Marine Corps risking ‘irrelevance’ if it fails to bolster ‘information warfare’ forces

( If the U.S. Marine Corps fails to engage in a massive makeover at all levels over the next decade, including preparations for information warfare as part of the next major conflict , it risks “irrelevance” by 2025, according to a set of documents containing recommendations obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

The documents lay out two courses of action, one dubbed “evolutionary” and the other “revolutionary,” as part of the Marine Corps’ “Force 2025” strategy. Authors of both versions recommend the inclusion of “information warfare capabilities” in ground, aviation, logistics and command elements.

An operational planning team comprised of about 300 people developed the plans in response to an order from Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Commandant, in January, WFB reported.

“Maintaining the status quo is unacceptable. Failure to change the shape and form of the service will condemn it to irrelevance,” a briefing from the documents says.

Senior Marine Corps leaders were to be briefed on the proposed courses of action April 12, the documents state, with Neller in attendance.

Director of Marine Corps public affairs, Maj. Anton Semelroth, confirmed that the Force 2025 strategy was scheduled for discussion this week, during which senior leaders planned to give their input on several potential courses of action. Semelroth emphasized that all options are “pre-decisional,” and that they will continue to be examined and updated before being handed off to Neller later this year.

Both of the proposals, according to the documents, recommended adding personnel to “information warfare” capabilities by reducing the number of Marines assigned to other tasks. Both plans add thousands of Marines to information warfare roles; the Marine Corps is the smallest combat force of the five armed service branches (including the Coast Guard), with about 188,000 active personnel.

In the “evolutionary” course of action, infantry battalions would lose a number of heavy weapons and anti-tank assets, while light-armored reconnaissance and tank battalions would see a reorganization. In the “revolutionary” plan, all three Marine Expeditionary Forces would gain substantial information warfare forces and an “engagement battalion.”

The documents note that the Corps has had a difficult time defining information warfare and how it should be integrated into the force’s capabilities.

“We approach IW [information warfare] as executing the warfighting functions in and through the information environment,” one brief reads. “IW is not a ‘thing,’ it is a ‘thing of things.’”

Some defense experts were perplexed by the documents’ fixation on information warfare.

“It does not make a lot of sense to me,” Thomas Donnelly, a defense and national security expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told the Free Beacon.

That’s because, he said, one aspect of information warfare involves the “safety of the civilian or military internet,” the power grid, and electronic communications, while another aspect pertains to electronic warfare, or “confrontation through the electromagnetic spectrum.”

Semelroth did note that “structural change” is under consideration by the 240-year-old military force.

“Growing information operations, cyber, and electronic warfare capability at the Marine Force and Marine Expeditionary Force levels is one of the specific areas of interest that is under consideration,” he told the WFB. “As we work through the Force 2025 construct, we are examining the various operational, organizational, and structural changes necessary to support a more robust information warfare capability.”

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Washington Free Beacon is part of the USA Features Media network.

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