Future Marine Corps units could have assistant squad leaders

The Marines are considering adding assistant squad leaders to control unmanned aerial vehicles.

Since the beginning of the year the Marine Corps has been grappling with what its future force structure will look like and this morning the commandant may have tipped his hand, slightly.

The Marine Corps is looking into added assistant squad leaders to its units, Gen. Robert Neller said Aug. 9, during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington.

Those assistant squad leaders would be responsible for flying the squad’s unmanned aerial vehicles, Neller said.

Neller did not give much more information of when the decision would be made or into what units the assistant squad leader would be integrated.

The Marine Corps is taking an overall introspective glance at what its force structure needs to look like to accommodate future wars.

Neller said the Marine Corps would still be made up of 24 infantry battalions, but the makeup of those battalions may change.

“What’s inside those infantry battalions is going to be a little bit different, but not fundamentally different. I’m not ready to say exactly what that’s going to look like because we don’t know yet. We’ve got a number of different models and options we’re looking at. We want to make sure we maintain the capacity and capability of our Marine infantry battalion and that any changes to that are first ‘Do no harm,’ but it will be different,” Neller said.

The Marine Corps ordered a review of its force structure in January as part of Force 2025, a vision for the future of the military.

The review is made of two task forces, one that looks at more revolutionary changes of force structure and another that focuses on evolutionary changes.

Mark Cancian, a senior advisor at CSIS, said the Marine Corps is already developing “innovative concepts” in the way it organizes its units. The Marines are developing Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, which are smaller unites that may provide a way for the service to deal with contingencies.

The change in force structure is meant to partly emphasize the increased use of information warfare.

“We recognize the current and future fight may not be what we experienced in the past. It will encompass not just the domains of land, air and sea, but also space and the cyber domain. It will include information operations and operations across the electromagnetic spectrum. It will involve rapidly changing and evolving technologies and concepts, which will force us to be more agile, flexible and adaptable,” Neller’s January order to look into restructuring the force stated.

Back in October, Deputy Commandant Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh said the Marine Corps is willing to make reductions in the capacity of its forces to grow its capabilities in cyber and information warfare.

“An infantry battalion may look a little bit smaller in some ways, but you may add more cyber, information warfare capabilities, so that’s definitely an area that we are looking at,” Walsh said.

To go along with that information warfare emphasis the Marine Corps created the new position of assistant deputy commandant for information warfare.

The position pulls together the Marine director of intelligence, director of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence and the chief of the Marine Corps Forces Cyber Command, Walsh said.

“Instead of three individual stovepipes kind of doing their own thing [this] pulls together everything from a capabilities development standpoint,” Walsh said. “It all comes back to that combat development integration, a lot of people doing good things, but how do you integrate it together.”

The Marine Air-Ground Task Force, the principle organization for Marine operations, has also expanded from just air, sea and land to now encompass cyber and space.

Cyber and space are areas the Marine Corps is growing not only on the defensive side, but also through offensive capabilities.

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