The way ahead for the USMC Special Forces Command or MARSOC was highlighted in the April 28, 2021 testimony by Major General James F. Glynn, the MARSOC Commander, before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on emerging threats and capabilities.
What follows are excerpts from that testimony:
As we move forward however, we are in the midst of reassessing the skills and organizational capabilities required to maintain our military advantages in every domain. Our Commandant has set forth reimagining the Marine Corps to answer this challenge through ongoing Force Design efforts. These changes have broad effects that compel MARSOC to follow suit rapidly to ensure we bring the capabilities and organizational construct required to conduct strategic shaping and reconnaissance in support of the Joint Warfighting Concept, the Special Operations Command Vision, and Service concepts like Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) and Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE).
With our Marine ethos and “Gung-Ho” attitude, MARSOC is well suited as an experimentation force, test bed and innovation engine for distributed operations in contested environments. As we continue to implement the tenets of Marine Special Operations Forces 2030 vision, it will be of utmost importance to leverage our size as an advantage to be the nimble, flexible, and pliable force that can understand, wargame, and experiment with developing operating concepts, leading edge technologies, and the latest equipment to develop competitive advantage and enable the joint force.
As with the Marine Corps writ large, MARSOC is undergoing a capability review to ensure we integrate and enhance the capabilities to operate in the information environment, increase our understanding of developing situations, create asymmetric advantages, and further evolve the role of SOF in competition and conflict. The ability to compete in multiple domains simultaneously and synchronize those effects is an essential element as we refine objectives from the traditional kinetic realm.
In our role as a connector between United States Special Operations Command and the Marine Corps, MARSOC remains positioned to capitalize on the forward deployed placement and access to help prepare the operating environment for potential future operations in competition and conflict.
As a complementary force in the contact layer, Marine Special Operations Forces are poised to do the advanced work to assess strategic locations, operational imperatives and tactical capabilities, while also working as part of the Stand-In Force to trade time and space for Joint Force physical and virtual maneuver.
All aspects of multi-domain operations (Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations (EMSO), Cyberspace Operations, Space Operations, Influence Operations, Deception Operations, and Information Operations) will require to be enabled by SOF, and MARSOC is posturing for such and remains prepared to support the Nation’s expeditionary force in readiness. These capabilities, more effectively integrated into our operations, facilitate actions SOF can take to support the resilience of our partners, support resistance movements against adversaries, influence populations to align with our ideals, and conduct precision direct operations as required…
Priority: The Mission
Over the past year, MARSOC personnel deployed in support of 7 named operations across 14 countries. Reinforced Marine Special Operations Companies (MSOC), made up of Marines and Sailors from the Marine Raider Regiment (MRR) and the Marine Raider Support Group (MRSG), were persistently forward deployed in order to conduct full spectrum operations in the Indo Pacific, Central, and Africa Command areas of operation, with elements also episodically deployed in support of the European and Southern Commands.
In addition, MARSOC has maintained a forward deployed O-5 level headquarters, Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) , in support of combat actions in Iraq and Syria for the last 5 years and has also deployed a MARSOC–led Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Iraq (CJSOTF-I), an O-6 level headquarters, to Iraq multiple times during the same period.
Inherent in all MARSOC deployable formations is the ability to collect and fuse information that illuminates adversary actions and networks and then conduct activities to shape and influence the environments, contribute to partner resilience, and conduct combat operations.
MARSOC efforts in the Indo-Pacific are of note, where Raiders are deployed in several key areas throughout the region gaining access and placement to build relationships and partner resilience. Notably, MARSOC elements in the Philippines are paired with significant support from III MEF forces to provide robust assistance to partner nation forces as they work to root out the final remnants of ISIS capabilities while providing reassurance of the United States commitment to the region in an active competitive location….
Though MARSOC is not a platform centric organization, we realize the use of specialized technologies and equipment can significantly enhance our operations across the spectrum. SOCOM guidance outlines areas that the SOF enterprise will focus its modernization efforts. These areas include Increased Lethality, Improved Interoperability, Next Generation Mobility Platforms, Network and Data Management, Next Generation ISR/Targeting, Biotechnologies and Human Interface, Hyper-Enabled Operators, Autonomy, Edge Computing, and Alternative Precision Navigation and Timing (PNT).
In coordination and partnership with other SOF elements, the Service, and a broad array of government and industry partners, MARSOC Combat Development continues to pursue the integration of intelligent unmanned, automated, and robotic technologies across the force. At the forefront of these development efforts is the pursuit of a technological fusion of our unmanned systems technologies with our advancing Cognitive Raider, Broadband Tactical Edge Communications, and Organic Precision Strike efforts.
Our planned unmanned systems (air, ground, and maritime) will operate with greater autonomy and serve as an increasingly important force multiplier, extending the operational reach, capability, and capacity of Marine Raiders by teaming them with intelligent and interactive robotic partners. Coupled with other capabilities, this human-machine teaming effort will increase survivability and increase the tempo of operations in the physical and virtual realms. These capabilities are effective operating against both Violent Extremist Organization (VEO) networks, as well as near peer competitors.
Given that our most prized asset is our people, it should be no surprise that our innovation efforts are centered on the skills, training, and equipment we provide the future Cognitive Raider to be a blend of elite commando, intelligence collector, and information operations expert with a deep understanding of the environment. The future Marine Raider needs to possess the knowledge of how to blend, synchronize, and apply a wide variety of capabilities to accomplish the given mission. To achieve that, MARSOC will continue to be an evolving force that enhances the way we approach the operating environment and how we leverage and facilitate Joint, Governmental, and Partner capabilities.
Over the next five years, you will see an organization that operates with the same intensity as we currently do, but with potentially smaller, more specialized and capable elements focused on discreet indirect actions that counter peer adversaries.
These teams are intended to shape adversary/competitor behavior through enabling partners, assuring sovereignty, and eroding confidence in their own systems through a variety of low visibility methods.
This may call for organizational and capability enhancements that allow us to stay ahead in this mission area. Specifically, we anticipate increased demand for organic capabilities in the areas of Cyber, EMSO, Space, and Information Operations. Skills in these areas are increasingly important at every echelon of action, especially as we operate in the increasingly complex and sensitive future operating environments.