https://warontherocks.com/2019/10/a-str ... -services/
Berger goes far beyond the other service chiefs in describing how existing doctrine, weapons, and operational concepts are no longer adequate for the wars of the future, especially given the ever-growing threat from anti-access and area denial capabilities. Since marines will have to operate within the range of proliferating enemy precision fires, they will need to disperse into small units to avoid being targeted. This will require many new capabilities, including high-endurance loitering sensors and munitions, communications and radars with a low probability of intercept and detection, and advanced air defense systems. Berger wants the Marine Corps to develop precision land-based fires with ranges beyond 350 nautical miles, to attack moving targets afloat and ashore.
Berger argues that large and expensive manned platforms will become ever more exposed to attack and will make marines ever more vulnerable by concentrating them in too few places. Instead, in a pointed phrase that should apply to all of the services, he stresses that the Marine Corps “must continue to seek the affordable and plentiful at the expense of the exquisite and few.” This suggests that the Marine Corps needs a greater number of smaller and more specialized ships, as well as “an array of low-signature, affordable, and risk-worthy [read: unmanned and expendable] platforms and payloads.”
First, and most importantly, it needs to follow Berger’s lead in moving away from expensive, exquisite legacy platforms, and shift more rapidly toward far bigger investment in large numbers of cheap, unmanned, and expendable systems for a major war. As Chris Brose notes, the Air Force is deeply over-invested in short-range manned tactical fighters. The Air Force desperately needs to reduce its F-35 buy and start procuring smaller, unmanned, and eventually largely autonomous aircraft, just as Berger plans to do for amphibious shipping and watercraft
Although the Navy will surely welcome the return of the Marines as full partners in naval warfare, Berger’s sharp critique of big, expensive legacy platforms deeply undercuts current Navy shipbuilding priorities. Berger sees the need for platforms that are small, plentiful, specialized, and unmanned or minimally manned so that naval forces can continue to operate effectively inside the contested zone even if they absorb substantial losses
Berger’s vision of dispersed, small-unit operations closely resembles how special operations forces operate today. As the new guidance is implemented, the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command should increasingly work together to develop new operational concepts and capabilities — including weapons, communications gear, intelligence systems, and insertion platforms. But Berger also needs to learn an important lesson from special operations forces about what distributed operations require. Special operators routinely conduct highly independent missions characterized by high risk, great agility, and little oversight. In order to do so effectively, they are nearly always older than conventional troops, trained for much longer periods, and carefully screened for maturity and psychological toughness. But today, the Marine Corps (and the Army) typically puts its youngest and least-experienced people at the cutting edge of the battlefield. Berger’s vision may require the Corps to rethink its model of fighting primarily with 18-year-old marines — which would be another culture-shattering challenge for the 21st-century Marine Corps.