New Marine Corps Intelligence Command fleshes out command and control relationships

New Marine Corps Intelligence Command fleshes out command and control relationships

After testing its structure in a series of exercises, one of the big early lessons learned by the Marine Corps’ relatively new Intelligence Command is understanding how different, similar organizations coordinate and work together.

MCIC, which is due to be established in early 2023, is intended to more closely coordinate the service’s information forces, including cyber, intelligence and space, with the broader joint force in theater.

The organization is currently led by Maj. Gen. Joseph Matos, who serves in many roles including:

  • Commander of Marine Corps Cyberspace Command.
  • Joint Force Headquarters – Cyber ​​Command, the Cyber ​​Command service component that executes operations for the Commander, Marine Corps, another combatant command, in this case Special Operations Command.
  • Commander of Joint Task Force Ares, originally the Counter-ISIS Cyber ​​Task Force, but now focused primarily on nation-state activity, primarily China.
  • the Service Cryptographic Component Command, a service organization within the National Security Agency;
  • Commander of the Marine Corps Space Command.

The forces under these six departments are all independently assigned, many of which are part of Cybercom, Space Force and the NSA, but coordinating their relationships under the new structure is proving difficult.

“Those relationships were already known and understood a year and a half ago when we established the command, but the learning point was how do you bring these together functionally, legally, policy-wise,” Col. Benjamin Glass, operations officer for MCIC, MARFORCYBER and MARFORSPACE, told DefenseScoop in an interview. “How do you command and control this organization? Are all these organizations going to be under a two-star general who’s commanding them all, or are there organizations underneath him that can coordinate and direct the tasks, so to speak? Those are the conversations we’re having.”

The testing took place primarily in the Pacific region, and when forces were asked to participate in these simulations or be called upon to operate, MCIC had to work with support across multiple combatant commands (such as Indo-Pacific Command and Cybercom) as well as through the military forces themselves.

Glass said they are still figuring out how best to do this, adding that they are talking with lawyers about what the military can legally do from a policy and authority standpoint, particularly when it comes to the question of whether they can use capabilities that the military has or should leverage the powers of senior government officials.

“Those are some of the learning points that we’ve looked at and talked about over the past year as we’ve tried to use different processes. NSA has a process for allocations and requests, Cybercom has a process, the military and joint force have processes,” Glass said. “Working through those, learning and testing those are some of the things that we’re learning and talking about right now.”

Another key command and control challenge the team considers is the relationship between Space and Cyber ​​Command. In the Marine Corps, these forces report to the same commander (although technically they are Space and Cyber ​​Commands, respectively). But they aren’t coordinated at the operational and sometimes tactical levels. They plan and operate separately, and integration isn’t always happening.

“Earlier this week, we came together from different fields. [the commander’s] “What emerged was that all of these forces were providing support in different shapes and forms, and different commands were planning and executing great forward support, but we just weren’t thinking about it holistically across the command,” Glass said.

From exercises to operation

Glass explained that last year the focus was on MCIC training, but in 2024 the agency is looking to place more emphasis on operational integration.

A recent real-world example was when planning staff was deployed to support Marine Corps Central Command in their efforts to assist Central Command in the Israeli-Hamas conflict. These planners were not former MARCENT staff personnel, so MARFORCYBER/MCIC brought on additional planners to assist, even though they were not directly involved in the execution of the operation.

Staff augmentation at commands around the world is one of the key areas MCIC is looking to improve.

“What we’re looking to do is build the capacity to drive support to these MARFORs,” Glass said at the Modern Day Marine conference in April. “What we’re trying to do is build a contingent that can go in and provide manpower augmentation, maybe for forward support or logistical support-specific manpower augmentation.”

MCIC and other associated commands have Marines with areas of expertise that don’t exist anywhere else, so sharing that elsewhere can enhance the planning of our own operations.

“If you’ve never been assigned to Spacecom, if you’ve never been assigned to Cybercom, you probably don’t know or understand the unique nuances of accessing those authorities,” Glass said. “You’re trying to pull from people across that organization to augment your staff, but historically the Marine Corps has had the attitude of, ‘Here’s what we have to do on behalf of Cybercom. Here’s what we have to do on behalf of Spacecom.’ Trying to bring all that together on behalf of a specific MARFOR is an example of what I’m talking about now.”

Visualizing the invisible information space

One of the biggest demand signals Glass is hearing from the broader community is the need for battlefield awareness in the information world.

“Typically we focus on battlespace spatial awareness and creating a common operating picture for ground forces that are on the move, and we’re now doing the same for air assets that are on the move,” Glass said. “There’s an increasing demand for information environment battlespace spatial awareness — not just where forces are physically located (when they’re deployed or engaged in exercises), but where they are in cyberspace or real space. There’s a growing demand from commanders and organizations.”

Officials have spoken in the past about the need for a common operating picture in the information space to better visualize and command forces and effects in the same way that they command physical forces.

One of the things MCIC has tried to provide is to present the non-kinetic forces under one commander, both offensively and defensively, so that the Fleet Marine Forces commander can understand their capabilities.

We are also working on training in modelling and simulation of information spaces to better understand the effectiveness of specific information capabilities and tools.

The effects of munitions with predictable blast radius are well known, but the impact of using information capabilities to influence a target’s mind is less understood.

“In the Marine Corps, breaking things and blowing things up has been our watchword for over 200 years. When you look at the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the Israel-Gaza crisis, how do we incorporate that into our training in this new world where information is a force multiplier?,” Glass said. “We Marines trained on the rifle range every year. We trained in the gas chamber every year. We do physical training so we know how to do it in a real environment. The information environment is just for us to constantly change our objectives and find ways to achieve them.” [is] It’s a little different and a lot more difficult to train.”

Work is underway in collaboration with Twentynine Palms to better incorporate the information into training and exercises.

“As we build the intelligence profession and build that capability across the Marine Corps over the coming weeks, months and years, how do we incorporate that into our training? How do we develop information firing ranges where we can test messages?” Glass said. “I think [an] Articles are brought into the virtual training ground in advance to train the modeled population, [and] We can run a simulation and see the reaction to his article before it’s published. How can we factor that into the simulation and see what kind of impact might or might not happen?”

Commanders and troops must become familiar with and understand these types of capabilities before firing what Glass calls “information rounds” onto the battlefield.

“Information environment, battlefield awareness, we’re going to continue to work on that, moving forward, developing and maturing it, finding processes and procedures that work, finding partners that want that information, knowing that there are indications of demand for that information,” Glass said. “I think those are probably the three focus areas where we’re going to spend our time and effort over the next 12 months.”

Mark Pomerleau

By Mark Pomerleau

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for DefenseScoop covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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