Issue Background

U.S. Marine Corps

The Marine Corps of 2015 will fight and win our Nation’s battles with multicapable MAGTFs (fleet marine forces of combined arms, together with supporting air components), either from the sea or in sustained operations ashore. Our unique role as the Nation’s force in readiness, along with our values, enduring ethos, and core competencies, will ensure we remain highly responsive to the needs of combatant commanders in an uncertain environment and against irregular threats. Our future Corps will be increasingly reliant on naval deployment, preventative in approach, leaner in equipment, versatile in capabilities, and innovative in mindset. In an evolving and complex world, we will excel as the Nation’s expeditionary “force of choice.”

On a day-to-day basis, the Marine Corps is forward deployed, forward engaged, and prepared for crisis response. The American people expect Marines to do what must be done no matter the time, place, or condition. They expect the Corps to respond quickly and to win. To meet the expectations of the American people, everything the Corps does must contribute to its combat readiness and combat effectiveness. While the Corps emphasize the resourcing of its forward-deployed forces to meet the combatant commanders’ requirements, it is equally important that the Marine Corps’ non-deployed forces are ready to respond quickly at an unexpected time. The Marines have a critical role in training and sustaining expeditionary forces; they are vital to building America’s warfighting capability.


In partnership with the Navy, the Marine Corps provides unique capabilities to the Joint Force. The innate versatility, flexibility, and combined arms capability of MAGTFs joined with the mobility and sustainability provided by amphibious ships gives us an asymmetric advantage over adversaries. The Marine Corps expeditionary nature provides combatant commanders other options that are increasingly in demand. While the Marines are naval in character and capable of coming from the sea, their expeditionary nature allows them to operate effectively in vast conditions on land. Every element of the MAGTF is designed to function in severe environments. Whether coming from the sea or ashore, the nature of the air, ground, and logistics elements is the foundation of the MAGTF.


The term Marine is one and the same with young men and women who are disciplined, smart, physically and mentally tough, and who remain always faithful to each other and to the Corps. Initial training instills in the individual Marine a selfless commitment to fellow Marines, a bias for action, and an unwavering commitment to accomplish missions.


Current operating environments are volatile and complex. It’s marked by a growing demand for Marine capabilities ranging from Amphibious Ready Groups/Marine Expeditionary Units (ARG/MEUs) and Special Purpose MAGTFs to Marines at Embassies. There is no evidence that the future will be any less challenging or the demand for Marines will decrease. Threats, however, will continue to include the proliferation of modern conventional, asymmetric and cyber weapons, international crime, and piracy. Future sources of conflict will include water, energy/food scarcity, weak governments, and territory. Due to geography, the most likely locations for future conflict will be in and around shores where our naval forces are uniquely capable of responding. The realities of reduced defense spending and increased competition for limited defense dollars will also create additional challenges.


As the nation meets current and future challenges, it will rely heavily on the Marine Corps to be ready, relevant, and capable. While there will be consistency in missions, the Corps must be willing to experiment, take risk, and implement change to overcome those challenges. Marines must also continue to be good stewards of the nation’s resources.


The Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard recently acknowledged six strategic obligations. These imperatives, expressed in A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, define responsibilities which U.S. maritime Services will contribute to in the future. These strategic obligations are:

1.       Win our Nation’s wars.

2.       Limit regional conflict with forward deployed, decisive maritime power.

3.       Contribute to homeland defense in depth.

4.       Deter major power war.

5.       Prevent or contain local disruptions before they impact the global system.

6.       Foster and sustain cooperative relationships with more international partners.

The presence and operational tractability of naval expeditionary forces are vital to meeting these imperatives.


The Marine Corps recently piloted a broad strategic assessment in order to better understand the security context of 2025. This assessment was supported by numerous studies; such as the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review, National Intelligence Council assessments, the United States Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) Joint Operational Environment, and the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity mid-and long-range threat estimates. This assessment serves as a baseline for the Marine Corps tactical planning, hardened by its understanding of history, in the future.



The Marine Corps is aiming to develop a plan that will provide a persistently engaged, contingency-capable MAGTF within five prioritized regions:

a)      East and Southeast Asia Littorals (US Pacific Command).

b)      Latin American and the Caribbean Basin (US Southern Command).

c)       Red Sea, Arabian Gulf and Arabian Sea Littorals (US Central Command [USCENTCOM]).

d)      Mediterranean Sea/North Africa Littorals (US European Command and USAFRICOM).

e)      East and West Africa Littorals (USCENTCOM, US Africa Command [USAFRICOM]).


Marines will be steadily deployed in the coastal areas of the above regions. These routine deployments includes Marine expeditionary units (MEUs) being sent to traditional Pacific, Arabian, Indian, and Mediterranean waters in the role of “first responders.” The deployment of special purpose MAGTFs (SPMAGTFs) will be employed in missions such as advising, stability, training, humanitarian support, and other security cooperation missions. This also requires and advisory group within each Marine expeditionary force (MEF). The Marine Corps continues to look for opportunities in which can increase the number of Marines assigned to government and military aid groups. At the end of these tours, the Corps will assign these to follow focused operating, advisory, and security forces.


Without losing some of its capabilities, the Marine Corps conducts operations against hybrid threats in complex surroundings e.g. urban coasts, mountains, and jungles. It is imperative that Marines successfully identify, engage and operate against ever-changing adversaries whom will use uncommon methods with modern capabilities and advanced cyber technology. Large intelligence skills support all aspects of command awareness and decision-making. Advancements in communications aid in extending the Marine’s operational reach and enhance their force protection. The Corps method to organization and problem solving, their maneuver warfare philosophy, along with their combined arms skills, continues to serve Marines effectively within chaotic environments and situations.


The Marine Corps shares, with the Navy, a unique history and a common outlook on the vital necessity of maintaining the ability to operate freely within the coasts. This guarantees the Marine Corps’ ability to sustain access to foreign markets, deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, conduct security cooperation, and forcible entry operations from the sea by maritime expeditionary force tasks. This capability requires consistent preservation of relationships and skills that are developed through multiple years of service.


The Marines aid in considerably deterring and aggressively defending against water-based threats. The Corps work with the U.S. Navy in order to board SPMAGTFs to Navy commands –when necessary. The Corps’ operational focus include: manning boarding groups in support of MIOs, providing security on land, supporting non-combatant evacuation missions, and conducting security cooperation activities. The Corps is committed to maintaining the capacity of modern amphibious tactics in order to support the U.S.’s ability to carry out enforced entry missions from the sea. MAGTFs are decisive throughout the series of military operations with their capacity designed to conform to combatant commanders’ requirements.


The U.S.’s water-based lift requirement has two primary drivers. The first is the capacity to support joint forcible entry missions. This is an MEF-level requirement, is classified as the overall shipping needed to lift an MEF element and the attack level of two Marine military brigade (MEB) equivalents, strengthened by a third MEB equivalent through the use of the maritime prepositioning force (MPF[F]). The skill of being able to overcome challenges in order to access and expel power ashore is a foundation of our combat integrity and conventional constraint. The second driver is the combatant commanders’ need for security presence, cooperation, and crisis response forces. Since the beginning of the post-Cold War period, the number of these and other amphibious missions has doubled due to increased requirements for crisis responses and malleable, persistent presence options for security initiatives. Due to a need to balance an aggressive entry ability and more amphibious persistent presence, the minimum force of operationally available ships must be constantly evaluated. This test will be directed in combination with the Navy. The Marine Corps evaluates the number and arrangement of ships that are required to sustain more effective amphibious MEF-level warfighting capabilities.


The Corps’ MPF (F) program, ships, and other amphibious initiatives expand joint operational capabilities and offer great elasticity to joint force commanders. Sea basing achieves a robust capability that supports joint operations on land in a period of time rife with anti-access and area denial constraints. The skill to project power from self-governing bases and lessen the imprint of joint forces on land provides many advantages. The ability to carry out at-sea transfer of materials, for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore means, is a significant enabler for deploying, employing, and sustaining joint forces from the sea.


The Marine Corps improve its ability to cross large stretches of ocean whilst remaining stubbornly offshore at the area and time of their choosing. Joint force commanders depend on the sea as both space to maneuver as a protected base of operations in order to overcome anti-access capabilities. The Corps’ method to either challenge is called ‘sea basing’. Sea basing offers a preliminary port and airfield in the area of operations that reduces reliance on expelling influence and power on land in both a discrete or overt manner. This is conducted in support of security cooperation activities, humanitarian assistance, adversary deterrence, or while executing major combat operations.


The ever-changing characteristics of the battlespace are the jump from being a mainly military emphasis to one that accomplishes a higher degree of operational integration of national power tools. Therefore, the Corps spreads out its combined arms approach as well as adding a “combined actions” angle. The Corps aim to better assimilate interagency abilities into its training, campaign planning, education, and operations while also improving its own skills to lead joint task forces. The Marine Corps offer educational and training venues to joint, interagency, and international personnel. This will aid in building relationships needed when the United States calls on the Marines to lead or empower a joint, international, or interagency efforts.


The Marine Corps monitor policies and mission practices in order to better develop and access the knowledge, skill, and capability of Marines in the Reserve Component. This approach offers the most operative warfighting solution for the Marine Corps’ total force manpower requirements. The Marine Corps optimizes the use of its Reserve component as an operational as well as a strategic provider.


Looking to the future, in order to stay as the Nation’s force in readiness, the Marine Corps must constantly innovate. This entails that the Marine Corps look across the entire institution and recognize aspects which need improvement.