An Alternative

Recommended changes to the infantry battalion
by Col Andrew MacMannis (Ret) & Col J.J. Carroll Jr. (Ret)
>Col MacMannis was an Infantry Officer who is currently a Research Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies supporting the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.
>>Col Carroll was an Infantry Officer who is currently a Research Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies supporting the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.

“To err is nature, to rectify error is glory.”
—George Washington

Commandants Gen Neller and Gen Berger both said the Marine Corps is not organized, trained, equipped, or postured to meet the demands of the rapidly evolving future operating environment. In Berger’s 2019 Commandant’s Planning Guidance, he outlined his focus areas for change under the banner of Force Design 2030. In support of Force Design 2030, the Marine Corps stood up an integrated planning team (IPT) to review and recommend changes to the infantry battalion. The IPT identified what they perceived to be gaps and vulnerabilities of the current infantry battalion fighting in the future environment and concluded that the new battalion must be smaller; more technology-enhanced; MARSOC-like; multi-domain at echelon; more lethal by using precision fires, sensing, and engaging at greater ranges; and able to operate on a distributed battlefield.1

The IPT’s recommendation was that “Marine infantry must be able to absorb and deliver multi-domain effects at echelon.” To do this, it must trade mass for depth and the ability to distribute. It must better balance the volume of fire with precision fire while increasing sensing capabilities to extend the battalion’s ability to provide and/or enable effects at operationally relevant distances in support of naval expeditionary and MAGTF operations. Finally, it must be manned and trained with sufficient experience and expertise to successfully operate against a peer adversary across five domains.”2

Today, the IPT draft report remains the conceptual reference of record guiding the exploration and development of the future infantry battalion by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, Capabilities Development Directorate, and FMF.

Since the publication of the report, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab has made the future infantry battalion a focus of effort, conducting several infantry battalion wargames and numerous infantry battalion experiments to gain insight into future required capabilities.

An examination of observations from these events reveals some common themes: the fundamental employment of the infantry battalion is changing; sensing and combined-arms teaming can be the decisive effort in accomplishing the mission while operating at greater distances; the battalion lacks a dedicated all-weather reconnaissance capability; the battalion lacks capacity in all-weather sensing and fires; overall capacity in sensing and fires is deficient; the infantry battalion requires improved mobility to retain agility and tempo; the IPT 2030 staff structure doesn’t fully account for the increased complexity of the battlespace; the effective employment of crew-served weapons is at risk; and the logistics capability required for distributed or independent operations is not well understood.3

In 2022, after Infantry Battalion Experimentation Phase I, the Commandant made a few “low-hanging fruit” changes. He reconstituted the scout platoon structure, increased headquarters and service company capacity, increased 81mm mortar platoon and battalion organic precision fires section structure, reorganized elements of the rifle company into a hunter-killer platoon, and added machinegunner, mortarman, and anti-tank missile gunner primary MOS structure to that platoon. However, Phase I was an incomplete look at the organization and equipment of the new battalion. Much of the new equipment has yet to be fielded. In 2022, the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab started Infantry Battalion Experimentation Phase II with a goal to have a complete battalion organized and equipped according to the Force Design 2030 concept.Image

Figure 1. (Figure provided by author.)Having observed or participated in many of the aforementioned wargames and experiments, we argue that the current 2030 infantry battalion structure and organization will not solve many of the original gaps and vulnerabilities nor completely address common themes found in Infantry Battalion Experimentation Phase I. The following proposal (Figure 2) is an alternate that better addresses all concerns. This alternative reduces complexity for infantry company commanders by moving external support, expertise, and consolidated training out of the infantry company commander’s daily purview. Next, it simplifies and facilitates structural adjustments to new technologies. Furthermore, it increases the capacity of specialized functions and puts an appropriate level of subject-matter expertise in support of the company fire-support teams and the battalion fires and effects coordination center (FECC). Finally, it allows for hunter-killer teams to be decisive at both the battalion and company levels and ensures all-weather capability.

Figure 2. (Figure provided by author.)

This alternative proposes a battalion with a headquarters and service company and three maneuver elements: two infantry companies and a weapons and sensor company (W&S Co). Of the two infantry companies, one is light, while the other is mobile. The light company trains to be on foot or supported by assault support aircraft. The mobile company trains with organic transportation. The W&S Co can be the battalion’s decisive effort or provide direct support or general support to the line companies. This company consolidates new technology training and maintenance allowing the infantry companies to reduce their burden for oversight of complex, and changing systems, and balancing the span of control while managing complexity.

Figure 3. (Figure provided by author.)

Headquarters and service company (Figure 3) has the traditional staff (administration, intelligence, operations, logistics, and communications) and includes the scout platoon. The operations section includes the FECC manned by operations personnel and subject-matter experts from the W&S Co. The FECC is managed by the W&S company commander. The scout platoon provides all-weather reconnaissance and in conjunction with the battalion arms room has a sniper capability.

Figure 4. (Figure provided by author.)

The infantry companies (Figure 4) are comprised of a small staff, three infantry platoons, and a weapons platoon, which includes machinegunner, mortarman, and anti-tank missile gunner primary MOSs. Training and competency in these MOSs provide all-weather machinegun, suppressive and anti-armor fires. The infantry platoons include three squads with three fire teams each providing flexibility while managing the span of control. There is also increased organic medical capability to provide prolonged casualty care. The organizational difference between the light company and the mobile company is the organic vehicles and three mechanics.

Figure 5. (Figure provided by author.)

The W&S Co (Figure 5) includes five functionally specific platoons. All platoons can provide direct support or general support to the line companies while they can also provide multi-domain battalion or company-level decisive actions. The platoon commanders and platoon sergeants provide subject-matter expertise to the FECC while section or squad leaders provide expertise to the company fire support teams. The W&S Co can support both vehicle and foot mobile employment.

The 81mm mortar platoon provides all-weather suppressive and precision fire support. The platoon consists of six tubes that can split into three sections. The organic precision fires platoon provides mounted or foot mobile precision fires. The organic precision fires platoon carries 385 munitions which can be employed in support down to the squad level. The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) platoon employs and maintains unmanned sensing capability while also providing squads and platoons with maintenance and training in the employment, coordination, and deconfliction of UAS. The platoon can employ 80 UAS in support of the battalion down to the squad level. The air defense/counter unmanned aircraft systems platoon provides air defense and counter-UAS capability across the battalion employing four pairs of Marine Air Defense Integrated System teams. The signals intelligence/electronic warfare platoon provides sensing and non-kinetic fires capability. The signals intelligence/electronic warfare platoon can employ three different teams in support of the battalion or its subordinate units. With subject-matter expertise at the platoon, section, or squad level, they can support a wide variety of schemes of maneuver.

As we construct the infantry battalion for the future, new technologies are going to continue to force an evolution of kit and methods of employment. Most evolving technologies will apply especially to the W&S Co requiring flexibility to onboard, employ, train, and maintain the evolution.

The original IPT stressed smaller, lethal, mobile, agile, and flexible. The Commandant-modified battalion makes strides toward fulfilling the characteristics of the original IPT. The alternative course of action proposed here better optimizes the characteristics of the original IPT battalion and reduces structure without designing an entirely new battalion. It provides focused subject-matter expertise at the company and battalion level to deliver multi-domain effects. It balances the all-weather volume of fire from mortars and machineguns with a greater capacity for precision fires. It increases sensing capability and capacity to enable effects at relevant distances. It adds air defense and counter-UAS capability to protect the force against peer adversary capabilities. Thus, while the battalion looks different, it is really a refinement that increases critical capacity and placing capability where the battalion can best command and control the employment of the unit and best weigh the main effort.


1. Headquarters Marine Corps, Draft Infantry Battalion Design 2030 Integrated Planning Team Report, (Washington, DC: 2020).

2. Ibid.

3. These common themes are derived from personal observation and reports from two infantry wargames and thirteen infantry experiments embedded in exercises.