Maneuver Warfare

By Maj K. L. Thompson

Col Brown freely admits that his “outline of a revised mission orientation and structure is by no means a complete picture, . . .” Nevertheless, I would recommend that it be given a most thorough review at appropriate decision-making levels to ascertain its true merit vis-a-vis our present mid/long range plans. I make this point because I have formed a distinct impression over the last several years, that the Marine Corps lacks a comprehensive, fully integrated, “living” mid/long range planning cycle. I share to some extent, the concerns of Maj K. W. Estes (Paradigm Changes Mar81) when he states, “Improvisations upon the traditional methods are attempted, but with unsatisfactory results.” Efforts to prepare the Corps for the future, be it doctrine, systems acquisition, etc. sometimes bring to my mind a picture of a city with a number of parallel avenues, all eventually ending in a large park. Down these parallel avenues, but isolated from each other, march interest groups with signs representative of their programs-LAV, LVTX, MCATF, FLS, HXM, etc.-the list is endless. As each group reaches an intersection (representative of period transitions, program milestones, whatever) they get a brief glimpse down cross streets of the other interest groups in their like march toward “year 2000 park.” Finally all groups reach the park, but is the product progress or chaos? In the park there may be over 100 acres of containers yet we now favor maneuver warfare with its lack of large fixed installations (a la Vietnam). The HXM may be fully developed upon the “traditional methods” of its predecessor the CH-46 yet it lacks adequate lift and survivability to be a truly viable asset. The LAV and the LVTX may both be operational yet doctrine to integrate and maximize their utility is lacking and personnel to maintain the large numbers of vehicles (each program wanted) aren’t available. We may have elaborate (mega-dollar) C^sup 3^I systems which unfortunately don’t interface well with a high mobility, maneuver warfare situation. Again, this list of developmental (both doctrine and equipment) dichotomies could go on but I hope the point is made.

Col Brown’s article may not be the panacea for our future yet it represents a bold, imaginative departure from our present “product improvement” approach. I believe there is a need for a Marine Corps and this need will increase in the future. However, to paraphrase Col Brown’s words, if anphibious assault and sustained land warfare form the basis of a ‘status quo’ Marine Corps, I can see no window to that future.