Call to Action: Are Joint Forcible Entry Operations Still Viable?Posted on: January 21,2021
Joint Forcible Entry Operations “JFEO” are defined as:
“Seizing and holding of a military lodgment in the face of armed opposition or forcing access into a denied area to allow movement and maneuver to accomplish the mission.”
Given the proliferation of Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2AD) weapons and sensor capabilities, many question whether JFEO are still feasible, particularly against a peer or near-peer adversary. The answers to this question are of critical importance to the Marine Corps and by extension Naval Expeditionary forces since for decades, the Corps’ capabilities in this type of operation have defined the service’s role, mission and structure as part of the Joint Force.
Recently, this year’s students at the Command and Staff College were tasked to write Position Papers arguing either “for” or “against” the continued viability of JFEO in the current and future operating environment. Stand-out papers selected by the Command and Staff faculty are posted for your review.
Those arguing “YES” to the question may be found here:
- Viable, Enduring prepared by Major K. Chan
- Relative Strength prepared by Major Jesse Knight
- Always Viable, Different Approach prepared by Major Andrew D. Wright
Those arguing “NO” to the question may be found here:
Post your own Position Paper or other documents using this form: https://mca-marines.org/blog-submission-form/
JFEO remains a viable concept but the framing and execution must be modified. Case studies in ‘On Contested Shores: The Evolving Role of Amphibious Operations in the History of Warfare’ show that despite significant odds, landing operations can and have succeeded historically. A revision of how we think about them needs to happen from the tactical to the equipment. If we roll over and say JFEO can’t happen, we’re seceding initiative and access to our adversaries. Warfare will look different than OIF I or Desert Storm with significant and uninterrupted buildup periods.
On Contested Shores is available here: https://www.usmcu.edu/Portals/218/OnContestedShores_web.pdf
Free hard copies can be ordered from MCU Press.
AMICUS EXERCITU BRIEF
Joint Forcible Entry Operations “JFEO” in response to current and future generation Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2AD) and Operational Intelligence capabilities
JFEO is a traditional and proven methodology for forward deployed assets in the field to secure and/or retain a valued asset. A2AD and OpIntel have evolved rapidly, possibly exponentially, over the last five decades. Given the advancement of the latter and tried methodology of the former, it leaves our forces in a paradox.
While serving in the Marines, I did not serve in combat; I wasn’t even an infantryman. Instead, I am a proud graduate of the Marine Corps Computer Science School; the very effective school that was operated at MCB Quantico and not the watered-down vocational school they currently have at 29 Palms, but I digress. My thorough and faceted education there prepared me for a successful career in the Information Technology industry. For the last 21 years, after leaving the active duty at the tender age of 21, I have served as a civilian contractor in multiple government agencies, including but not limited to the Air Force Pentagon Communications Agency, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Nuclear Security Agency, and Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency. Additionally, I have worked in education at institutions like the University of Tennessee and even held the position as Chief Information Officer at Trinity College (Evansville, IN). Other billets included positions in the private sector as a vendor to these same institutions I previously served through companies like Splunk and DXC Technologies. Amazingly, I’ve maintained these positions with no more education that what I was offered as a lowly enlisted Marine, but again, I digress. I apologize for the extensive synopsis of my resume, but I felt this response warranted a framing.
As warfare has evolved over the decades since the Vietnam conflict, the line between intelligence gathering, cyber operations, and traditional warfare has blurred. Intelligence and cyber operations are the core of any modern tactical movement. (1) The methodologies for tactical engagement and cyber operations draw many parallels. As technologies have improved, so have the methodologies that are used to protect and defend cyber assets. Firewalls, intrusion detection and/or prevention systems, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing have empowered both red and blue teams alike, which creates a similar paradox to the JFEO/A2AD conundrum. It also provides a similar “solution.” General Berger has done an excellent job as commandant of pushing the retrofit of the Marine Corps to adapt to the modern warfare scenario that lay before it. (2) It’s equipment and technology are advancing at breakneck speed, just like the information technology vertical. Similar to the world of information technology, just because the tools advance, that doesn’t mean generations of doctrine should be disregarded. Ideally, you take that doctrine and pay it forward utilizing modern assets available to you now.
The response to the position, “Are Joint Forcible Entry Operations Still Viable?” is a resounding yes; and honestly, I do not believe it’s even arguable. The better question to present would have been, “How would you perform a JFEO in modern theater with the advancements of A2AD and Operation Intelligence?” The limited answer to give in this forum would be “Utilize what you know and exercise what you have.” Can we do a JFEO with modern A2AD and operational intelligence in place? Yes. How do we do it? Again, that’s the real question. Even though I did work at the Amphibious Warfare School, which is now the Expeditionary Warfare School, for a number of years, my knowledge does not afford me this. I can say General Berger is directing the Marine Corps in the right direction with smaller units, highly-maneuverable vessels and vehicles, and unmanned assets. Given advancements of A2AD, JFEO will have to be lead by unmanned assets to limit personnel casualties. Follow-on teams of personnel will need the capacity to quickly capitalize on JFEO advances or defenses initiated by these unmanned assets. To truly script this and modify existing doctrine will require some extensive analysis and war gaming. The US Marine Corps is the greatest fighting force in the history of the human race, and I don’t say that because I’m a Marine. I say that because I’ve studied history and know this to be true. I seriously doubt, given the vast amount of the professional command and control planning that takes place at all the career level schools, that anyone in the Marine Corps actually needed my input to develop an answer to this question, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the exercise. Thank you for your consideration.
Mark R. White
Corporal, US Marine Corps (1996-2000)
(1) Brunetti-Lihach, Nick, Maj, USMC “Cyber War Requires Cyber Marines” US Naval Institute, Nov2018, Retrieved from: https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2018/november/cyber-war-requires-cyber-marines
(2) Snow, Shawn “The Corps is axing all of its tank battalions and cutting grunt units” The Marine Corps Times, 23Mar2020 Retrieved from: https://www.marinecorpstimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2020/03/23/the-corps-is-axing-all-of-its-tank-battalions-and-cutting-grunt-units/
Threat capabilities may well influence our doctrine, but they should not define it. OK, so there’s a proliferation of Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2AD) weapons. Avoid them or take them out. Perhaps the question to ask is does the United States need to be able to conduct Joint Forcible Entry Operations (JFEO). If the answer is yes, then the Marine Corps needs to be able to conduct JFEO. The nature of our planet is such that the littoral areas cannot be strongly defended everywhere. In the 21st Century, the Marine Corps does not need to be looking for another Tarawa or Iwo Jima. One role of the Marine Corps that has not changed is to seize an area and hold that area until other United States forces can flow through. Hopefully in the future this area will not be as heavily fortified and defended as Tarawa and Iwo Jima. This has been the Marine Corps’ mission for a lot of years.
Yes, as I and others have written, there is still strategic and operational value in being able to project over, into foreign contested space. The challenges in generating intelligence, blocking countermoves, conducting penetration, and sustaining the force are harder than ever. One may assess that the likelihood of conducting such an operation in the face of a prepared defense against a major competitor that has operational reach is too hard, but that only includes a few states and very unlikely scenarios. But around the rest of the world, still invaluable capability.
Attack from rear (Vertical deposition) and the flank with a in coordination with an amphibious feint near the beach. Otherwise two vertical assaults: one a feint and one a rear attack and and a land assault on the flank.
+eg: the Sicily Landing in WWII, modified
1. Vertical insertion at Ragusa moving North, East Flank: Amphibious and vertical between Syracusa and
2. Amphibious Feint near Palermo,
3. Vertical assault at Messina through Torre Faro for blocking movement with attention to possible Nazi counter attack from main land; with LPs at Mortelle .
See Google Earth 37deg 28′ N ; 14deg 24′ E