View Full Version : Warfighting Lab grows, reorganizes

01-14-06, 11:14 AM
Warfighting Lab grows, reorganizes
MCB Quantico
Story by Cpl. Jonathan Agg

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. (Jan. 12, 2006) -- An ancient Chinese proverb says change is like a dragon: you can stand in its way, in which case it will destroy you with its power; you can run from it, in which case it will rapidly overtake you and bury you; or you can jump on its back and let it take you where it will into the future.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, which adopted the symbol of the dragon at its inception to demonstrate its commitment to an open exploration of change, will put this ethos to the test in the next few years, culminating in a major experiment of the distributed operations concept as part of a ship-to-shore seabased maneuver in 2008.

The Warfighting Lab emerging from the 2005 restructuring of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command as a more streamlined entity, more integrated into the combat development process than ever before while adding an even greater emphasis on providing new capabilities immediately to leathernecks in the fight. In addition to its previous responsibilities, the lab gained the job of developing Marine Corps concepts and concepts of operation.

In addition to its existing five divisions, the Warfighting Lab absorbed three more from the former Expeditionary Force Development Center: Concepts and Plans Division, Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Division (located in Suffolk), and once again joined the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities.

James A. Lasswell, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory technical director, said that under the restructuring the lab is now the front end of the capability development process, consolidating concepts development, wargaming, and experimentation while continuing to focus on assessing new technologies that could support warfighters in current operations.

Laswell said the lab is the combat developer’s “swamp works” – all the assets are in place to quickly take an idea and develop it into a capability.

The Warfighting Lab has been re-imagined several times since its inception. According to Laswell, it was originally intended to serve as an engine of change to explore the implications of the information technology revolution – communications, GPS precision navigation, precision targeting, and highly accurate weapons – and how it could change the way Marines fight. Next came a focus on organizing, training and equipping for urban operations, including the development of a basic urban skills training package, which he said led to a focus on urban training and tactics, techniques and procedures.

Laswell said the lab’s next focus was refining the ship-to-objective maneuver concept, but Operation Iraqi Freedom brought a need to refocus on supporting the technology and training needs of the operating forces.

“What is it going to be next when we come out of Iraq? That is yet to be determined,” said Laswell, “but we anticipate it will be experimenting in 2008 in how the distributed operations concept can be implemented in STOM from the seabase.”

“What we have here at the lab is a think tank that can focus on anything the combat developer thinks is a priority,” said Colonel Doug Jerothe, chief of staff of the Warfighting Lab. “We have the resources, the personnel, and the connectivity to the operating forces – through our liaisons we maintain in I and II MEF command elements – and at ONR and DARPA to develop and idea, experiment with it, and provide a recommended combat development solution that can be based on an assessment that involves the operators. And we can do it fast.”

Lasswell said bringing the Concepts Division under the Warfighting Lab was a logical move that eliminates overlapping the roles of the lab and the former Expeditionary Force Development Center.

“The fact we had a Concepts Division and the Warfighting Lab sometimes created disconnects. Now, we think of the concept, we assess the concept, and then we look at tactics, techniques and procedures – as well as enabling technologies – that are needed to implement the concept, and can provide detailed feedback to the new Combat Development Division at the MCCDC Headquarters,” he said.

The lab will continue to provide the operating forces with a method of screening and assessing new technologies, Laswell said, and he pointed to several recent groundbreaking projects in the areas of combating improvised explosive devices, protective ballistic materials, and unmanned aerial vehicles as examples.

Laswell downplayed the impact of the dissolution of the Warfighting Lab’s Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (Experimental) in September, saying that although it was painful to lose the manpower, the organization had not been utilized as it was originally envisioned for several years.

“We only did MAGTF experimentation for a couple of years, and quite frankly the combat developer did not feel that MAGTF command elements were the priority experimentation need,” Laswell said. “When it went away, we lost people, but that just forced us to look at how we do experimentation more effectively and efficiently.”

John Manley, a Warfighting Lab public affairs officer, said the tide of change is helping build the requirements and priorities of the next Marine Corps.

“The lab as an organization is able to redirect its focus as required and as necessary, whether adding structure to take Concepts Division in and realigning MCCDC, or realigning within. The necessity of the lab in this evolution, being able to help our Marines who are out there – whether in Iraq today or Marines five or 10 years from now – that’s why we’re here, and that’s what we do.”