The Ellis Group

Examining naval warfighting challenges

by the Ellis Group

Released in February, MarAdmin 058/12 announced the LtCol Earl "Pete" Ellis Essay Contest which solicited articles focusing on how the Marine Corps should prepare for future conflict. Supported by the Marine Corps Association & Foundation, the judging panel ultimately examined 56 essays ranging from strategic changes to Title 10 responsibilities and force structure to small unit tactical modifications and materiel solutions. While many of the entries suggested executable ideas, a few challenged status quo and evoked a "spirit of innovation." These essays included topics such as astral operations and amphibious sled connectors for wheeled personnel carriers, while others examined the role of cyber unmanned aircraft systems and littoral connectors. As this year's essay focus was on strategic issues, the majority concentrated on force structure, offering that the size or organization of the Marine Corps is where innovation needs to occur.

After substantial debate, the pool was pared down to three winners. While the Ellis Group, the Marine Corps Association & Foundation, and the judging panel cannot necessarily endorse the ideas put forth in the essays, each have perspectives that are worthy of continued debate. In fact, all 56 essays brought with them valuable insight, experience, and rigor that the Ellis Group will leverage as it continues to develop how the Marine Corps will fight in the future.

The Ellis Group, formed in January, is a small group of Marine officers and civilians charged with conducting sustained and progressive examination of emerging naval warfighting challenges. It is a permanent follow-on to its temporary predecessor, the Amphibious Capabilities Working Group, and is coordinating with its naval partners to identify opportunities for increasing naval warfighting effectiveness while participating in and informing capability development. The Ellis Group, along with a soon-to-be developed Navy counterpart, the Navy Warfare Group, comprises the Naval Warfare Group, which is tasked by and informs the Naval Board, which is comprised of senior Navy and Marine Corps flag and general officers focused on naval innovation. For its part, the Ellis Group, located at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, is leading and contributing to a variety of specific efforts including the relationship of sea control, power projection, operational access, and littoral maneuver; examining innovative approaches to maneuvering in the littorals; developing an amphibious strategy and defining amphibious capability; developing a single "naval" battle approach; developing the role of the MEB in naval operations; command arrangements; naval and special operations force integration concept development, experimentation, and exercises; and expeditionary operations in support of air-sea battle. The Ellis Group provides a forum to foster innovation. We solicit all ideas and will partner with the Marine Corps Association & Foundation in a second Ellis Essay Contest examining a more focused topic supporting littoral maneuver innovation.

Selected as the 2012 winner is "An Amphibious Manifesto for the 21st Century" by Col David C. Fuquea, USMC (Ret), which examines some new and not-so-new operational approaches and materiel solutions to challenges associated with ship-to-shore-movement. The essay is on page 10 of this issue of the Gazette.

"The Commandant's Rheostat: Logarithmic Thinking for 2023" by MSgt Russell Miller was selected as an honorable mention essay and makes the case for low-cost unmanned systems as the future of Marine Corps warfare. "Every Marine a Rifleman, Every Ship an Amphibious Ship" by Maj John Jordan, also an honorable mention essay, calls for expanding the roles of Marines aboard surface combatants with the return of Marine detachments to address the low-intensity and asymmetric challenges of today and the future. Both of these essays will be published in future issues of the Gazette.

Through forums such as the Ellis Essay Contest, the Ellis Group will continue to examine the Marine Corps' amphibious future in the littoral regions. As the group develops how we will fight, it will reach out to communities of interest to ensure all efforts are synched and in line with not only Marine Corps efforts, but other Services and combatant commands as well.