Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Marine's "Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment" Document

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. 

  1. Until I understand the actual scope of the document, I can’t perform a valid assessment.
  2. The rest of the document is garbage that reads like a generic sales brochure to Congress.


  1. "Until I understand the actual scope of the document, I can’t perform a valid assessment."

    When has a lack of understanding ever stopped you before?

  2. I scanned this yesterday when I saw it on USNI...Why bother trying to debunk it. This is just a slick advertising offering at its core..

    Typical 21st century USMC self serving point-paper to justify its existence and its budget, paying only lip service to the US Navy and absolutely no joint ness/interoperability with the USA/USAF. Like they didn't exist....

    All their hi-level "brainstorming" is only done through the USMC stove pipe with themselves as centerpiece and self supporter...like they alone work for the Commander in Chief... Anyone who can't see that wears red only...

    Astutely, here they go again recognizing a gap/lack of resolve in the other military services response (slow to non-existent) to the threats out there like nuclear threat/nuc modernization, PRC advances, Russian hegemony, etc. and taking advantage of their one-way Navy relationship to shuttle them around and have the USN spend ship construction dollars for their relative niche role... Remember their "From the Sea", circa mid 90's after the Cold War ended and during the Clinton admin? Same script, updated.

    Of course Congress and the American people love the USMC.. who can say no to them? They have Mattis, Kelly and Joe D and they know it! They have the F-35B, the V-22, the H-53K and the C-130J. Soone their budget alone to support this aviation fleet alone will rival that of the USAF!


    1. "Why bother trying to debunk it"

      Hence, my point 2. in the post!

      Just to be clear, I don't debunk, I analyze. All too often that becomes debunking given the very poor quality of professional military thought prevalent today but debunking is not my goal - analysis is.

    2. Of course analytics always win, right? Debunk and analysis are often synonymous in my simple mind..

      You miss my larger point too or avoid it on purpose, I'cant blame you, its untidy. That point is the USMC is off the reservation, outta the box, IE, attempting to strategize war theorugh their own prism when they have no such role for strategic warfare granted them for the reason they were formed .. That said, when they see a niche they will carve out whatever they can at the expense of the other services...especially the Navy or even the Army.. It is what they do in the "modern age" since they were left out of the ground offensive of GW-1 when they floated around on the ARG as diversion...Now they have 4 star generals up/down the foodchain.

      In summary, the Marine Corps is not complementary in nature re their role(s) or even their own doctrine, they are warfare role predatory for their own sakes... Gotta respect that but you also have to tamp it down when it bites the hand that feeds them... just call me an old fashioned squid..


    3. "You miss my larger point too ... That point is the USMC is off the reservation"

      I'm not missing your point. In fact, I couldn't agree more. If you've been following the blog for any length of time, I would have thought that came across clearly!

      I love what the Corps once was. I hate what it's become. I'd like to see it go back to its roots. Those statements guide my posts.

  3. I was hoping to see a translation of the document
    from Marinese to standard english here.
    Fig 2 on page 11 is amazing, no wonder opposed landings
    are out, staff meetings would take all your time.

    1. There's nothing substantial in the document to translate. It's a pure garbage sales pitch. I was hoping to see some actual operational, doctrinal, and tactical thoughts but there are none.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 30 days in order to reduce spam.