When the Commandant of the Marine Corps issued the capstone concept Operational Maneuver From the Sea, he did so with the express purpose of beginning the process of proposal, debate, and experimentation that is the basis for innovation. I applaud Vice Admiral Cebrowski and John Gartska's powerful Proceedings article on Network Centric Warfare [January 1998, pages 28-35] and their entry into the debate on the best way for naval forces to meet the needs of the next century.
I see a great deal of mutual agreement between the concept of operational maneuver and this latest effort to capture the opportunities presented by the explosion of information technologies. Operational Maneuver From the Sea (OMFTS) and Network Centric Warfare (NCW) support a common vision of decisive operations in the chaotic littoral environment. In particular, NCW evidences a keen grasp of the key elements of maneuver warfare and the application of combat power to achieve rapid and decisive results, as opposed to linear and methodological forms of attrition-based warfare.
Of note, Network Centric Warfare stresses rapid decision making, decentralized command, and self-synchronization rather than directive control. These command-and-control elements combine to create speed of command to generate overwhelming tempo and shock against our opponent—a key principle of operational maneuver. Another critical juncture is contained in what the authors call "locking out" an opponents' plans. Operational Maneuver From the Sea calls for a command-and-control system oriented toward rapid decision making at all levels of command, so that "Vulnerabilities can be exploited before they are reduced, opportunities seized before they vanish, and traps sprung before they are discovered."
This interpretation assumes that speed of command is more than speed of attrition and that the concept incorporates more than sensor-shooter networks. A close reading of Operational Maneuver From the Sea notes that the command-and-control system best suited to the execution of sea-based operations will be very different from that used to execute the last generation of amphibious warfare. OMFTS is predicated upon the ability of combatant units to be better informed than ever before; to achieve this, we intend to move from nets to networks. We intend to evolve from our present situation where only a few headquarters have an overview of the battle space to one where every decision maker has access to the information required. Making the new technology support our requirements also will require fundamentally new skills and attitudes for those employing command-and-control systems. We have initiated changes to achieve this in our new Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 6, Command and Control, and throughout the Marine Corps University.
While acknowledging that fog and friction always will be present, the requirement to create a common operational picture is part of operational maneuver. The ability to see the battle space in all its dimensions remains a key component of our future command-and-control requirements. (See General C. C. Krulak, U.S. Marine Corps, "Operational Maneuver From the Sea," Proceedings, January 1997, pages 26-31.)
Amphibious warfare in the past relied on stove-piped functional nets; today, we must connect widely separated units to let them in on the strategic and operational-level picture-while drawing details from them to fill in the tactical picture. This will facilitate command and coordination throughout the battle space and permit decision making at the lowest levels possible, "from the bottom up," as Vice Admiral Cebrowski has stressed.
Such an approach does not contradict our fundamental philosophy about the primacy of the human dimension in combat. Operational Maneuver From the Sea seeks speed of command; we believe that achieving this capability is more a function of education and doctrine than hardware. I see no fundamental disagreement in Network Centric Warfare with this aspect of Marine Corps doctrine. The authors stress the need for investment in intellectual capital as well as new information systems. Operational maneuver doctrine stresses the need for highly trained individual and cohesive teams capable of operating in fluid and ambiguous environments. Such individuals must be capable of confidently employing new technologies while decisively conducting military operations despite the risk and uncertainty that is inherent in tomorrow's "three-block war," as described by General Krulak. The most important software in the network remains the gray matter in the mind of the individual Marine.
In short, a networked-based command-and-control system and complementary doctrine are core enabling capabilities underwriting Operational Maneuver From the Sea. For planning, combat service support, fire support, and maneuver at operational depths throughout the theater, a robust network is needed. At the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, the doctrine and requirements for this network-based system are in place. The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab has an experimentation program that is exploiting opportunities to mesh emerging technologies with innovative organizations, new operating procedures, and radically different training techniques. We welcome the introduction of concepts like Network Centric Warfare as a step forward in bringing to fruition the strategic vision first articulated in From the Sea and Forward . . . From the Sea.
Lieutenant General Rhodes commands the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia.