April 2017

ARG-MEU Employment Methods

Aggregated, disaggregated, distributed
Volume 101, Issue 4
Category: 
11th MEU elements conduct amphibious operations for Exercise ALLIGATOR DAGGER in Djibouti in 2017.
Photo by LCpl Devan Gowans

The Navy and Marine Corps’ most capable forward deployed, globally responsive force is the three-ship ARG with an embarked MEU.1 The ARG-MEU program is a deployed global presence existing since the 1960s, and it is in persistent high-demand among combatant commands (CCDRs) today. This demand ensures continuous ARG-MEU employment, both during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns that dominated our military focus in the early 21st century and today as planned or crisis demands among geographic combatant commands (GCCs) and SOCOM (Special Operations Command) outweigh the available amphibious shipping.2 During the ARG-MEUs’ 40-plus years of existence, two general terms developed to characterize ARG-MEU employment methods in support of GCCs: aggregated, when in support of one GCC; and disaggregated, when supporting multiple GCCs. A third term, distributed, recently developed as an additional employment method to support multiple GCCs.3 The three terms are similar in that they evolved from existing naval Services’ strategies, concepts, and policies.4 They differ, however, in their specific operational- and tactical-level command and control constructs, their provisions for the conduct of mission essential tasks (METs), and their impacts on ARG-MEU readiness. This article examines the employment method distinctions and discusses aspects of the current Joint and operational climate that influence employment.

The Marine Corps and Navy provide deployable ARG-MEUs through the Global Force Management (GFM) process for Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) allocation to CCDRs for exercises and/or operations.5 The most common employment of ARG-MEUs is allocated aggregated to a single GCC and theater. Within the aggregated construct, the GCC exercises operational-level combatant command (COCOM) authorities of the ARG-MEU. The GCC typically delegates OPCON of the ARG-MEU to its Navy Component (NAVFOR), which exercises TACON of the ARG-MEU.6 At the tactical level, the amphibious squadron (PHIBRON) commander and the MEU commander retain command and control of their forces throughout the theater, creating a unity of command that enables them to direct, train, maintain, and sustain those forces. Within aggregated employment, an ARG-MEU could be split, with individual ships and embarked Marine elements operating beyond the operational reach of tilt-rotor aircraft or other organic air and surface assets. Split elements are separated by time, distance, or task within the theater, but the ARG-MEU commands and controls operations and sustainment, leveraging the NAVFOR and global communications and logistics networks. Time is a consideration for repositioning split ARG-MEU elements together, depending upon the distance between ARG-MEU elements and the theater’s size. Importantly, the ARG-MEU remains in the same OPCON/TACON chain of the GCC when split. 

The preferred method of ARG-MEU employment is aggregated. This is the most efficient and responsive employment, based on its command and control structure, inherent ability to accomplish METs, and also maintain readiness. The aggregated command and control lines are straightforward and clear (see Figure 1), and unity of command exists from the operational through tactical levels. This facilitates the ARG-MEU’s ability to conduct the 13 METs for which it was organized, equipped, trained, and certified (see Note 1), thus providing the GCC with response options across the full range of military operations (ROMO).7Aggregated employment also supports the highest levels of deployed training and equipment readiness. The ARG-MEU can conduct unilateral, bilateral, or multi-national training that retains MET proficiency of all MAGTF elements while building partner nation capabilities. Likewise, airframe and equipment readiness benefits from the streamlined flow of parts and equipment, through theater hubs and across ARG ships. Overall, ARG-MEU aggregated employment provides tremendous operational capability to the GCC and a given region. By itself, however, aggregated does not support emergent requirements that manifest in multiple GCC regions. To support multiple GCCs, ARG-MEUs are either disaggregated or distributed. 

Before discussing disaggregated and distributed employment, we will look at two underlying reasons that an ARG-MEU should expect to support multiple GCCs. The first is amphibious shipping inventory and availability. The naval Services’ ability to generate ARG-MEU presence depends upon available amphibious lift and deployable forces.8 Presence is reflected by the number of ARG-MEUs deployed throughout the year to GCCs. Currently, enough available lift exists to support a presence of two deployed ARG-MEUs, of the seven stationed in CONUS and Okinawa.9 Previously, GCCs relied on an allocated, rotational ARG-MEU presence to meet their requirements. Now, an imbalance between available amphibious lift and GCC requirements precludes a consistent ARG-MEU presence across all GCCs. GCC demand remain high, but not all GCC ARG-MEU requirements are met.10 This imbalance drives Joint Staff recommendations and SECDEF decisions on whether a deployed ARG-MEU is aggregated, disaggregated, or distributed. 

The second reason that an ARG-MEU would support multiple GCCs stems from an environmental shift within the DOD. This shift frames force management within the current threat paradigm, defined as a Trans-Regional, Multi-Domain, Multi-Function (TMM) conflict spectrum.11 It modifies the existing command and control constructs for application in a complex environment, where requirements outweigh available fiscal, structural, and operational resources. Significantly, this leads to informing allocation decisions not through a demand-driven lens, but through the lens of national strategy. Recent Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) guidance, the 2016 National Military Strategy, and CMC and CNO direction point to the need for flexible, responsive means to meet multiple GCC requirements within TMM and across the ROMO. This requires forces that can act globally, regionally, and jointly. The ARG-MEU, already a premiere force capable of global response, supports this need when distributed and to a lesser extent when disaggregated. ARG-MEU employment within this paradigm does not require new processes or creations, and is achieved within existing Title 10 and GFM authorities. 

Until recently, an ARG-MEU already allocated and deployed to one GCC was commonly disaggregated to support emergent requirements in another GCC.12 Disaggregation results from SECDEF Title 10 authorities to allocate and reallocate forces and Joint Staff GFM processes that divide the ARG-MEU between multiple GCCs, with specific ARG-MEU capabilities and elements aligned to each GCC’s requirements. These capabilities and elements, such as a particular ship(s) with embarked Marines, are partitioned via GFM reallocation to the gaining GCC and NAVFOR. The operational-level command and control construct is that the gaining GCC and NAVFOR are granted OPCON and TACON of the ARG-MEU elements for the duration of the emergent requirement. Functionally, the ARG-MEU is bifurcated, with elements employed in two distinct GCC command and control chains, and separated by the Unified Command Plan (UCP) boundary (see Figure 2). On the tactical level, disaggregation restricts ARG-MEU commanders in their command and control and their unity of command of those elements within another GCC and NAVFOR.13 In practical terms, the ARG-MEU is separated into independent elements within different GCCs and NAVFORs, thereby eroding unity of command.

The ARG-MEU’s partitioning between GCCs reduces overall training and equipment readiness, and the ability to conduct the METs for which the ARG-MEU is certified. Disaggregation provides GCCs parts of the whole, in that segmented ARG-MEU elements are capable of a minimum number of METs, defined by the combination of what the ship(s) and embarked Marines provide. The individual ARG-MEU elements lack the operational capabilities that the overall force brings. No GCC has access to all 13 MET capabilities that the naval Services train, certify, and deploy the ARG-MEU to deliver, until it is re-aggregated by the SECDEF and GFM process. Each GCC employs, at most, a mini-MAGTF to a minimum effect. 

The constraints on conducting all METs extend to sustaining ARG-MEU readiness. When disaggregated, ARG-MEU training and maintenance readiness degrades over time. The UCP boundary and GFM processes prevent a timely and responsive ability to move planners, maintainers, equipment, and capabilities throughout the ARG-MEU to sustain and support the disaggregated forces (see Note 13). Each independent element relies on its organic capabilities and the operational, training, and logistical support provided in theater.14 Training and maintenance are limited in scope to the equipment and capabilities resident within each element. If specific personnel or parts are not available within the ARG-MEU element or within the theater, GFM processes are necessary to get them. Given its division of the ARG-MEU into separate elements, disaggregation creates a potential need for additional personnel and equipment to support each element’s independent operations. Disaggregation is a valid but limited method of ARG-MEU support to multiple GCCs, appropriate in those cases where either the scope of requirements or the range of geography between ARG-MEU elements surpasses the ARG-MEU commanders’ span of control.15 Overall, its main distinction is that the ARG-MEU becomes a sourcing solution for requirements in multiple GCCs, and is divided to meet them with a minimum capability that represents less than an ARG-MEU. 

The Marine Corps and Navy, in coordination with the Joint Staff, recently codified a second method of ARG-MEU support to multiple GCCs: the distributed ARG-MEU. Distributed employment optimizes that support to multiple GCCs by enabling ARG-MEU effectiveness across UCP lines (see Figure 3.) In the distributed employment method, OPCON of the ARG-MEU is maintained by the original GCC, and TACON of specific ARG-MEU elements is granted to the gaining GCC for the duration of the emergent requirement and assigned mission. This enables the ARG-MEU commanders to retain command and control and unity of command across the UCP boundaries and in support of the assigned missions. The ship(s) and embarked Marines that are distributed TACON to a GCC remain an extension of the ARG-MEU. They are employed via coordination with and among the TACON-holding GCC and NAVFOR, the ARG-MEU commanders and staffs, and the ship(s) with embarked Marines. The ARG-MEU staffs communicate and coordinate with both NAVFORs and across the UCP to accomplish the missions assigned within the GCCs. This results in a substantial increase in communication requirements, managed through the ARG-MEU staffs’ significant depth and capacity to support a broad scope of coordinative efforts.16 They also leverage the global command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I) telecommunications architecture to support coordination. In effect, distributed employment designates the whole ARG-MEU to conduct missions in two different GCCs and NAVFORs, vice dividing it into separate individual parts.

At the operational level, the distributed command and control construct enables GCCs and components to resource the larger planning, coordination, and maintenance sustainment capacities of the entire ARG-MEU. This produces trans-regional effects, within the ARG-MEUs operational capabilities, that benefit simultaneous sourcing and accomplishment of planned or emergent requirements. 22d MEU/COMPHIBRON-6’s recent 2016 deployment exemplifies the benefits of distributed employment. The SECDEF and Joint Staff distributed the ARG-MEU, via GFM processes, from its original allocation in one GCC to meeting existing and emergent requirements in multiple GCCs. While distributed, the ARG-MEU planned, coordinated, and conducted aviation strike operations and stand-by TRAP and quick reaction alert forces in one theater. Simultaneously, they planned and coordinated requirements for stand-by TRAP and quick reaction alert forces, theater security cooperation (TSC), combined training ashore, and port visits in another. They also briefly supported TSC in a third theater.17 In all cases, the ARG-MEU communicated, planned, and coordinated with NAVFORs in both theaters to support assigned missions. The ARG-MEU commanders were not the final approval authority for all missions but were a functional part of the approval process for all ongoing or planned missions regardless of theater.

One key element of distributed employment is that the UCP and GFM processes are less restrictive for cross-UCP actions that support and sustain the assigned missions. Cross-UCP movements associated with distributed employment occur within the parameters of the assigned missions and stop short of changing the capabilities allocated by the SECDEF and Joint Staff. Planners, maintainers, and equipment are moved where and when needed among the theaters to coordinate, conduct, and sustain the assigned missions. Those cross-UCP movements are enabled by increased component (MARFOR/NAVFOR) communications and coordination within and across UCP boundaries, and among GCCs and the Joint Staff. This communication creates a transparency necessary for situational awareness at all levels. ARG-MEU commanders, in coordination with the naval components, can tailor the force and weight personnel and equipment to where the greater point of friction lies, short of changing allocated capabilities. 

An important and related aspect is that requests for forces (RFFs) normally associated with cross-UCP movements are reduced. The transparent and continuous coordination within and across the UCP by the ARG-MEU commanders and staff, NAVFORs and MARFORs, and GCCs and Joint Staff ensures shared situational awareness at all levels. This is not to say that distributed employment obviates RFFs. The SECDEF and Joint Staff retain Title 10 responsibilities to adjudicate force allocations between GCCs and can require RFF for proposed movements at any time. The key is distributed employment eliminates the default need for RFFs because practically, it extends the ARG-MEU’s unity of command across UCP lines to conduct and sustain missions in multiple GCCs. ARG-MEU support is maximized for crisis/contingency planning or operations, special operations forces (SOF) integration, Joint and combined training, and TSC.18

An example, beyond 22d MEU/COMPHIBRON-6’s recent deployment, is an ARG-MEU in the Eastern Mediterranean, planning and conducting operations that support EUCOM-AFRICOM-CENTCOM (the TRICOM area). The distributed ARG-MEU could conduct TSC and fixed-wing strike in one GCC, while also supporting stand-by alert force missions in another GCC via allocation of an LPD with embarked Marines and tilt-rotor aircraft. If that GCC’s requirements change to rotary-wing strike, with a corresponding switch of the allocated tilt-rotor capabilities, then it triggers an RFF and the related SECDEF/Joint Staff adjudication and GFM process. Below that threshold, the ARG-MEU supports those missions via cross-UCP movements as needed, through continuous transparent coordination at all levels. Distributed employment does not provide ARG-MEU commanders with unilateral authorities to adjust force compositions across UCP lines and change allocated capabilities. That authority is resident at the SECDEF level. However, distributed does enable ARG-MEU commanders to conduct movements in support of the assigned mission and sustainment of the allocated capabilities. This accelerates operational and tactical tempo, ARG-MEU flexibility and responsiveness, and trans-regional effects, and it precludes the need for additive personnel or equipment.

Distributed employment has varying impacts in terms of MET capabilities and ARG-MEU readiness. The distributed ARG-MEU’s available time and capacity to conduct all METs are restrained by the support it provides simultaneously to multiple theaters. Similar to being disaggregated, the ARG-MEU cannot train to or fulfill all 13 METs without being re-aggregated across UCP lines through SECDEF decision and the GFM process. The METs that are conducted are associated with the missions that led to the ARG-MEU’s being distributed or disaggregated. In effect, both distributed and disaggregated employment limit MET-related operational capability, training, and training readiness. However, distributed employment allows the potential for higher mission and equipment readiness. The distributed ARG-MEU supports all elements regardless of location with planning, coordination, and maintenance capabilities, so distributed elements are not limited to maintenance capabilities resident within them. The ARG-MEU, through transparent component/GCC coordination in both theaters, supports maintenance sustainment across UCP lines. This establishes a consistent ability to sustain acceptable levels of equipment and aircraft readiness, using the capacity of the entire ARG-MEU. 

The considerations related to distributed employment do not require new processes, but they do require evolving and operating differently within existing processes. One example concerns the OPCON-holder’s responsibility to fund operations. A reasonable view is that the GCC which retains OPCON of a distributed ARG-MEU may not bear responsibility for funding ARG-MEU missions conducted by elements TACON to another GCC. Those funding requirements could be shifted via Global Force Management Allocation Plan (GFMAP) administrative notes, or via the Joint Staff execute order (EXORD) that initiates distributed employment. Likewise, global logistics routing via the Naval Logistics Integration (NLI) system has to account for specific unit locations, to ensure efficient parts flow through regional hubs that support globally distributed ARG-MEU elements. This increases maintenance tempo and reduces delays by precluding ARG-MEU elements in one GCC from receiving and funneling parts to elements in another.

Also, early identification of distributed employment allows ARG-MEU, component, GCC, and Joint Staff planners to identify and schedule Joint enabler capabilities to facilitate the assigned missions. These could include intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in addition to theater medevac platforms, surface ship combatants, and fixed-wing strike assets. Finally, conditions should be defined to specify when the ARG-MEU re-aggregates. The retention of OPCON by one GCC ensures at a minimum that discussion occurs about when elements distributed TACON are re-aggregated. Whether that is upon completion of the distributed mission or upon activation of an operational plan or contingency plan, the GCCs, components, and the ARG-MEU should be aware what time or events trigger re-aggregation. 

As we look across the ARG-MEU aggregated, disaggregated, and distributed employment methods, we see a few similarities:

• Each stems from SECDEF authorities related to Title 10 and the GFM process. These define SECDEF authority to “allocate forces between CCDRs ... The Secretary will specify the command relationship the gaining commander exercise[s] and the losing commander relinquish[es].” 19

• The methods reflect existing naval Services’ concepts and strategies, condense enduring discussion on ARG-MEU employment,20 and are evolved to apply within the current TMM spectrum and National Military Strategy.

We also see distinctions in their operational-level command and control constructs:

• A three-ship aggregated ARG-MEU is employed by a single GCC, who exercises OPCON through the NAVFOR and TACON through a task force commander. Unity of command is retained at all levels, and the ARG-MEU can accomplish all 13 METs, given time considerations to relocate if split. Split employment is a subset of aggregated and remains within the GCC. Aggregated is the preferred employment method.

• A disaggregated ARG-MEU supports multiple GCCs through its employment as individual parts within distinct OPCON/TACON chains. The ARG-MEU is divided at the cost of unity of command and a minimal operational capacity relative to the whole ARG-MEU. GCCs are limited to the capabilities resident within each part. Disaggregated employment meets minimum requirements and is the least effective method overall.

• A distributed ARG-MEU supports multiple GCCs with elements allocated in both GCCs, but the ARG-MEU retains command and control and unity of command across the UCP in support of assigned missions. OPCON is retained by one GCC. The other GCC is granted TACON over the ARG-MEU elements conducting the missions that lead to distribution. The ARG-MEU coordinates within and across UCP boundaries to conduct and sustain operations, leveraging C4I systems and its full planning, coordination, and support capabilities. Transparent coordination and communications among ARG-MEU staffs, naval components (MARFOR/NAVFOR) within and across UCP lines, and between GCCs and the Joint Staff, is critical to the successful conduct of distributed employment and reduction of RFFs. Distributed ARG-MEU employment is the preferred method of supporting multiple GCCs. 

Finally, the Navy and Marine Corps are aligned and in agreement with the aggregated, disaggregated, and distributed employment methods, per the Naval Board held in September 2016, and prefer distributed employment as the method to support emergent requirements that require ARG-MEU support to multiple GCCs. Likewise, the employment terms are aligned with the Joint Staff. This is clear in the recent 2016 distributed employment of 22d MEU/COMPHIBRON-6 and the 2017 employment of 11th MEU/COMPHIBRON-5, where, for a time, the MEU was distributed among two GCCs and the ARG was split within one GCC. While distributed and disaggregated employment have pros and cons, distributed employment is more effective. Rather than dividing the ARG-MEU, it enables unity of command across UCP lines. This supports risk management at tactical and operational levels, enabling ARG-MEU commanders to remain in the planning, coordination, and execution process of assigned missions. Moreover, it advances discussion about ARG-MEU employment from beyond the optic of a given ship in a given body of water (an LPD in the Arabian Gulf or an LHD in the Mediterranean Sea). The discussion instead focuses on meeting requirements with the capabilities produced from the combination of a ship(s) with embarked Marines and equipment, leveraged through the ARG-MEU commanders and staffs. Regardless of its employment method, the ARG-MEU remains in high demand for its versatility, flexibility, and responsiveness. While no substitution exists for an aggregated ARG-MEU available to each GCC, optimized employment of available ARG-MEUs supports CJCS guidance and National Military Strategy objectives to meet global requirements across the ROMO in the trans-regional, multi-domain, multi-functional conflict environment.

>Author’s Note: This article reflects innumerable discussions with personnel in Marine Corps and Navy Headquarters Staffs, Components, and Operating Forces, and in the Joint community. It represents the thoughts of many, articulated today and over the years, and is a representation that “many hands make light work.”

Notes

1. The standard ARG consists of a commander, amphibious squadron staff and three ships, each with a well-deck and flight-deck or landing spots: the LHD, LPD, and LSD. The MEU consists of ~2,600 Marines and Sailors, formed around a CE of 320, battalion landing team of ~1,500, aviation composite squadron of ~500, and combat logistics battalion of ~280. The ARG-MEU is structured, equipped, trained, and certified to conduct 13 METs across the range of military operations: amphibious assault; amphibious raid; noncombatant evacuation operations; foreign humanitarian assistance; tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel (TRAP), aviation operations from expeditionary sites; theater security cooperation (TSC), airfield/port seizure, integration with Joint/ interagency/ intergovernmental/ multinational and SOF forces; embassy reinforcement; enabling operations; visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS); and expeditionary strike.

2. Enduring Joint and GCC planning factors for amphibious shipping levels point to requirements for over 50 amphibs. The CNO and CMC agree to 38 as the minimum for forcible entry, with a capacity to embark 2 MEBs. Current projections show 34 available by 2022. See FY16 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan, FY16 Navy Force Structure Assessment, and FY16 CNO and CMC Congressional Testimony.

3. At the Sep 2016 Naval Board, the CMC and CNO, along with Commander, Fleet Forces, were briefed on aggregated, disaggregated, and distributed ARG-MEU employment methods. The CMC and CNO acknowledged their viability, recognized their command and control distinctions, and registered a naval Services’ preference for distributed employment when supporting multiple GCCs.

4. Aggregated/disaggregated/distributed are referenced specifically or in general in A Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century, (Washington, DC: March 2015), Marine Corps Operating Concept 2016, (Washington, DC: August 2016), Expeditionary Force 21, (Washington, DC: March 2014), HQMC CD&I–Fleet Forces Command’s Disaggregated ARG/MEU Concept of Employment, (Washington, DC: 22 August 2014), and MCO 3120.13, Policy for MEUs, (Washington, DC: October 2015). Interestingly, no Joint or naval Services’ doctrine exists to describe ARG-MEU employment and operations. JP 3-32, Command and Control of Joint Maritime Operations, currently in a first draft revision stage, will incorporate the terms as described in this article.

5. The Joint GFM process allocates, assigns, or apportions forces to GCCs for validated requirements. Assigned forces are enduring within the theater. Allocated forces supplement assigned forces and execute tasks through rotational deployments (MEU, SPMAGTF-CR, UDP). Apportioned forces are designated for planning purposes. See Joint Pub 5-0, Joint Operations Planning.

6. OPCON: organizing and employing commands and forces, assigning tasks, designating objectives, and giving authoritative direction necessary to accomplish the mission. TACON: limited to detailed direction and control of movements or maneuvers within the operational area necessary to accomplish missions or tasks assigned. Unity of command: forces operate under a single commander with the requisite authority to direct all forces employed in pursuit of a common purpose. See Joint Pub 1, Joint Doctrine; Joint Pub 1-02, Joint Dictionary; Joint Pub 3-0, Joint Operations.

7. The ROMO is a broad spectrum from non-kinetic security cooperation and training on one end, to a mid-point of crisis response for humanitarian assistance or disaster relief, to kinetic combat operations and strikes on the other end. See MCDP 1, Marine Corps Operations.

8. Inventory refers to the total number of amphibious ships in the Fleets. Availability refers to amphibs not in a maintenance cycle. Deployable forces are those that are trained, equipped, certified, and ready for employment. See Congressional Budget Office, “Analysis of the Navy Amphibious Warfare Ships for Deploying Marines Overseas,” (Washington, DC: November 2011).

9. This equates to a maximum 6 of 30 inventory ships deployed, although the unique cycle of the 31st MEU enables brief periods where three ARG-MEUs and 9 ships could be deployed. See RAND Study, “Assessment of Surface Ship Maintenance Requirements,” (Arlington, VA: 2015) and Congressional Budget Office, “Analysis of the Navy Amphibious Warfare Ships for Deploying Marines Overseas,” (Washington, DC: Nov 2011).

10. See Valerie Insinna, “Marine Forces Japan Commander Raises Concerns on Amphibious Ship Numbers, Readiness,” National Defense, (Washington, DC: 11 April 2014) and Valerie Insinna, “Low Inventory, Low Readiness Plague Amphibious Ship Fleet,” National Defense, (Washington, DC: August 2014) as cited in “Unbreakable Amphib Ship Readiness,” 5 January 2015, accessed at http://cimsec.org. 

11. Trans-regional means actions that impact multiple countries and GCCs. Multi-domain refers to air, land, sea, space, and cyber domains. Multi-functional means, at the strategic/operational levels, theater ballistic missile defense, maritime security. At the tactical level, it refers to functions and actions along the ROMO. For more, see Jim Garamone, “Dunford: Command, Control Must ‘Keep Pace’ in 21st Century,” DOD News, (Washington, DC: 4 January 2016), accessed at https://www.defense.gov; and “Gen. Dunford’s Remarks and Q&A at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,” (Washington, DC: 29 March 2016), accessed at http://www.jcs.mil. 

12. Emergent requirements technically develop after publication of the GFMAP, but in practice the term refers to crisis or other unplanned requirements levied by GCCs once the ARG-MEU is deployed, that cannot be met by that GCC’s currently assigned or allocated forces. Rotational requirements support GCC plans, exercises, and operations, and are met through planned force allocations (MEU, SPMAGTF, UDP deployments), and published in the GFMAP. See JP 5-0, Joint Operations Planning.

13. Once the SECDEF reallocates ARG-MEU elements disaggregated, movements within the ARG-MEU and across UCP boundaries require SECDEF authorization. Time is consumed by coordination between the ARG-MEU, NAVFORs, and GCCs to release a RFF to the Joint Staff requesting movement approvals. Likewise, the RFF approval process can take multiple weeks, less in extreme situations. See Joint Pub 5-0, Annex H, for extended discussion of Title 10 and SECDEF GFM authorities related to allocating and reallocating forces.

14. This support is coordinated both by the NAVFOR and the MARFOR, as the advocate within the GCC for the appropriate employment of all assigned or allocated Marine Corps forces. MARFOR-NAVFOR and MARFOR-GCC coordination is important to disaggregated operations, and crucial to distributed operations.

15. Such cases that theoretically are outside an ARG-MEUs span of control and lend themselves to disaggregation might be geographic, involving simultaneous requirements across significant distance, such as in the Gulf of Guinea and in the Arabian Gulf. Or, they might be operational, involving sustained kinetic operations in two GCCs; either case lends itself to formal integration of ARG-MEU elements, via disaggregation, into regional Joint task forces. 

16. ARG-MEU CE average ~315 Marines. This consists of the core staff, planner augments, and support detachments (from MEF headquarters group and subordinate intelligence, radio, communications, law enforcement battalions; division reconnaissance battalions, and ANGLICO). Each detachment serves a specific enabling function, but also supports the MAGTFs planning and coordination efforts. PHIBRON staffs are much smaller, averaging ~23 Sailors, but the supported-supporting Blue/Green relationship ensures an integrated effort. See note 11 for cases where the CE’s capacity may theoretically be reached.

17. Theater Security Cooperation includes military-to-military training as well as humanitarian projects. Combined training involves partner or allied nation forces.

18. SOF integration, interoperability, and interdependence (SOF I3) is a USMC-SOCOM priority for establishing mutually beneficial training, equipment, and employment mechanisms. Theater security cooperation includes military-to-military training as well as humanitarian projects. Combined training involves partner or allied nation forces.

19. Quote is from JP 5-0, Appendix H. For extended background and detail on allocation and reallocation authorities, see JP 5-0; JP 3-0; classified FY16 - FY17 Global Force Management and Implementation Guidance (GFMIG), Section III and Annex C; and classified FY17 GFMAP.

20. A cursory search through online Marine Corps Gazette archives shows 59 articles associated with the search terms “ARG-MEU employment,” and 32 articles associated with the search terms “ARG-MEU distributed.” 

 

LtCol Brickley is assigned to MEU/SPMAGTF Policy and Operations (POE-30), Plans, Policies, and Operations Department, HQMC.