Brilliance in the Basicsvising the delivery of combined arms has long been the stock-in-trade of Marine officers. To overcome the emerging dependence on tactical unmanned aerial systems (UASs) payload technology, greater emphasis ought to be placed on the fundamentals of manned and unmanned aviation integrations. Officers assigned to unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons (VMUs) will be more valuable to the Marine Corps if their units’ capabilities are combined with a broader understanding of combined-arms tactics, techniques, and procedures.
The use of UASs can be enhanced through “brilliance in the basics”—the pillars of which include sound military judgment, experience in combined-arms coordination, and the ability to advise commanders of the practical rules of engagement that have been crafted for an increasingly automated battlefield. To practice these elements, the Marine Corps must make a greater investment in human capital, as this will ultimately reduce software and weight signatures in Marine Corps UASs as well as their associated payloads.
However, there are challenges to becoming brilliant in the basics, including the temptation to supplant military judgment with automation, addiction to target mensuration, and the potential for technology-driven rules of engagement to constrain combined arms delivery.
Developing Sound Judgment
Lieutenant (junior grade) Matthew R. Hipple advocated technology capable of decision making in a July 2012 article in Proceedings, “Cloud Combat: Thinking Machines in Future Wars.” In the article, he points out the advantages of improving technology but expresses apprehension toward its increasing space, weight, and cost. “Humans will always be needed in the loop, especially on the ground when dealing with populations,” he said.1 However, this caveat does not go far enough. In the profession of arms, risk acceptance or avoidance is the business of commanders on the ground—not an algorithm.
Unmanned systems, specifically UASs, augment individual commanders’ appreciation of the battlefield. Experienced Marine UAS mission commanders represent investment in human capital, which is essential for realizing the brilliance in the basics model. Marine mission commanders include winged naval aviators, naval flight officers, and aviation command-and-control officers. These officers are assumed to be experts in their fields due to their training; extensive planning, command, and combat experience; and knowledge of combined arms warfare. Technologies that attempt to make military decisions are misplaced and undermine skills that should be resident in the mission commander by trade.
Marines who have completed company/detachment command, Career Level School, and have extensive combat experience are uniquely qualified to serve in VMUs. Marine ALMAR 305/12 Announcement of New PMOS [Primary Military Occupational Specialty] 7315 Unmanned Aerial System Officer and CY-12 Selection Board describes a Corps manpower initiative that outlines how mission commanders will be selected. Those Marines who desire to transition into PMOS 7315 represent the investment in human capital, versus technology, that should be considered to achieve the brilliance in the basics model. Marines who have served in VMUs prior to the new PMOS will provide the continuity necessary for future generations of mission commanders.
Slow is Smooth, Smooth is Fast
Payload technology has facilitated increased lethality, accuracy, and precision of fires due to extraordinary breakthroughs in target mensuration. However, the amount of time to coordinate combined arms has increased rather than decreased. This is counter-intuitive. To be relevant on a battlefield that features peer or near-peer threats, Marine UAS payload technologies should focus on capabilities that lighten air-vehicle gross weight while increasing standoff, stealth, and speed instead of increased accuracy, precision, and mensuration. Since Marine tactical UASs are extremely constrained by weight, programmatic trade-off between technology and brilliance in the basics has become increasingly lucrative.
Tactical payloads should be light enough to enable air vehicles to loiter for extended periods of time while maintaining sufficient stand-off through stealth. Stand-off distance at sea may need to be well over the horizon from shore to support amphibious operations.2 Freeing processing power and weight are practical solutions, and allow crews to provide additional Marine aviation functions beyond air reconnaissance. It may also enable Marine UASs to perform offensive air support, electronic warfare, and armed reconnaissance. This is in concert with then-Admiral John C. Harvey Jr.’s July 2012 article in Proceedings, “Keeping Our Amphibious Edge.”3 Marines with experience in combined-arms integration can save money, weight, and memory space consumed by hardware and software in tactical Marine UAS payloads.
Mission commanders should participate in combined-arms rehearsals with their ground brethren to enhance situational awareness. Some of the premier training venues for Marines to become experts in the fundamentals of manned and unmanned aviation integration include Mojave Viper in Twenty-Nine Palms, California, and the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course in Yuma, Arizona. There, military commanders can “unplug” from computer-generated overlays and Internet Relay Chat while plugging into tactical radio communications and the tactical situation on the ground.
Rather than wait for payloads or command-and-control systems to display latent ground schemes of maneuver, DOD-approved datalinks like Tactical Digital Information Link 16 can provide real-time situational awareness. Real-time control of tactical UAS doesn’t require excessive command-and-control layers—only initiative and existing programs of record. Failure to grasp these fundamentals poses challenges for tomorrow’s increasingly automated battlefield.
Technology and ROE
Payload technology has become a driving force behind crafting rules of engagement (ROE). While one could argue that politics over technology has resulted in more restrictive rules of engagement, experience has proven otherwise.
Interdictions should be determined by a commander’s prerogative, hostile intent and acts, mission commander experience, and sound military judgment. Technology impedes this cycle over and over by saturating decision makers with distracting information. Discriminating between such minutiae as to what kind of weapon a threat is carrying results in lost opportunities—or worse.
Hypothetically speaking, just because a payload can discriminate between foreign assault rifles doesn’t mean the rules of engagement should require assault-rifle identification in the escalation of force. Unfortunately our enemy understands this all too well. Technology should inform, rather than dictate, rules of engagement.
As the desire for bigger and more capable UAS payloads increases, one must remember that experience combined with sound military judgment and discretion are more advantageous to trained Marines than the hyped technology of the day. Marine UAS payload technologies should enhance military judgment—not attempt to replace it.
2. JP 3-02, www.dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jp1_02.pdf.
3. ADM John C. Harvey Jr., COL P. J. Ridderhof, “Keeping our Amphibious Edge,” U.S. Naval Institute, Proceedings, July 2012, 36–40.
Beyond The Public Affairs Schoolhouse
As public affairs professionals who counsel senior leaders across the services, it is more important than ever for us to be students of the information and political-military environments—as well as to understand the latest developments in communication forums and techniques. Relevancy is key to earning the confidence of the leaders we serve and the staffs with whom we collaborate.
Keeping up with external media reporting on national-security issues is a skill learned early by all public affairs officers (PAOs) when they attend the Defense Information School (DINFOS). But more graduate-level learning opportunities for enhancing our dialogue with senior leadership are readily available beyond the schoolhouse. PAOs at every level can easily jump-start their education by monitoring press conferences, congressional hearings, talk shows, and news editorials.
Although DINFOS-trained communicators learn how to conduct a press conference, it is important for them to continue to study how high-ranking officials address the media on important issues affecting our military.
For example, the problem of sexual misconduct in the armed forces is arguably one of the most critical challenges facing the Department of Defense. As military leaders have stated, this issue threatens to undermine our institutional credibility and break faith with the people we serve. Our Commander-in-Chief and the leaders of each of the services have conducted press conferences and answered difficult questions on the subject from the most intelligent and seasoned media professionals in the country.
Watch these events, read the transcripts, and put yourself in the shoes of these senior leaders’ PAOs. When communicating on a subject of national significance—in particular, one that emanates from the troop level—effective communicators will follow the discussion closely and observe critical tipping points, which could be instructive when providing advice and counsel to a senior leader at any level.
While preparing counsel and advice, ask yourself the following questions:
• How are questions from seasoned reporters phrased? How does this reflect their understanding of the issue?
• Does the senior leader seem prepared for the questions?
• How did the senior leader react to a question he or she did not anticipate?
• Overall, how did the senior leader perform? How could he or she have done better? Would you have the courage to look the leader in the eye and give candid advice and counsel if the performance was less than successful?
• What are the strategic messages conveyed by senior leaders that have tactical relevance?
To put it simply, national-level press conferences are important. They keep you well-versed on strategic issues and can be instructive on further developing the mechanics of good communication in a challenging environment. In the final analysis, communicators who have the responsibility of providing advice and counsel to senior leaders should possess a nuanced understanding of these same critical issues.
It has never been more important for military professionals to understand the role Congress plays in providing oversight and resources to America’s military—and to help the legislature’s largely civilian membership understand more fully the military’s mission. According to a 29 May report from the Congressional Research Service, the number of veterans in the current 113th Congress reflects the trend of steady decline in total members who have served in the military. For example, while 73 percent of the 92nd Congress (1971-1972) and 64 percent of the 97th Congress (1981-1982) were veterans, only 20 percent of current membership have served in the military. PAOs must stay current on legislative issues that affect the military and think of creative opportunities for sharing our stories of service.
Here are some basic questions to consider:
• Who are the chairmen of and committee members on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees? What are their interests?
• Have you watched recent hearings in which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or commanders of the Unified Combatant Commands testified before these committees? Have you reviewed the transcripts?
• How might you work within your staff to prepare a senior leader for a visit from congressional leaders and/or their staffs to your installation? Understanding divergent congressional perspectives, what would be your messages?
• What are the questions being asked of our military leadership by seasoned members of Congress?
• How did our leaders perform when answering tough questions from Congress? Were they well-prepared? How did the senior leaders communicate? Were they believable and credible?
• What advice and counsel would you provide to the chairman regarding his testimony if you were his public affairs adviser?
It is always important to watch how senior leadership communicates with the legislative branch of our government. Such testimonies offer a current strategic picture of our military. It is also a great forum for observing the dynamics of effective and non-effective communication—and for internalizing these leaders’ unique voices. By widening the aperture on other sources of national strategic guidance and insight, PAOs can deliver better advice and counsel to their own operational commanders.
Sunday News Programming
News programs like 60 Minutes and talk shows such as Face the Nation, Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, and This Week often focus on seminal issues facing our military and our nation. PAOs should follow the national debate, especially when it is inextricably linked to every organization in the DOD. The current issue of sequestration and its associated costs, such as civilian furloughs, directly impacts the military and could compromise training and readiness across the full range of operations. Consequently, communication professionals must know the key talking points among senior DOD military and civilian leaders, members of Congress, and seasoned members of the media who write about military and national-security affairs for influential newspapers and magazines. These debates influence public opinion, so communicators must keep current on how the dialogue is being perceived by critical audiences.
Editorials in major newspapers discuss current issues affecting national and global audiences. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, L.A. Times, and others offer perspectives that play predominantly in the minds of our national leaders. In fact, what’s written in these major papers often influences national and international headlines, and will shape the continuous cable news cycle.
The conversation often starts like this: “It was reported in The New York Times this week. . .” Editorial pages often define the context in which Sunday talk shows introduce discussion, or feature interviews with influential leaders. Therefore, PAOs should track the editorial pages of major newspapers and periodicals with regularity. Simply go online, read, and enhance your ability to provide context to your boss and the public on core issues.
I encourage you to monitor these educational forums, which have the potential to provide relevant and current information and instruction that benefits every echelon of command. Doing so will significantly enhance your discussions among the staff and with the senior leaders you serve.
Expand Legal Education at Commissioning Sources
By Major Kyle Phillips, U.S. Marine Corps, and Lieutenant Randall Leonard, Judge Advocate General’s Corps, U.S. Navy
An ensign or second lieutenant, as duty officer, overhears a rowdy barracks room and catches a whiff of marijuana as he approaches. Because a duty officer must act to preserve good order and discipline, he enters the room and questions the perpetrators, examines wall lockers and seizes baggies of suspected drugs, and reports the event to his executive officer. Then, to his shock, he becomes the target of questions: “Did you read the suspects their Article 31(b) rights? Did you have a search authorization to enter the wall lockers and seize evidence?”
Newly commissioned officers are confronted with leadership challenges almost immediately upon joining the Fleet. The expectation in the Navy and Marine Corps is that commissioned officers are trained to perform countless tasks their units require to function effectively. Many of these tasks, like the one described here, require the application of military law. In fact, the law has so fused with the military’s primary function of warfare that the term “lawfare” has emerged to describe their relationship.
Yet junior officers receive virtually no training in military law. Without it, the Fleet eventually feels the cost: Sailors’ constitutional rights get violated, commands become the subject of scrutiny, and good order and discipline erode. In an operational environment, the consequences can be more serious, even fatal.2 As the hypothetical situation illustrates, training in military law for prospective officers is a valuable objective—and it can be delivered through core curricula at commissioning sources that train future officers appropriately in the application of military law.
For decades, the U.S. Naval Academy has used a core curriculum dedicated to developing leaders of character. The required program includes courses in ethical and moral reasoning, leadership theory, and leadership application. The program concludes with a two-credit course entitled “Law for the Junior Officer,” which covers three fundamental areas of military law: military justice, administrative law, and operational law. Students walk away from the course with core competencies in these areas, such as an understanding of the requirements for a lawful barracks room search, or the threshold of hostility before lethal force is authorized. These skills are taught by a team of experienced judge advocates (JAGs), but are packaged for the undergraduate, pre-commissioned audience.
Though the course is comprehensive, each lesson is discrete and directed toward practical application—which is also to say that the course is mobile. And here lies the remedy to a significant void: The Naval Academy produces only a fraction of commissioned naval officers—fewer than one-fifth of all ensigns and Marine Corps second lieutenants.3 More than twice that come from one of two other sources—Officer Candidate School (OCS) or the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC). Though both sources briefly scratch the surface, neither has a course dedicated to military law. “Law for the Junior Officer,” meanwhile, uses its stable of JAGs to create the curriculum, write and update the course book, and teach seminar classes. A military law course can and should be offered by these commissioning sources. Challenges abound, such as buy-in from the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) and host universities for a NROTC course, and for OCS, the condensed training schedule. But implementation is achievable. The Naval Academy’s “Law for the Junior Officer” can serve as both a model and launching point.
With the challenges in mind, the following proposals offer a sketch for a military law course at these other commissioning sources.
For NROTC Junior Officers
NROTC is best positioned to adopt “Law for the Junior Officer” or a similar course. The NROTC units use a leadership curriculum similar to that of the Naval Academy’s. Their capstone course, “Leadership and Ethics,” includes four class sessions that address certain aspects of military law.4 However, the complexity of the law, even for a junior officer, requires a more in-depth study to truly maximize the administration of military justice, as well as the obligations under international law during armed conflict. Exporting “Law for the Junior Officer” to existing NROTC curriculum would impart the same benefit of the Academy’s legal training, but to roughly twice the newly-commissioned officers.5 Here are three potential courses of action.
The Comprehensive Course
NROTC could offer a two-credit course almost identical to the Naval Academy’s. Naval Academy staff could provide the electronic course book, lecture notes, and even train-the-trainer material. The material already exists; it merely needs exporting. The course could be taught by NROTC instructors or utilize Reserve officers who are Navy and Marine Corps JAGs. The Academy’s full-time professors could provide updates to the material and troubleshoot when necessary.
Delivering the curriculum is the easy part; offering course credit may prove more difficult. The present NROTC academic curriculum is heavily vetted, by both NETC and host universities. Implementing a new course would require a rigorous approval process, one that threatens to stymie enthusiasm at the outset. The remedy is a measured first step, one common to Navy initiatives: a pilot program. It only takes one NROTC commanding officer and a supportive university to get started.
The Online Course
If a comprehensive course initially proves impractical, a second option could employ another growing trend: online distance learning. Presently, the Naval Justice School in Newport, Rhode Island, provides online continuing legal education to JAGs and legal-services specialists. A course modeled after “Law for the Junior Officer” from that database could be available to midshipmen by mere clicks of a mouse.
For some universities, offering credits for such a course may be a non-starter. NROTC COs, however, could require the course as a drill requirement. Credits or none, the course provides a less in-depth yet similar benefit to midshipmen. Additionally, the online option minimizes the burden on NROTC units. Course materials, presentations, and even assessments can be provided online by subject matter experts (perhaps Reserve JAGs). NROTC instructors simply need to require course completion.
The Hybrid Course
A third option incorporates distance learning and NROTC instruction. Like the online version, course materials can be prepared on each of the main topics covered in “Law for the Junior Officer” and uploaded. In the hybrid course, however, the resident NROTC staff serve as on-site liaisons, responsible for facilitating discussion, working through practical exercises, and grading course work. The benefit of the hybrid option is an off-the-shelf product provided to NROTC staff, with the online benefit of minimizing administrative requirements.
For OCS Candidates
OCS, meanwhile, presents different challenges—namely, a packed 13-week training schedule. This is mitigated to some degree by OCS’s proximity to Naval Justice School (both are located at Naval Station Newport), which OCS uses to give candidates a few short briefs on aspects of military law. However, the portability of legal concepts and the gravity of their implications justify more.6
Candidates would benefit from a three-part seminar of instruction based on the “Law for the Junior Officer” model, using interactive exercises based on real-life case studies. This seminar, spread throughout the OCS training cycle, would prepare candidates for the turbulent legal waters that lie ahead. While admittedly condensed and arguably superficial, even something this basic would have helped our duty officer maintain good order and discipline while preserving constitutional rights. In short order, it can do the same for OCS candidates.
Executing a military law course in any form poses challenges, but doing so at every major commissioning source is an achievable goal—as long as we recognize it as a valuable one. Indeed, Navy leaders value legal education; the misguided duty officer certainly affects mission accomplishment. “Law for the Junior Officer” seeks to arm commissioning midshipmen with tools to perform two of their most vital functions: aiding their commanders in mission accomplishment and protecting their junior sailors and Marines. Other commissioning sources will similarly benefit from a military law course. Once they do, so will the Fleet.
2. Wuterich: It Wasn’t a Massacre, 60 Minutes, CBS News, 24 August 2008, www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=2582353n; Tony Perry, “Marine Accused in Killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha Makes Plea Deal,” Los Angeles Times, 23 January 2012, http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2012/01/plea-bargain-reached-to-end-marine-trial-in-iraqi-killings.html.
3. 2010 Commission Souce Data, http://prhome.defense.gov/rfm/mpp/ACCESSION%20POLICY/PopRep2010/appendixb/b_30.html.
4. Leadership and Ethics, Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps, Naval Service Training Command, July 2012.
5. 2010 Commission Source Data, supra note 3.
6. Mark Boal, “The Kill Team: How U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Murdered Innocent Civilians,” Rolling Stone, 27 March 2011.
Lieutenant Leonard (JAGC) is an assistant professor assigned to the Naval Academy teaching military law. They have both served in operational law and trial billets.