The Marine Corps has just released the 2017 unclassified version of “Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment”. I began reading this with great interest, hoping to have many heretofore puzzling and contradictory doctrinal conundrums explained. For example, I’ve been reading statements by Marine leadership that in order to effect a landing, they must first land and secure the landing area. That’s a Catch-22 if I’ve ever heard one!
Unfortunately, I was absolutely stunned by a sentence in the opening paragraphs defining the scope of the document. From section 2. (Scope), 2.b.1/2 describes the range of operations that the document applies to. At the low end are what are described in 2.b.1 as “Crisis Response Operations in Uncertain Environments” which include humanitarian assistance, evacuations, and embassy reinforcements – generally non-combat or occasionally very low end combat scenarios. At the other end of the range, 2.b.2 describes “Contingency Operations in Hostile Environments.
The latter, presumably describes actual combat … war. However, the following statement casts severe doubt on how much combat/war this entire concept applies to.
“…major combat operations (MCO) and campaigns versus peer competitors are beyond the scope of this concept.”
What??? Major combat operations and peer combat are not covered by this concept? Are the Marines really saying that their capabilities and this concept are not useful in a peer war? That’s what it seems to be saying – that none of the littoral capabilities described in this document apply to actual war?!
Did the Marines really just develop an entire concept that has no applicability to peer war? Did they really just acknowledge that they have no role in peer combat?
I can’t believe that’s what was intended but I see no other way to interpret it. All I can hope is that it was just a very poorly worded sentence but given the Corps’ trend towards lightness, they may be acknowledging that they are no longer a serious warfighting organization. I’ve got to get a clarification on this.
I’m not going to go any further in analyzing this document for two reasons.
- Until I understand the actual scope of the document, I can’t perform a valid assessment.
- The rest of the document is garbage that reads like a generic sales brochure to Congress.