After a congressional go to to Taiwan, the Folks’s Republic of China quickly and with out warning begins to ramp up navy exercise. Beijing launches missiles into the South China Sea and deploys ships across the island. In response, Washington reaches out to key companions within the area equivalent to Japan and Australia to barter storage, sustainment, and port and airfield entry agreements. The Division of Protection additionally begins stand-in drive operations, augmented with smaller collaborative forces, to start conducting reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance actions. The U.S. Marine Corps quickly deploys a number of stand-in forces throughout the Indo-Pacific Command to assist sea-denial operations. As this example begins to escalate, logistics planners rapidly attempt to coordinate the long-term sustainment for an unknown and doubtlessly prolonged interval. Quickly, logisticians are struggling to maintain these forces afloat and ashore in a posh and contested setting.
That is the form of state of affairs that Gen. David Berger, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, possible had in thoughts final December when he launched his Idea for Stand-In Forces. This idea describes how the Marine Corps intends to function in contested areas, just like the South China Sea, the place the specter of long-range precision fires is augmented by more and more ubiquitous sensor networks. The idea was designed to supply the joint drive commander with choices for sustaining ahead positioning in these hostile environments. Normal Berger expanded the idea to say that these forces will present intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, assist concentrating on, and conduct sea denial inside naval campaigns. Because the “Process Power on the Bleeding Edge” lately demonstrated, stand-in forces are designed to be employed as a naval expeditionary drive within the littorals. With the intention to maintain this drive, the commandant envisions an method constructed round “avoidance.” This requires a minimization of logistics personnel and conventional logistical capabilities, equivalent to massive, wheeled vehicles, gasoline provides, and chow halls. The objective is to cut back the drive’s seen and digital signature and thereby enhance its survivability. As such, the avoidance idea creates main challenges for the Marine Corps. It additionally complicates the joint drive’s conventional understanding of logistics sustainment, which concerned logistics items working behind, but nonetheless comparatively near, front-line preventing items. With out logistics items in shut proximity, it stays unclear how stand-in forces could be sustained in competitors and particularly in battle.
The largest problem for the stand-in forces idea proper now could be that it places Marines inside high-threat areas with minimal logistics sustainment. This requires the Marine Corps to develop and prepare for a sustainment idea that’s mild, versatile, responsive, resilient, and redundant. This plan ought to allow reducing replenishment time and keep every stand-in drive unit’s low signature. Within the commandant’s phrases, “To persist inside an adversary’s weapons engagement zone, our Stand-in Forces should be set and sustained by logistics capabilities designed for distributed operations over lengthy distances in a contested setting.”
How can the joint drive replenish provides, keep tools, and restock fight losses whereas protecting stand-in forces within the combat? The idea requires “new approaches to current strategies and the event of latest capabilities.” Process Power 61/2’s latest experiences within the Baltics supplies a manner ahead. Logisticians and operational planners ought to increase the distribution community, improve the sustainment system, and discover new distribution platforms. The Marine Corps ought to make the most of a mixture of shore-based, maritime, and air distribution property to attain a sustainment internet using navy and business means. The choice is to depart the Marine Corps unable to carry out its very important duties in a future battle.
Increase the Distribution Community
The Marine Corps has at all times maintained a singular skill to quickly reply to any disaster or contingency world wide. To realize this, the service has positioned provides and tools both on ships at sea or at forward-deployed land installations throughout the globe. Numerous packages just like the Marine Expeditionary Units and the Maritime Prepositioned Power had been developed to speed up response choices for the combatant commander. Nonetheless, these maritime platforms historically operated ready of maritime sanctuary with minimal menace from adversaries. Because the menace has elevated and this sanctuary has vanished, the Marine Corps laid the muse of a new technique with the International Positioning Community. This expanded community of provides prepositioned each ashore and afloat will present the operational commander with logistical resilience. The next proposals might assist to make this community extra responsive, survivable, and efficient.
Redefine Ahead Storage
The Marine Corps ought to look to retailer tools and provides not simply in navy bases but additionally in business and personal services related to sea and air terminals. By way of the usage of contracting, the service might keep a small, versatile, low-signature basing footprint inside the weapon engagement zone. If sensible, these tools shares needs to be maintained by Marine Corps Logistics Command and frequently used for workouts and coaching by the stand-in drive.
Refocus on Transport
The Marine Corps ought to suppose past fastened, land-based websites and as a substitute couple its basing with the Maritime Prepositioning Power’s remaining delivery property. This implies re-learning the right way to make use of current maritime capabilities and tie them into current and increasing land-based networks. Planners ought to leverage and experiment with smaller business ships equivalent to leased offshore floor vessels. Smaller and quicker ships present a extra survivable maritime platform that would conduct intra-theater floor lifts and coordinate with the International Positioning Community. Marine Prepositioned Power ships might function half of a bigger community of floating warehouses that benefit from maneuver and connections with smaller logistical platforms at sea. This international community would cut back the necessity for constructing “iron mountains” that not solely are operationally untenable however might result in strategic miscalculation with America’s adversaries because of the notion of elevated American presence within the area.
Rethink Sea Bases
The Indo-Pacific area, comprising over 35,000 islands inside 60 million sq. miles of water, gives the Marine Corps, in partnership with the U.S. Navy, a singular alternative to increase seabasing. One attainable method would use non-mobile platforms, equivalent to an offshore oil rigs, that would reap the benefits of huge quantities of water whereas positioning capabilities close to or near key geographic areas. Oil rig platforms may very well be expanded into floating piers to retailer provides. They may be used for floating transfers and replenished with business and Navy ships. These seabasing platforms have been studied earlier than by the Naval Warfare Faculty and have lately been thought-about by Japan as attainable firing positions for Aegis Ashore techniques. This method would additionally spare the State Division the cumbersome process of negotiating entry, overflight permissions, and basing rights. The price of oil rig platforms may very well be as little as $21 million.
Improve the Sustainment System
In latest conflicts, the Marine Corps, together with the Division of Protection, operated with relative command and freedom. Through the navy buildup for Operation Iraqi Freedom, for instance, sea and air strains of communication had been uncontested. Nonetheless, as we speak this can now not be taken with no consideration. Amongst different issues, because of this the federal government can now not depend on logistics assist from the personal sector. No matter defensive measures the navy supplies, business carriers are by no means going to threat platform and materials loss coupled with elevated insurance coverage charges to conduct deliveries in high-threat areas.
This vulnerability has led the Marine Corps to develop the “spider internet of sustainment” to create larger redundancy and adaptability. The next measures would assist to bolster this internet.
Plan Stand-In Forces’ Self-Sustainment
Most energetic re-supply efforts would disrupt the signature footprint of the stand-in forces. The service ought to acknowledge that the commandant’s imaginative and prescient of “avoidance” signifies that logistics and sustainment would be the limiting components for stand-in forces’ future operational endurance. Forces can function efficiently and independently with low signatures so long as their natural capabilities can maintain them. Natural capabilities embody with the ability to domestically supply sustenance, gasoline or different different vitality choices, and Class IX restore elements (probably by way of 3D printing). Any extra exterior assist might doubtlessly compromise their presence and require displacement to a brand new location for resupply, tools upkeep, or securing Class VII elements.
Set up Ahead Intermediate Provide and Distribution Capabilities
Ahead-deployed intermediate provide and distribution subject-matter specialists would additionally facilitate improved sustainment. Because the Marine Corps expands operations in distributed and contested environments, stand-in forces require forward-positioned and responsive logistics hubs. The Marine Expeditionary Forces ought to have standing provide and distribution detachments within the type of groups of two or three folks embedded throughout their space of accountability. These groups would have the flexibility to supply requisitions, expedite shipments, and coordinate the distribution of provides and tools. Integrating these detachments into standing Navy Provide Programs Command Fleet Logistics Facilities could be a superb first step. These groups would function preliminary logistics hubs and work with strategic-level logistics companies and business distributors. These standing groups would additionally present a extra versatile, responsive, and resilient mannequin with out having to saddle the stand-in drive with extra personnel.
Improve Logistics Automated Data Programs
At the moment, the International Fight Help System – Marine Corps is this system of document used for ordering provides and managing tools. This technique was initially supposed for use for all lessons of provides, however resulting from funding shortfalls and improvement challenges it now primarily focuses on requisitioning Class IX restore elements. The administration of Class I, V, and VIII restore elements, presently dealt with by three separate automated data techniques, needs to be included into the International Fight Help System – Marine Corps.
Discover New Distribution Platforms
The Marine Corps’ present distribution system depends on watercraft, connectors, fleet ships, and plane alongside business carriers that fly from business terminals and glued web site bases. This community will be efficient when the strains of communication are open, however is unsuitable for a contested setting. For distribution to expeditionary areas, planners can not depend on mature infrastructure or the required air, sea, and floor terminals. This problem will probably be coupled with the lack of watercraft that function maritime floor “connectors” within the Division of Protection stock. These challenges will trigger vital issues to any sustainment plan for stand-in forces. With the intention to mitigate these challenges, the Marine Corps ought to use its present stock of maritime property to increase this distribution community.
Repurpose the Restricted Connector Fleet
The Improved Navy Lighterage System is central to the Maritime Prepositioned Power program. This technique is presently utilized by the Navy and Marine Corps solely for ship-to-shore motion in an expeditionary setting. A few of its modules had been designed to function a “lily pad,” together with Ahead Arming and Refueling Factors that may very well be established at sea for refueling, producing and distributing contemporary water, or working as littoral replenishment websites. This Improved Navy Lighterage System functionality has been used with a lot success in expeditionary environments the place the Maritime Prepositioned Power ships can not dock. For inter-theater distribution, this technique is dependent upon touchdown craft which might be principally affiliated with the Amphibious Readiness Group, Army Watercraft, and the U.S. Navy Expeditionary Quick Transport. This association is viable, however has some limitations resulting from geographic positioning functionality and amount. The Marine Corps ought to have a look at utilizing unmanned floor vessels as assigned logistics carriers to assist transfer provides and elements across the space of accountability. Whereas next-generation logistics ships and the sunshine amphibious warship may very well be future potentialities, they continue to be many years away from sensible use within the fleet.
Contemplate Sea Planes as a Distribution Asset
One of many nice challenges in any space of accountability is entry, basing, and overflight. This limitation can impede the flexibility of navy and business carriers to fly in personnel and cargo. One other problem is the bodily limitations usually related to navy and business runways or fastened bases. The shortage of entry to host-nation airports and the scarcity of strategic mobility property make it more durable for standard wheeled planes to hold out distribution actions. Provided that Indo-Pacific Command contains the most important physique of water on the earth, the Marine Corps ought to think about the usage of seaplanes as a method to assist stand-in forces. These planes can function over lengthy distances at excessive speeds in inclement climate, and might carry cargo or act as aerial refuelers. America’s adversaries have already realized the utility of those airframes. China’s AG-600 is possible for use as such a logistics resupply asset, and Russia is beginning to change its turbo-prop Beriev Be-120 with the jet-powered Be-200ES. In a water-dominated theater just like the Indo-Pacific Command, seaplanes may very well be a recreation changer.
Revolutionizing Marine Corps Sustainment
With the intention to maintain the stand-in drive, the Marine Corps needs to be ready to revamp its complete method to logistics. Logisticians ought to start to rethink the corps’ distribution community, enhance sustainment, and increase the usage of distribution property. Whereas these modifications would require a close to time period fiscal funding, they may present long run advantages. Marine Corps Headquarters and the logistics enterprise ought to deal with 2022–2030 because the window of competitors to raised develop capabilities inside the Fleet Marine Power to assist stand-in forces. Inside the idea of Power Design 2030, the Marine Corps logistics enterprise faces not simply an inflection level, however a possibility to revamp the way it will assist the Marine Air-Floor Process Power sooner or later combat.
John Sattely is an active-duty colonel within the U.S. Marine Corps who’s presently the Commanding Officer at Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, FL. He has beforehand served in HQ, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, twenty sixth Marine Expeditionary Unit, II Marine Expeditionary Forces, 4th Marine Logistics Group, HQ Marine Forces Europe and Africa, U.S. Central Command, and beforehand held command at 2nd Transportation Help Battalion. He’s additionally a 2019 graduate of the Naval Warfare Faculty.
Jason A. Paredes is an active-duty main within the U.S. Marine Corps who’s presently the Provide Department Head at Blount Island Command in Jacksonville, FL. He has beforehand served in 2nd Intelligence Battalion, 2nd Mild Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, eleventh Marine Expeditionary Unit, 1st Marine Logistics Group, and 1st Provide Battalion. He’s additionally a 2020 graduate of the Marine Corps Command and Employees Faculty.
U.S. Marine Corps picture by Lance Cpl. Joshua Brittenham