importance of the hider-finder, reconnaissance-counter-reconnaissance, screening-counter-screening, whatever term you’d like to use — the importance of winning that upfront and always,” Berger said earlier this month, according to Defense News.
“It doesn’t diminish the importance of lethality, but you can’t use the lethality if you can’t find them,” he said. “Or, said another way, if you’re so big and fat and immobile and vulnerable to their sensors, all the lethality in the world ain’t going to help you.”
The MCIC concept comes as complex competitors, including China and Russia, invest in cyber and other digital capabilities that may put U.S. military forces and critical infrastructure at risk. The Marine Corps expects to come up against forces with substantial computer, cyber, networking and surveillance skills.
Recent war games and demonstrations, including Enigma and Expeditionary Warrior, tested concepts for operations in what were deemed the information environment and the gray zone, competition below the level of traditional armed conflict.
“Virtually every exercise that we’re doing now, that we’re involved in, we insert some component of force design,” Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said May 4 at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event.
Force Design 2030 has driven a wedge into some military communities, with retired generals, analysts and other leaders criticizing its divestitures and pivots.
“In the end the Corps will have more space experts, cyber warriors, influence specialists, missileers and others with unique skills — many of which already are provided by other elements of the joint force,” Paul K. Van Riper, a retired lieutenant general, wrote in an opinion piece published by the Marine Corps Times in March. “But it will only have them because it gave up Marines prepared to close with and destroy the enemy.”
Arguments have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, National Review and additional publications.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its NNSA — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.