Key point: The Marine Corps, as a service, must be prepared to operate inside actively contested maritime and littoral spaces in support of fleet operations or wherever its role as the nation's naval expeditionary force-in-readiness takes it.
For almost two decades the United States Marine Corps has focused on a counterinsurgency fight through almost exclusively ground-based combat. While the Marine Corps has always met the demands of the nation, recent history has presented a challenge to its character as a naval service that requires a reinvigorated relationship with the U.S. Navy. The Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC) and the Chief of Naval Operations have signaled to the Naval Service that force design will be conducted along complementary, parallel, and coordinated paths toward transforming into future naval expeditionary and fleet forces.
The Marine Corps, as a service, must be prepared to operate inside actively contested maritime and littoral spaces in support of fleet operations or wherever its role as the nation's naval expeditionary force-in-readiness takes it. In similar fashion, given its understandable reticence to risk capital ships, the Navy must be comfortable with and capable of operating with regional partners and projecting power within a given adversary's weapons engagement zone (WEZ) in a command and control degraded/denied environment. As stated in the Commandant's Planning Guidance (CPG), these "Stand-in" forces must be, "designed to generate technically disruptive, tactical stand-in engagements that confront aggressor naval forces with an array of low signature, affordable and risk-worthy platforms and payloads." In his planning guidance, the CMC further states, "I will continue to advocate for the continued forward deployment of our forces globally to compete against the malign activities of China, Russia, Iran, and their proxies - with a prioritized focus on China's One Belt One Road initiative and Chinese malign activities in the East and South China Seas. This is not intended to be a defense of the status quo as our forces currently forward deployed lack the requisite capabilities to deter our adversaries and persist in a contested space to facilitate sea denial."
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