Persisting Inside the Range Rings: A Perspective from the Intel Community

Is the 02xx community’s current enemy analysis output applicable in the environment described by the Commandants Planning Guidance? The CPG sets out a clear and concise challenge to the force. Operate inside actively contested maritime spaces. The implications can be revolutionary as this guidance provides a forcing function for full integration of all aspects of the Information Environment into the Intelligence picture. Simply stated: The displaying of threat rings for the max effective ranges of enemy weapons systems and calling it a finished planning product is simply not going to be good enough. Range rings do not accurately describe how planners should understand enemy capabilities and Commanders should no longer accept them. Instead, threat synchronization matrices (doctrinal, but rarely used) must include detailed subsystem threat analysis in identifying enemy critical vulnerabilities that when exploited facilitate persistent operations inside the A2/AD envelope.   

The Commandants mandate facilitates actions spanning Phase 0 to Phase 4 operations and requires a whole of government effort. From maintaining, strengthening, and creating new alliances; identifying favorable terrain (human and physical) for employment of required systems and personnel, finding gaps in enemy sensing coverage, understanding the enemy targeting cycle, and best methods to reduce our own signatures; operating inside the enemy weapons engagement zone (WEZ) is a tremendous challenge demanding innovative changes to our force and how we sense the battlefield.  

In his visionary Gazette article (worthy of republishing) from Aug 2016 titled HIMARS, MajGen Simcock outlines basic T/O requirements for forward positioned task forces: “force protection (maneuver, air defense, cyber, information warfare), firepower, logistics, and battlespace awareness…to enable Joint force freedom of action.” (p. 25) This organizational framework for USMC support to Dynamic Force Employment considerably shrinks the distance between MAGTF tactical actions and strategic impact.

Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) as a foundational product to the Marine Corps Planning Process takes on a heightened responsibility under the CPG and the paradigm MajGen Simcock describes. The IPB must now integrate an expanded evaluation of enemy capabilities that includes radars, communications, and sensing capabilities. Most importantly step three analysis must include vulnerabilities of named systems that contribute to persistence inside the weapons engagement zone.

Intelligence Support to the MAGTF operating to enable Dynamic Force Employment is a monumental task requiring tight integration and orchestrated leveraging of the disparate capabilities nested in the nascent MEF Information Group (MIG). But the principles of MCDP-1 endure. The enemy still has surfaces and gaps and maneuver warfare dictates we identify and exploit weak points. Persisting inside the enemy WEZ directs intelligence planners to find and articulate those gaps as part of a broader force survivability plan. 

—Lt Col Brad Fultz