Information Warfare for Today’s Marines
As the U.S. Marine Corps undertakes its Force Design 2030 evolution to be a stand-in-ready force in a near-peer environment, the service is constructing its modern-day information warfare components. The move is necessary as adversaries work to malign the information environment with false narratives and propaganda, conduct malicious cyber attacks, confront or destruct systems and control access to information, among other threats.
Under the Marine Corps commandant’s guidance, the deputy commandant for information (DCI) and other leaders are completing several key information warfare initiatives, such as fully building out the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Information Groups, standing up a new information command and pulling together career fields to prepare Marines for information warfighting.
The DCI is also working to publish the service’s keystone policy on information warfare with the expected final draft of the so-called Marine Corps Warfighting Publication-8 Information due out in June, said DCI Lt. Gen. Matthew Glavy. In addition, the DCI is pursuing a comprehensive network modernization effort to support the increased use and access of data and cloud and to update the service’s underlying networks.
“First and foremost, anything to do with the DCI revolves around the MEF Information Groups (MIGs),” explained Gen. Glavy. “They are critical to our commanders in how they compete, day in, day out. That has been our main effort, bringing maturity to the MIGs, making sure all the capabilities are in place.”
The 37th commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller and the previous DCI, Lt. General Loretta Reynolds, who both retired in 2019, started the MIGs, achieving initial operating capability. Under current Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger, the DCI is responsible for achieving full operating capability for the MIG structure. The transformation to create the MIGs meant aligning signal intelligence; electronic warfare support; targeting cells; radio and communications; psychological operations; open-source intelligence and traditional intelligence, among other organizations, Gen. Glavy explained.
“It was a big deal to bring all those disparate organizations under a single commander and provide a command center on top of it,” he said. “We moved a lot of our intel functions—think of our intelligence battalions, our Radio Battalion, our SIGINT [signals intelligence] capabilities. We set up a psychological operations company. We established a communication strategy company focused on our PAO [public affairs officer] excellence. We created a cyberspace operations company in there as well. And then on top of that, we added electronic warfare and cyber and other things to complete the MEF Information Group.”
Each of the three MIGs is attached to each of the service’s MEFs—I MEF, II MEF and III MEF—with the MEF commanding generals overseeing their MIG and their other MEF organizations such as logistics, aircraft and communications strategy. “The MEF Information Groups, the MEF commanders are already using those exquisitely,” the DCI said. “They’re out and about doing the things we need them to do, especially in a competition-integrated deterrence phase. They are intel-centric, information-centric and are [getting that] information to drive outcomes.”
With the MIGs firmly in place, the DCI also is working to organize the information maneuver occupational field, dubbed 17XX. The move was meant to prepare Marines to support the specific information warfare functions. According to the service, “the idea is for Marines to generate, preserve, deny and project information to create and exploit information advantages.” Marines adroit in information warfighting will provide prevailing narratives; system overmatch, the technical advantage that produces firepower, intelligence, mobility, logistics or command and control advantages; force resilience to prevail against adversarial technological disruptions and malign activities such as disinformation and propaganda; offensive and defensive cyber operations; space-related operations; and influence operations. In addition, the 17XX Marines will help integrate space, cyber and other information warfare effects and capabilities into greater Fleet Marine Force operations.
For example, the service replaced the previous space operations, the 0540 billets with the new 1706 career field throughout the fleet, which will “compliment and augment the efforts of 8866 space operations officers employed above the tactical level,” the service indicated. The new 1707 occupational field for influence officers that conduct specific information operations replaces the previous 0520 field, while the 0521 assignment is converting to the new 1751 influence specialist occupational field.
More Marines are set to arrive in these occupational fields next summer. Gen. Glavy noted that they received twice as many applications in a recent call for interested Marines. The information warfare capabilities are also “in high demand” by the joint force. “We’ve been wildly successful in standing up 17XX occupational specialties,” the general shared.
Meanwhile, in December 2022, the service stood up the new Marine Corps Information Command, located at Ft. Meade, led by Maj. Gen. Ryan Heritage, who is dual-hatted as the commander of Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace and Marine Corps Forces Space Command. “The key to the MCIC [Marine Corps Information Command] is really the opportunity for our MEF and MIG commanders to get as close as possible to the functional authorities, approvals and capabilities,” Gen. Glavy said. “Up at U.S. Cyber Command and the NSA [National Security Agency], it’s really important to be close with them to ensure we execute correctly. Also, having a commander that is dual-hatted sitting very close to those commanders, those authorities, like cyberspace, for instance, is in our best interest to really provide an opportunity to maximize use by our MEF commanders.”
The service also moved the Marine Corps Information Operations Center to be part of the Marine Corps Information Command “to be aligned based on the information operations that the Marine Corps supports both at the MEF and at the joint force [level], as well as our Marine Cryptological Support Battalion, our unsung heroes that really support NSA and others in very unique ways. These are very gifted, skilled Marines doing very important stuff.”
It was a big deal to bring all those disparate organizations under a single commander and provide a command center on top of it.
In addition, the DCI expects the draft of the Marine Corps Warfighting Publication-8 Information, which will outline the concrete steps the service will pursue for information warfare, to be ready in June 2023, followed by the document’s publication in July or August. In June 2022, the Marines issued their cornerstone doctrine for information warfare—known as MCD-8, Information. And while that capstone service doctrine introduced the purpose and mechanics of information warfare for today’s Marines, the Marine Corps Warfighting Publication-8, Information will serve as a “living, breathing” document that will be updated over time.
“The commandant asked us to take a step back and have a discussion and start from lieutenant general to lance corporal on what is information? What do we want to do with it, and why is it important to any leader in the Marine Corps,” Gen. Glavy noted. “It was important to have that cognitive discussion with that foundational understanding as really the starting point. And now, the Marine Corps Warfighting Publication-8 will turn that into practical application. We’ve had this cognitive discussion, and now how do you turn it into execution? How do you turn it into staff actions? What does a commander need to do in the planning process to maximize their use of data and information? And so, that is the next logical step.”
In drafting the Marine Corps Warfighting Publication-8, the DCI and other leaders are reaching out to the MIGs, the Fleet, the combatant commands and other organizations. “We are learning from them what’s working and what’s not and then using that in order to inform us,” he continued. “We’ve reached out to our schools, certainly all of the Marine Corps’ universities and schools. We have also been out to EUCOM and INDOPACOM [U.S. European Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command] and other places where we think we can learn from to put the best document together, to give it our best shot based on inputs, and then learn and be ready to rewrite the thing probably after we publish it. I think it’s going to be a learning, breathing thing that we’re going to have to continue to have best practices with to get back to what’s working, what’s not and really understand the impacts.”
To support its information warfare and the greater Force 2030 Force Design efforts, the service has been focusing on modernizing its network and software. “We have put a lot of effort into transforming our network,” the general stated. “It is a hybrid-cloud-based network and a large chunk of the Marine Corps data is in the cloud. Now we’re able to use that data. We have to get better as we format and organize our data in the right places to generate desired outcomes.”
Colin Crosby, in the DCI office, has helped the service to advance its data management. “He has come in and matured our thought processes on data,” Gen. Glavy said. “[We are stewards of it, and it is most protected], but we needed to look at how do we use it, how do we really, really use it. And that goes from talent management to how we fight with our data.”
In the cloud, the service has already stood up an Impact Level 5 (IL 5) data environment. Going into the secret level, IL 6 is the next goal, the DCI confirmed. “That is a huge objective with the Joint Staff, the Department of Defense CIO [chief information officer], the Department of the Navy CIO,” he emphasized. “We will be first in line moving toward it. We see this as a critical step for Force Design from a warfighting standpoint to get into secret protocol…. IL 6 is important to us because I think it will really allow us to fully exploit how we’re going to maximize our data and maximize our information.”
Moreover, Gen. Glavy sees the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) as offering Marines flexibility, more competitive commercial cloud service offerings and a role for industry to help. “I think it brings opportunities,” he shared. “I am always worried about cloud costs, and that is why the JWCC is so important. The transactional nature of interactions, our data movement, there’s a lot of hidden costs. We’ve got to be very careful. A lot of the questions have to be asked upfront. We have got to make the right decisions, and we need industry partners to help understand it. We are in it for the long haul. So, we have got to be careful that we don’t price ourselves out of a critical capability like cloud storage and computation.”
Lastly, the DCI emphasized that industry can also help in discerning technological advances. “I think we are going be in this continuous state of change,” Gen. Glavy reasoned. “No one likes it. It is uncomfortable. I see it all of the time in this information warfighting function, as fast as technology moves. Change is going to be the key to success across the joint force. ... And our readiness today is going to be different than our readiness this time next year. I think we are going to see our joint force, the Marine Corps included, in this continuous state of change. And I think industry partners understand that.”