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By Major Thomas M. Hastings, U.S. Marine Corps
The time has come for the Navy and Marine Corps to shed parochialism and work better together. Expeditionary task forces would integrate amphibious doctrine with the composite warfare concept and yield forward-deployed forces capable of deceptive—here, the 1991 Imminent Thunder exercise in Saudi Arabia—and power-projection operations.
Amphibious flexibility is a maritime
power’s greatest strategic asset. The distraction created by an amphibious force can become a tactical, operational, or strategic combat multiplier
against a continental enemy, without the force ever being employed.1 This same operational distraction became part of Operation Desert Shield/Storm, when a Marine expeditionary force (MEF) embarked in amphibious ships prepared to assault Kuwait, creating a threat that tied down six Iraqi divisions along the coast. In addition, during those eight months two separate special-purpose Marine
air-ground task forces conducted contingency operations in Liberia and Somalia to rescue U.S. and Allied citizens caught in the turmoil of civil war. And finally, a Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) and another Marine expeditionary brigade (MEB) conducted relief operations in northern Iraq and Bangladesh on their return from Desert Shield/Storm.
The most frequent threats to stability have been and will continue to be in the littoral regions of the world, where small, task-organized naval expeditionary forces are best suited for operations. The threat of global war with the Soviet Union has been replaced by the specter of regional instability and threats at the low end of the conflict scale. The military services are hastening to identify the essential force structure required to address the threats of the future, given the inevitable reduction of U.S. military forces. Although Navy and Marine forces will be smaller in the future, naval expeditionary forces, amphibious squadrons and groups, and naval battle groups are here to stay. These forces will deter and stabilize the Potential regional conflicts of the future; they will, however, have to be employed in new and innovative ways.
Naval forces will continue to be forward deployed to Potential trouble spots around the world. Consequently, the Navy and the Marine Corps must integrate amphibious task forces and naval battle groups into capable power- projection forces, operating under one doctrine and concentrating on the most effective means of command and control. As Colonel Wallace C. Gregson, U.S. Marine Corps, has said:
“Command relationship problems and ‘rice bowl’ battles ... as well as the ignorance on each side of the Navy-Marine Corps team, will inhibit, absent a real effort, any critical examination of our two-doctrine dilemma. The World War II ghosts of General Holland M. Smith and Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner are with us yet. We need some brave Sailors and Marines who are not afraid of new ideas to help us move beyond our mutual suspicion.”2
Incorporating Composite Warfare Doctrine
The most controversial issue surrounding the subject of command relationships for expeditionary forces is that of incorporating amphibious doctrine into the composite Warfare commander (CWC) concept.
“CWC allows the officer in tactical command (OTC) to aggressively wage combat operations against air, surface, and subsurface threats while carrying out the primary mission of his force. CWC is capable of flexible implementation and application to any naval task force or task group operating at sea. . . . Control by negation may be exercised by a subordinate commander while operating under the CWC concept. Control by negation is a command-and-control philosophy in which the subordinate commander has freedom of action to direct and execute those operations necessary to accomplish assigned and implied missions, unless specific actions and operations are overridden by a superior commander.”3
Changes to current doctrinal publications will align this doctrine to emerging capabilities and tactical innovations. Within CWC doctrine, “incorporation of the space and electronic warfare commander and more clearly defined command relationships between the CWC and the commander of the amphibious task force (CATF) will reflect recent developments in command and control.4 A Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) was employed within a CWC organization during Operation Earnest Will, when Marines were used to enhance a Joint Task Force (JTF) in both traditional and nontraditional roles. The future integration of expeditionary forces—of any size—will be reinforced by the unity of command and effort that the CWC concept affords.
Composite Warfare Commander Initiatives
The Navy’s Second and Third Fleets have tested the concept of incorporating CWC into amphibious task force operations. The Pacific and Atlantic Fleets need to realize that this integration must occur and that they must standardize the procedures throughout the naval services. The Third Fleet’s 1988 tactical memo (TacMemo) Composite Warfare Procedures for Amphibious Operations has been updated by a 1991 version.
The Third Fleet’s TacMemos center on the necessity of incorporating CWC into MAGTF employment and the benefits of unity of command that an officer in tactical command/composite warfare commander concept can provide. If the CWC designates a subordinate amphibious warfare commander (AWC), the commander of the landing force (CLF) may appoint an appropriate subordinate commander (landing-group commander) to plan landing operations with the AWC. In a MEU or special-purpose MAGTF organization, the commander may coordinate with both the AWC and OTC/CWC, rather than appoint a landing-group commander, as his force and staff are small. He may desire to retain centralized control over the Marine air-ground task force.
Second Fleet exercises and tactical memos have placed the amphibious task force commander as the officer in tactical command and composite warfare commander and provided him the assets required to accomplish the landing-force mission. This organization is more applicable to amphibious group/Marine expeditionary brigade-level operations. The concept is feasible, and it ensures unity of command and doctrine. Whichever concept is adopted, it must provide the commander with the forces and supporting ships required to accomplish the mission.
Unfortunately, all the answers to these integration difficulties will not be found in the Second and Third Fleet’s tactical memos. Specific areas of concern still requiring study include “procedures for executing command and control of forces operating in the Amphibious Operating Area (AOA) and the effectiveness of CWC organization in an amphibious operation.”5 These concerns seem to be at the heart of the problem; therefore, the procedures
still must be codified. Despite pending improvements in the joint doctrine for amphibious operations, the Navy is behind in deciding how to make CWC and amphibious operations work, especially with forward-deployed carrier battle groups.
Expeditionary Task Forces
From 1946 to 1989, 187 crises required U.S. responses, 90% of which occurred in Third World countries. Carrier battle groups responded 121 times, and Marine forces responded 97 times.6 According to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Carl Mundy, Jr.:
“We need naval forces that are ‘out front’ influencing, deterring, and resolving minor crises. If they heat up, those same forces can then support and enable our joint contingency forces to deploy, and can play a substantive part in the fight, as well.”7
Operational commanders depend on naval expeditionary forces for crisis response. Expeditionary task forces maximize the advantages of naval power projection forces. As envisioned, ETFs would merge amphibious forces with a carrier battle group and work up, deploy, and operate together as a forward-deployed naval expeditionary force. Although the carrier battle group is the most likely force to join with amphibious forces, ETFs are not limited to that configuration alone. An ETF could also combine a surface-action group with an amphibious task force, to
provide forward presence or power projection. In the past, similar task forces have operated together for training exercises or contingencies but never for an entire deployment, commanded by one admiral.
Within the ETF, traditional command relationships could remain the same, with the battle-group commander becoming the ETF commander. Relationships between amphibious task force and landing force commanders could also remain as normally experienced within an amphibious task force.8 Such a command relationship implies the incorporation of amphibious forces into the CWC orga- ;
nization; it fails, however, to address in , detail the relationship between the CATF and CLF.
The CATF and MAGTF commander (MAGTFC) should be designated as separate and equal functional warfare commanders, subordinate to the officer in tactical command/composite warfare commander.9
“The MAGTFC, as a warfare commander and a direct subordinate of the CWC, will be able to advise the CWC on the optimum employment , of MAGTF resources. It is possible that in an operation at the brigade level the CWC could chop Navy forces to the MAGTFC . . . most likely in situations in which the MAGTFC has units operating from shore bases, has Marine air com- mand-and-control system established ashore, is conducting a maritime prepositioning operation, or when the MAGTFC clearly has the prepon- j derance of combat power.”10
This is the best way to integrate MAGTFs into the CWC organization within an ETF. Unity of command is maintained, resources are allocated efficiently, forces fight as they are trained, and service parochialism is minimized.
During an amphibious assault, the amphibious warfare commander may be in command, with Marine air-ground task force commander “chopped” to him. Maneuver war- j fare may call for the AWC to retain command of the assault longer than envisioned under traditional amphibious doctrine; once command passes to the MAGTFC, however, the AWC may be subordinate to him. Navy assets under the MAGTFC’s operational or tactical control would likely conduct antiair warfare, special warfare, or other warfare tasks in support of operations ashore.11
Expeditionary Task Force Concept Analysis
Because of the uncertain threat of the future and the reality of declining resources for the naval services, the ETF concept should be adopted and executed now. This command-and-control relationship will not strip away the
authority of the CATF/AWC. In fact, it will require the AWC to play a more extensive role in future amphibious operations.
The opponents of integrating naval warfare doctrine within an ETF argue that this command relationship will undercut the traditional CATF/CLF relationship. They suggest that the Navy will hesitate to adopt this radical change and that the battle-group staff and commander may •ack the requisite amphibious warfare experience to command an ETF.12
Additional arguments against the integration of amphibious forces and naval battle groups include:
^ The positioning of the carrier and the location of the ETF commander during operations ^ The difficulties associated with collocating the MAGTF and ETF commander
^ The problems associated with many warfare commanders of the ETF, of roughly equivalent rank, competing for the limited resources needed to accomplish their respective missions
Nevertheless, integrating the amphibious task force into the CWC concept still is essential; not one of these problems is insurmountable. Desert Storm proved that surface- action groups and carrier battle groups could operate in restricted waters when unopposed. Why can’t they do the same in the future, as ETFs? As long as U.S. forces maintain maritime and air superiority, and the enemy threat is minimal, aircraft carriers will be able to operate closer to land than previously envisioned against the former Soviet threat.
Expeditionary task force commanders will not refuse to include MAGTFs in their task forces, when so ordered. Through an effective exchange of liaison officers and innovative staff-training exercises, the ETFs can solve the Problems of command and control and staff inexperience. As a follow-on step, the ETF staffs could be restructured to include all of the amphibious warfare experts they would require.
Have today’s advanced communications capabilities rendered collocation of CATF and CLF unnecessary? Perhaps ETF commanders can command the landing of amphibious forces adequately from the flagship. If commanders must move temporarily to ships where they can command landing-force operations most effectively, they Will move to the platform best suited to their command- mid-control needs. This will mitigate collocation difficulties for the ETF and MAGTF commanders. Unfortunately, discussions of command and control cannot disregard the effects that personalities have on morale and cooperation in military organizations. In order to offset the critics of this arrangement, professional resolve and a cooperative spirit will be essential.
Today, the naval services are testing” new, experimental force packages, as they struggle with a declining budget, fewer people, and fewer ships, while trying to provide still-formidable forward-deployed forces. The aUgmentation of Marine detachments on board carriers is a major consideration that may offer a potential special- Purpose MAGTF capability to forward-deployed battle groups. Marine expeditionary units soon will deploy to the Persian Gulf with two amphibious ships and one “black-bottom” maritime-prepositioning ship. A third MAGTF (deployed in three ships) is currently deployed in the Persian Gulf, conducting forward-presence operations. These once-revolutionary concepts may soon be implemented. It is time to disregard our biases, realize that we are in a period of change, and ensure that we employ the most effective means of command and control currently available.
Composite Warfare Commander During Earnest Will
In 1987 and 1988, the National Command Authority (NCA) committed contingency MAGTFs (CMAGTF) to Operation Earnest Will in the Persian Gulf. These contingency task forces were organized to perform a broad range of missions, but they were neither large enough nor intended to conduct traditional amphibious assaults against stiff opposition. They had been designed to carry out small raids, ship assaults, ship reinforcements, mobile sea-base security, and other contingency missions. Rear Admiral Tony Less, commander of Joint Task Force Middle East (JTFME) stated that “Possibly the most important com- mand-and-control lesson from the JTFME experience is the compatibility of the U.S. Navy CWC doctrine and JTF organization.”13 Colonel William R. Rakow, U.S. Marine Corps, commanded CMAGTF 2-88. In March 1988, he received warfare commander status within the naval component’s CWC organization.
“Operational tasking came through ‘OPTASK’ messages issued by warfare commanders . . . often, a single ship with dual capabilities (e.g., antiair and antisurface warfare) will work simultaneously for two commanders, and its captain may be placed in a dilemma. Teamwork and cooperation among the warfare commanders kept such situations to a minimum, and good communications with the officer in tactical command allowed us to ‘raise the flag’ when necessary.”14
This organization came into play during Operation Praying Mantis on 18 April 1988, when the CMAGTF was ordered to attack and neutralize an Iranian-held gas/oil separation platform as part of a temporarily formed surface action group. The operation was successful and validated the incorporation of the CMAGTF into the CWC organization. “The key to success was the JTF/CWC com- mand-and-control structure, which effectively integrated unique assets from all the armed services, while preserving unity of command.”15
The success of this concept in the Persian Gulf, along with fleet initiatives, encouraged farsighted officers to stretch conventional thought by suggesting the incorporation of composite-warfare-commander doctrine into all MAGTF/battle-group operations. Indeed, now is the time to stop thinking about the concept, and resolve to incorporate composite-warfare and amphibious doctrine into naval doctrine, for the benefit of the expeditionary forces of tomorrow.
The naval services must incorporate amphibious doctrine and the CWC concept into one warfighting doctrine— immediately. The joint doctrine for amphibious operations will address the incorporation of amphibious doctrine into the CWC concept, but this alone will not ensure that the fleets and amphibious groups will support the change. This integration is not limited to small expeditionary task forces. It will apply to all naval forces, including the largest imaginable amphibious task force and carrier battle force mix. The Navy and Marine Corps must embrace the concept at the service level, incorporate it into operational handbooks and manuals, and begin to teach it throughout their educational establishment.
Battle groups and amphibious forces formed under a single commander should be deployed as soon as possible. Expeditionary task forces are the answer to the problem of downsized naval services. They integrate reduced assets and incorporate them into a streamlined presence- and-power-projection package. The incorporation of ETFs into the Navy’s forward-deployment schedules will force the necessary decisions on appropriate command and control. The ETF concept is the catalyst for solving the two- doctrine dilemma.
Inherent in the requirement to deploy ETFs is the requirement for workup schedules and ETF predeployment training, which should begin at least 90 to 120 days before deployment. We must train as we plan to operate, and this will require integrated scheduling and training. Once adopted, however, this concept will not prevent the immediate response of a task-organized expeditionary force or a diverted force from joining while underway, then planning and executing a contingency mission. In fact, giving this concept institutional standing will enhance our rapid-response capabilities.
To ensure that ETF staffs have the requisite amphibious warfare expertise, Navy and Marine officers from the amphibious squadron/Marine expeditionary unit staffs should be assigned to the ETF commander at D-90 days (D-day is deployment day). Logically, this requirement could lead to permanent amphibious-warfare positions on ETF staffs.
Initiating directives to ETF commanders that require landing-force operations must address clearly the importance of landing-force mission accomplishment. The biggest challenges for ETF commanders will be sea control, landing-force employment, and strike operations.
Perhaps the most crucial requirement for solving the two-doctrine problem and incorporating ETFs into fleet operations involves changes in naval education. The Navy must recognize the value of forward-deployed integrated expeditionary forces, oriented toward the lower range of possible conflict. Navy and Marine Corps schools, understanding the evolutionary nature of the CWC concept, should include integrated battle group, composite warfare, and amphibious doctrine into their curricula and war games.
Finally, joint professional military education is not structured to solve this issue. This is a service problem that re
quires a solution at the service, fleet, and Fleet Marine Force levels. Joint commanders expect naval forces to be flexible and efficient—able to accomplish assigned missions. The naval services must put parochialism aside and provide the nation the most capability for the lowest cost. Integrated Navy and Marine Corps forces, deployed under one commander—and operating under one doctrine—are the force of choice for the future.
Cooperation and implementation, devoid of rice-bowl , politics, will be required to ensure the integration of amphibious doctrine and the CWC concept. Compromise is essential, as doctrinal purists in both the Navy and Marine Corps will never be satisfied. Adopting this concept will satisfy unity-of-command conflicts and take great advantage of economies of scale, in an era of declining resources. Expeditionary task forces address the economy- of-force and unity-of-command considerations required when determining the best force to offer an operational commander—who faces the less-formidable threat—capabilities and intentions are unknown.
The time has come for the naval services to stop listening, and begin implementing. Colonel Gregson’s brave , sailors and Marines need to take up the challenge and finalize the incorporation of these evolutionary ideas into Navy and Marine Corps doctrine of the future.
'Capt. B. H. Liddell Hart, RN, “The Value of Amphibious Flexibility and Forces,” Journal of the Royal United Services Institution, November 1960, p.492.
2Col. Wallace C. Gregson, USMC, “Keeping Up With Navy Doctrine”, Marine Corps Gazette, December 1990, p. 14.
3U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Doctrine for Amphibious Operations Draft (U), j JCS Pub. 3-02 (Appendix A) (Washington, D.C.: April 1991), p. A-l.
4Chief of Naval Operations, Joint Operations and Doctrine Branch (0P-607). Joint Operations and Doctrine News, (Washington, D.C.: Summer 1991), p. 2.
5U.S. Navy, Commander Third Fleet, TacMemo PZ1010-1-91, Composite Warfare Procedures for Amphibious Operations, (Pearl Harbor, HI: 1991), p. 39.
6Center for Naval Analyses, U.S. Navy Crisis Response Activity 1946-1989: Pre- • liminary Report (Washington, D.C.: 1989), pp. 4-8.
7Gen. Carl E. Mundy, Jr., USMC, “Naval Expeditionary Forces and Power Projection: Into the 21st Century,” Marine Corps Gazette, January 1992, p. 17.
"LtCol. John Thomell, USMC, “The Expeditionary Task Force,” Amphibious War- fare Review, Summer 1990, p. 50.
9Col. William M. Rakow, “MAGTF Operations with the Fleet in the Year 2000,” I Marine Corps Gazette, July 1990, p. 18.
'°lbid., p. 19.
"LCdr. Terry C. Pierce, USN, “MAGTF Warlords: A Naval Perspective,” Marine Corps Gazette, July 1991, p. 40.
,2Capt. Ernest H. Joy II, USN, “Integration of the Amphibious Task Force with , the Carrier Battle Group,” Unpublished Student Research Paper, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI, 1990.
l3RAdm. Tony Less, USN, “JTFME: CWC Doctrine at Work,” Joint Doctrine De' velopment and Review Newsletter (CNO OP-607), Winter 1990, p. 2. l4Col. William M. Rakow, “Marines in the Gulf—1988,” Marine Corps Gazette, December 1988, p. 64.
‘’Less, op. cit., p. 3.
Major Hastings is currently a member of the faculty at the Amphibious Warfare School in Quantico, Virginia. He graduated in 1992 from the College of Naval Command and Staff in Newport, Rhode Island. From January 1989 to July 1991, he was assigned to the office of the Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism, U.S. Department of State. An infantry officer, Major Hastings was the assault element commander for the raid against the Sassan oil platform during Operation Praying Mantis in April 1988. He has served in various assignments in Hawaii and Camp Leje- > une, North Carolina.