Saturday, July 8, 2017

Marine Information Group?

The Marines have been on a questionable foolish path for some time, now, with their focus on aviation and their shedding of tanks and artillery.  The push to become some kind of expeditionary air force and to drop from a middle weight fighting force to a light weight one is ill-considered and does not support the Marine’s main function which is to brutally and explosively seize an opening into an enemy’s territory to pave the way for follow on forces.

Now, the foolishness continues with the latest announcement of a name change for the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Headquarters Group.

“On Thursday, July 6, the Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group will be re-designated as I MEF Information Group.”

MEF Information Group????  It sounds like they want to be an ad agency, making up travel brochures.  This indicates a complete separation from reality and a total loss of recall about what the Marine’s purpose is.  If they want to rename the Headquarters Group, they should call it the Blowing Things Up Group because that’s what war is about.

Yes, I understand that cyber warfare, electronic warfare, and intelligence are part of the methodology of combat.  Further, I don’t really care what name they apply to anything.  What I do care about is the underlying mindset that leads to this kind of action – a mindset totally divorced from the recognition that war is a brutal, ugly, terribly destructive business.  Our military, and the Marines, in particular, seem to believe that war will be a dainty affair, conducted neatly from behind a computer, using spreadsheets and networks.  That notion will hold right until the Russians start dropping crude, primitive artillery barrages of high explosives and cluster munitions on top of our Information Group and all our light infantry joy-riding around the countryside in glorified jeeps.

“The commander of the MIG will be responsible to provide the MEF commanding general with a comprehensive understanding of the information environment, which includes the threat environment, command and control network health, status and vulnerabilities, the electromagnetic spectrum, cyberspace, environmental factors, cognitive and social factors, as well as further elements that may affect our ability to compete with near-peer adversaries.” (1)

Network health?  Environmental factors? Cognitive and social factors?  Are the Marines preparing for brutal combat or a high school debate?

The Marines seem firmly and enthusiastically headed down a rabbit hole of irrelevance and combat ineffectiveness and I’m very sorry to have to witness it.


(1)USNI News website, “Primed and Ready: I MEF First to Organize Information Warfare Group”, Gidget Fuentes, 4-Jul-2017,


  1. Hmm. Providing the MEF commander with a comprehensive understanding of the battlespace (Social, EM, Cyber)? Seems like a good idea to me.

    Particularly if one follows the type of unconventional warfare Russia has been practicing in the Ukraine.

    Frankly, I don't see how one infers a "non-warfighting" mentality from this. If anything it shows how forward leaning the USMC is.

    1. If the Marines were beefing up armor, adding and upgrading tanks, adding artillery, RAPIDLY obtaining a vastly improved amphibious assault vehicle, adding heavy firepower to the initial wave, adding a mobile anti-aircraft armored vehicle, adding a combat engineering vehicle, working seriously on assault doctrine, pushing for cluster munitions, adding a C-RAM weapon, adding an infantry fighting vehicle, etc., and this "social" warfare were one small part of that overall effort then I might be good with it and believe that the overall mindset was brutal and explosive. However, since we're doing none of that and still adding social and environmental factor warfare, I have no choice but to conclude that the Marines have lost their brutal and explosive mindset.

      If this is the Marines forward leaning then it's a case of leaning forward to the point of falling flat on their faces. Heh, heh. See what I did there?

    2. Your viewpoint seems to be that battlespace awareness and kinetic effects are mutually exclusive. If so - that's hardly well supported by actual combat operations over the last 15+ years!

      I'd also question whether this new organization entails significant added cost. It reads more like a doctrine change.

      Lastly, the USMC has always had to exist on a fairly small share of the DOD acquisition budget. I think this shows a smart use of a fairly limited budget. Use what you've got smarter.

    3. I would add that I don't think you understand the terms of reference used by the USMC. You appear to be latching on to very narrow definitions of "social" and "environmental".

      My impressions of this site as an on-site, off-line visitor:

      I feel like you have a point to make or axe to grind - and are latching onto any article you feel fits your argument. Often with little understanding of the actual content.

      I would encourage you to think and research more and write less. Quality over quantity.

    4. "Your viewpoint seems to be that battlespace awareness and kinetic effects are mutually exclusive."

      Please provide the quote where I said that.

    5. "You appear to be latching on to very narrow definitions of "social" and "environmental"."

      Well, this is your chance to educate me, then. Tell me what "cognitive", "social", and "environmental" factors mean.

      You can also tell me how shedding tanks, artillery, and heavy vehicles while emphasizing "environmental factors, cognitive and social factors" is making the Marines more lethal?

      This is your chance to improve the blog with your contributions!

    6. "on-site, off-line visitor"

      Just out of curiousity, what is an on site but off line visitor? If you're on site, aren't you on line?

      "I feel like you have a point"

      Of course I do! That's kind of what a blog is. It's a subject that the author has an interest in, a perspective on, and a desire to share that with others.

      You can read it because you find it useful, entertaining, informative, or for whatever reason or you can move on to something that you enjoy more.

      You can disagree with my perspective but I would hope that you recognize that all my posts are researched, referenced, logical, and informative even if you disagree with any conclusions I draw.

      Finally, if you have an interest but a different point of view, you can propose a guest post. I'm always open to such and agreement with my views is not a requirement to guest post. In fact, a well researched, well reasoned, contrary opinion is a plus as it widens the appeal of the blog.

  2. This is the analogy I'm thinking. A fighter, such as a boxer, will study the opponent he plans to fight. He will study his opponents strengths and weaknesses...But then he TRAINS to make use of what he's learned. All the intel is useless if he doesn't put it to hard use. Information and communication is great, but it can only help defeat the enemy if the fighting skill and gear are brought to the fight. Somehow certain portions of the "armed" forces think just having the right info is enough. Do they really think warfare is just a computer game?


  3. I like the blog a lot and agree on many of the arguments presented in it. However, as a former navy officer (blue and green side), I think this is a fitting role for HG. I don't necessarily think they had to rename it. It certainly isn't their sole functionality. But they aren't operators. This is exactly what they should be providing to subordinate units.

    1. Yep. Now, what did I actually say, as opposed to what you think I said?

  4. I'd don't think anyone here is saying that improved intelligence and communications is not valuable. Problem is this being done while discarding the hard assets. A few months ago, the Marine Corps announced that a MEF would be deploying without their M1 Tanks. A main battle tank is extremely valuable in breaching enemy defenses. This has been the general trend with the "hard" assets. With the MIG, we'll know "everything" about the enemy defenses, but the marines on the ground won't have the brutal capability to put that information to use.


  5. The Marine Corps claims it lacks manpower for the 27 infantry battalions needed for three divisions. Why does anyone assume that a force of 184,000 active duty Marines cannot maintain 27 infantry battalions that require just 24,300 Marines?

    One reason is the growth in "information" units. The U.S. Government has 17 intelligence agencies and Marine Corps Intelligence is one of the newest. The Marines were happy to play a small role as part the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) until 2000 when the Corps formed is own Marine Corps Intelligence Department in Washington DC. In 2002, the Corps formed a separate Marine Corps Intelligence Activity in Quantico VA, while a National Maritime Intelligence-Integration Office appeared nearby with the ONI. Meanwhile, each regional joint Combatant Command has its own large Intel section, as well as each MAGTF. There are now 5000 Marines with an Intelligence MOS and another 3200 Marines in Signals Intelligence, with thousands more civilians in support positions.

    Despite all this Intel, the end result is often poor. As Marines raced to Baghdad in 2003, the commander of the 1st Marine Division, General James Mattis, reported that he never had intelligence about enemy forces to his front.

    1. Nice comment. Over the same time frame you describe, the Marines were also shedding tanks, artillery, and heavy vehicles. They were drawing out the AAV replacement effort and accomplished nothing. They failed to field tactical level ECM units. They failed to acquire armored, mobile AAW vehicles. And the list goes on. They focused on what would build up their budget justification rather than focusing on what was needed to brutally and explosively create an opening into an enemy's territory for follow on forces.

      Intelligence numbers are at an all time high while firepower is at a a low compared to the peer forces they will have to face.

      Intel isn't going to help when cluster muntions are raining down on you. The corollary is that a lack of intel can be compensated for by sufficient artillery with area munitions. Who cares if you don't know who's hiding under which tree? Just blow 'em all up and move on. Intel is great but not when you give up firepower to get it.

      I knew everything there was to know about the guy who shot me!

    2. I'm accepting your information at face value, for the moment. Assuming it's accurate, what an interesting story it is. Let me know if you have any interest in fleshing it out and turning it into a guest post.

  6. Agree with Comnavops for mentioning the name change with a critical comment.

    Too often buzz words are used to cover up that " no we do not know our own business, but the buzz word sure sounds like we do". This happened with terms like RMA, Network centric warfare (still), or 'Shock and awe'.

    As the first anonymous caller mentioned, information is an important part of warfare. True it always has been and always will be. The only new thing is that their is so much information that needs to be sifted and shared and the pace of action can be very rapid.

    So adressing information needs of the deployed marines is a good thing. Perhaps even something that any professional armed force would be doing, i.e. good practice. But if it is just part of being a professional armed force, why change the name of a HQ?

    It could be that it just signals a raised awareness that information capabilities need to be adressed so that next time a general goes to war, his units can inform him where the opponents (and his own units) are.
    A similar event of raised awareness happend with the C2 acronym changing to to C4ISR.

    It could also be that it signals a raised level of awareness of the increased scope of warfare, and that warfare sometimes does involve civilians and other stuff as well. (Again nothing new under the sun, but very good to adress it explicitly, instead of ignoring it until it hit's one in the face).

    So the name change could be a very positive event.

    On the other hand, just a name change without a change in doctrine, operations, or weapons, with the operational issues mentioned by Comnavops and also by Salomon, it does raise some serious eyebrows. And should be questioned squarely.

    I am from an allied country, so my worries are not of primary concern. Still, when the buzz words start flying...too often it has been a sign of a lack of understanding the business, in this case warfare. Therefor I am glad that Comnavops put this issue in his blog.

    It would be great to see a response from the US Marine Corps.


  7. I'll offer a comment on my own post. As I said in the post, I don't really care what anyone calls anything. It's the actions that count, not the descriptive labels. Unfortunately, the Marine's actions are troubling. Shedding tanks, artillery, and heavy vehicles, failing to develop a suitable AAV replacement, emphasizing lightness at the expense of firepower, deploying without tanks and, yes, building up the peripheral aspects of combat like "social" and "cognitive" factor warfare (whatever that is!) at the expense of firepower tells me all I need to know about the mindset of the Corps and it's not good.

  8. Feel free to use whatever I posted for a future post about this topic. The Marines have good info on-line, if you know where to look:

    Hover over ALMANAC to choose occupational distribution for some interesting manpower stats.

    For a full post, I would add:

    After World War II, the Marine Corps got sucked into providing manpower for the NSA. This grew into the Marine Cryptologic Battalion with companies based at non-Marine Corps bases in Colorado, Georgia, Texas, Hawaii and Maryland.

    It makes no sense to recruit and train Marines, only to assign them to CONUS non-combat office tasks that don't directly support Marine units. The number of SigInt Marines exceed those in the tank/AAV field! While many are assigned to Marine Radio Battalions, a thousand of these Marines not part of MAGTFs, but work at desks in support "joint" commands, and most should be eliminated.

    In 2009, the Marine Corps embraced the cyber fad and created a Cyber Command that provides manpower for a new joint command in Maryland. This has grown to over a 800 expensively trained Marines led by a two-star General and continues to expand despite force cuts! While the cyber threat is real in the open Internet and threatens national systems, MAGTFs use closed systems. Even at fixed installations, the Marine Corps uses the Department of Navy intranet system. In a recent study about national defense priorities, officers noted that it makes no sense for all four services to devote manpower to a national Cyber Command, and certainly not the Marine Corps. At the very most, the Corps might have a hundred Marines attached to the Navy Cyber command to gain knowledge that "may" be useful to MEF commanders.

    1. Very good point. Unless they are deployable its ridiculous. The marines still use the Navy for its combat medical units, same goes for cryto

  9. Just wondered what the parts of the previous 'Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group' were . ( from 2nd MEF ,

    2nd Intelligence Battalion
    2nd Law Enforcement Battalion
    2nd Radio Battalion
    8th Communication Battalion
    2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company

    Apart from Anglico and LEB, its seems to be primarily communications and information based

    The harder edge is the 2nd marine Div, The 2nd marine aircraft wing and
    supporting them all is 2nd marine logistics Group

  10. Just picture the Marine boot camp scene in "Full Metal Jacket"

    "Why did you join my beloved corps, maggot?"
    "Sir, to sit behind a computer and analyze data, Sir"

    The Marine Corps is the small but kick-ass branch of the military. But if they are doing things other branches do (or civilians can do), why do they exist? Between world wars, the USMC was struggling to find its identity and purpose. They were starting to be looked at as a few extra divisions for the Army. So they developed amphibious warfare doctrine and tactics. They did very well at that, they had a very distinct purpose. Now the Corps is trying to turn into some sort of small expeditionary air force and intel service. That makes the Corps different or special, how? They need to be the beach-head breaking, butt-kickers that this ex-sailor would be proud to take wherever they need to go.

    Just on a rant. Thanks for a place to vent.


    1. Is changing the name of the group that hold the radio battalion, communications battalion and intel battalion to 'Information" anything to do with reducing ' beach head breaking butt kickers'. They are cutting back on tanks and artillery but its nothing to do with this name change. It would be far worse if they called themselves 'cyber warriors'

    2. If it was just a name change, there wouldn't be a problem. Cutting back on tanks and artillery goes hand in hand with the issue being discussed here. All the intel is awesome if you can give it to the tanks and artillery and other hard assets to make use of it. They are on their way to being "Cyber warriors" instead of "real" warriors".


  11. This is another attempt by the USMC to participate as our all the other branches in the new cash cow- cyber/info warfare. They all have their own flag/general officer staffs manned not outta hide but ad hoc... Intell in the traditional sense that has won/lost war for centuries doesn't seem to be the beneficiary.

    This is sort of like every government agency having a SWAT team because they can and congress funds it. More Balkanization ands stove-piped organizations not built for joint-ness of course but simply following the herd. This is exactly the type of organizational proliferation I would have expected/hoped Mattis to smash before it started...

    The Marines are unidentifiable to me in todays military. They are just competitors for the pot just like the big three... No, they might not build golf courses like the USAF did when they got all the cream back in the Cold War. Rather the USMC will invest in "whiz bang" they saw in a .ppt and expect the US Navy to carry them around and fund ships...

    Their aviation dilemma as CNOPS correctly points out are just problematic of the larger issues they have created within their institution.

    I would have hoped Mr. Mattis would have taken that Bull by the Horns too, but I can today see he has no intention of interfering.


    1. I think you've nailed the motivation behind this. It's always the money, isn't it?


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