Refining the Future Force

LtGen Glueck Jr. Kenneth CROP

Explaining the USMC’s New Capstone Concept

Lieutenant General Kenneth J. Glueck Jr. is deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration (CD&I) and commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC), headquartered at Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. His responsibilities are extensive, including training from boot camp to war college courses and pre-deployment preparation; analysis of potential future challenges and threats; and development of concepts, doctrine, and weapon systems and equipment. In summary, CD&I and MCCDC forge the current and future Marine Corps.

Interview by A&M Editor Kevin Hunter

A&M: You recently released Expeditionary Force 21, the Marine Corps’ new Capstone Concept. What is the focus of the concept?

Lt. Gen. Glueck: Expeditionary Force 21 provides guidance for how the Marine Corps, as an integral part of the larger naval, joint, and coalition team, will be postured, organized, trained, and equipped to fulfill national policy responsibilities and support the geographic combatant commander (GCC). Expeditionary Force 21 does not change what Marines do, but how they will do it. Drawing guidance from national security direction and naval strategy as described by “Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” Expeditionary Force 21 provides a vision of how we will operate. The underlying theme within Expeditionary Force 21 is providing a forward and ready force tailored to the needs of the GCCs.

Operationally, as a forward expeditionary force in readiness, we can engage with regional partners to deter adversaries, develop access, and promote security cooperation. If a crisis occurs, the Marine Corps can respond immediately to create options and decision space for the joint commander while also creating access in an uncertain or hostile environment. The ability to scale the force and operate in austere environments permits near immediate employment into any environment for any mission. When required, expeditionary forces capable of conducting advance force operations can support Joint Force 2020’s globally integrated operations through their inherent global agility and ability to roll back the adversaries’ capabilities as well as conduct entry operations to seize, retain, and exploit the initiative and enable the joint force.

This concept provides guidance for how we will operate and  develop the Marine Corps over the next ten years. It is meant to refocus the Corps on its naval expeditionary roots: being forward to build partners and prevent crisis, but ready to respond to crisis—whether a disaster or protecting American citizens— or, when necessary, engage in entry operations to defeat our adversaries.

In short, the concept focuses on adjusting our force posture where we are forward and ready; integrating and interoperating as a naval force in joint and combined environments; enhancing maneuver in the littorals; treating air, land, sea, cyber, and space as an integrated domain; and refining our organization.

A&M: How does the concept refine employment models?

Lt. Gen. Glueck: Central to refining the organization is developing a scalable employment model enabling a rapid response to crisis or contingency. We see this scalable organization as the Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB). We’ve always had Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) and MEBs. However, today the brigade is relevant to the concept of operations we’re developing. First of all, the headquarters is a combined joint task force (JTF) command capable and deployable within hours. Second, the MEB is scalable. These two attributes provide strategic agility in meeting GCC needs. The rapid deployment of the MEB command element may require compositing forward Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF), with elements of a coalition force: an Army or Special Operations task force, support from the theater [air component commander], and an amphibious readiness group or MEU for an immediate response. If the situation requires, it can expand through additional amphibious or naval forces, maritime prepositioning squadron (MPS), an Alert Contingency MAGTF, or other joint assets. However, the MEB is formed and organized to the combatant commander’s requirements. Our goal is having the right force in the right place at the right time.

A&M: Are you implementing the concept in wargames and exercises? Have you found any solutions to capability gaps?

Lt. Gen. Glueck: We are making significant headway implementing the principles of Expeditionary Force 21 and developing solutions to capability gaps in our wargames and exercises. Fresh perspectives and creative leaders from across the Marine Corps have become more closely tied together thanks in part to wargames, exercises, and experiments planned or executed with leadership from Combat Development and Integration organizations.

Earlier this year, Expeditionary Warrior 2014 (EW14), the Marine Corps’ Title 10 wargame, examined different options for integrating naval command and control. For example, we examined the command elements (CEs) of the Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) and MEB, as well as how an integrated “Navy/Marine Corps” Maritime Operations Center could support the employment of naval forces in crisis response.

ROK Commandant Visit

Lt. Gen. Kenneth Glueck, Commanding General, III Marine Expeditionary Force and The Republic of Korea Marine Corps Commandant Lt. Gen. Ho Yeon Lee observe demonstrations of some of the Marine Corps capabilities. (USMC)

Ideas from EW14 transitioned into practice during live-force exercises including Ssang Yong 14 (SY14), a joint and combined exercise with Korean Marines and Australians. Led by the Third MEB, SY14 validated ideas from Expeditionary Force 21, including the compositing of multiple MEUs and fly-in echelons under a MEB CE; integration between the ESG and MEB CEs; use of the dry cargo/ammunition ships (T-AKE) as a non-standard command and control platform; and sustaining forces ashore using the seabase.

In July, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory led an experiment in Hawaii in conjunction with Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) that explored a variety of cutting-edge capabilities across the warfighting functions to support company landing teams and distributed operations.

Our Small Wars Center and Irregular Warfare Integration Division (SWC/IWID) at Quantico is our lead for Joint Irregular Warfare (JIW), an annual service level wargame. The spring 2015 JIW will be in part sponsored by the Joint Staff J-7 Office of the Secretary of Defense and possibly Department of State, while the interagency participants examine areas of shared responsibility at the operational/strategic level during the conduct of security sector assistance as a dual track wargame. The pathway event (scheduled for October 2014) will tentatively examine the MEB in a pre-phase zero to phase one, setting the conditions for entry operations in early phase two.

A&M: Why have you chosen to go with a wheeled vehicle for the first phase of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle (ACV)? 

Lt. Gen. Glueck: As a concept-based requirements organization, Ship-to-Objective Maneuver (STOM) remains our operational concept. It relies on both surface and air connectors projecting power from the sea. While the V-22 Osprey has met the airborne requirements, we needed to rethink our surface requirement for greater speed from greater distances and the operational characters required by the vehicle ashore.

It was a combination of three key tactical and technical factors that led us to the wheeled vehicle decision. First, we employ our vehicles primarily on land. As such they need to be optimized for maneuver and protection in all environments. This means they must swim, provide force protection against complex threats, have endurance, be fuel efficient, and above all provide mobility ashore to rapidly concentrate and disperse the force.

Second, tactically we have determined that emerging anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems will require us, in some instances, to stand-off at distances beyond which even a high water speed ACV can reasonably achieve. Therefore, we will rely on surface and air connectors to maneuver forces within the larger framework of a revised approach to amphibious operations.

Third, technically wheeled vehicle performance has improved greatly since we began our efforts to replace the Amphibious Assault Vehicle. Today’s wheeled vehicles have:

  • Greater mobility in complex, littoral terrain;
  • Increased improvised explosive device protection;
  • Reduced fuel consumption;
  • Reduced maintenance;
  • Reduced signature and smaller profiles;
  • Increased dispersion of personnel among more vehicles;
  • The design margins to allow for a family of vehicles of various configurations;
  • Significantly reduced cost;
  • Less technological risk;
  • Swim capability today and the ability to increase that capability
    in the future;
  • And can be fielded years earlier.

The integrating of at-sea capabilities, such as amphibious ships,maritime preposition ships, joint high-speed vessels, and connectors will provide force multiplying capabilities.

A&M: Why is this acquisition strategy more affordable than simply pursuing a high water speed ACV? 

Lt. Gen. Glueck: It’s more affordable because non-developmental technologies reduce the initial investments in research and development and testing. Plus, the procurement of wheeled vehicles will be much more reasonable due to the much lower vehicle average procurement unit cost and sustainment than tracked vehicles. Plus, the overall lifecycle costs will be significantly reduced.

Our estimates and government prototyping, as well as the market research conducted with industry and their recently demonstrated mature systems, are giving us confidence that industry will be able to deliver the required capability at the projected cost.

A&M: Part of Expeditionary Force 21 calls for deploying from greater distances. How will amphibious operations change in the absence of a self deploying tractor? 

Lt. Gen. Glueck: It’s important to point out the amphibious mission remains the same, but we are evolving our concepts of operation to address future A2/AD threats. You will see an increased emphasis on smaller, signature-controlled forces—supported by precision fires—as the initial ground units ashore, maneuvered via multiple means, boats, or aircraft to gaps in an enemy defense. These forces will ensure security of landing sites and could range from Special Operations Forces to reconnaissance Marines to company landing teams, depending upon the situation. These advanced forces will be able to leverage joint fires and conduct shaping operations to create conditions allowing for the safe landing of surface connectors carrying vehicles.

For larger, MEB-level operations, we will likely shift our initial assault element from two battalions by surface and one by air to the reverse—two by air and one by surface. This will be followed immediately by additional vehicles for improved mobility ashore. We have extensively modeled this concept and found we can maneuver significant combat power to positions of advantage within one period of darkness. When conditions are set, we will maneuver closer to the shore via connectors for conduct of amphibious operations, but that will be the commander’s decision.

Do not be confused: These concepts and capabilities are meant to enhance our abilities, provide ability to project power in a contested environment, and give additional options to the GCC. Importantly, surface forces are part of a larger operation, we fight as a naval force and as a MAGTF, integrating all of our capabilities to place the right force in the right place at the right time.

I would be remiss not to mention the capabilities of Marine Corps infantry we train to conduct a 40-kilometer approach march in eight hours. So, an infantry force inserted via air, with internally and externally transported vehicles, is not stationary and in some situations may be the best maneuver option.

Once ashore, however, as our ACV analysis showed, a wheeled vehicle-mounted force has significant tactical advantages when compared to a force equipped with combat vehicles designed and  optimized for high speed water mobility. We can expand that benefit by subsequently landing additional wheeled vehicles to link up with the battalions already delivered by air. None of this is a radical shift in amphibious doctrine, but rather simply a re-sequencing of forces, better integration of capabilities at sea, refinements to tactics, and a more complete leveraging of fires and joint capabilities. We believe these sorts of changes provide the best response to emerging access challenges.

Basically, new threats have caused us to reassess our requirements, and we have a path for evolving our operations to meet these challenges.

A&M: How are you progressing with JLTV procurement? 

Lt. Gen. Glueck: We are on track to reach Milestone C in 2015 and Initial Operational Capability in 2018. You have to remember the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) is in development to meet a critical long-term need and is subject to the full development processes, unlike the urgently needed and rapidly fielded Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) and Extended Wheel Base variant (M-ATV) programs. We are working closely with our Army partners on the JLTV and together have set rotary wing and maritime prepositioning force amphibious lift transport as defining system boundaries.

It is currently in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase, with three vendors in competition: AM General, Lockheed Martin, and Oshkosh. EMD phase testing is demonstrating that key requirements will be met, including M-ATV-level underbody protection with unarmored HMMWV mobility.

Our approach to the JLTV is an incremental acquisition. The objective for Increment I is 5,500 vehicles to meet the most critical need in the light combat mission roles. By replacing a portion of our HMMWV fleet, the JLTV will help to preserve the MAGTF’s expeditionary nature and provide a modern level of protected mobility. As future funding becomes available, we will incrementally replace the entire HMMWV fleet.

This article originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Armor & Mobility magazine.