Summary

For the past decade, the U.S. Marine Corps and its sister services have been engaged in what has been termed “hybrid warfare”—a blurring of distinct categories of warfare across the spectrum, from active combat to civilian support.1 Military engagements in hybrid warfare occur in complex environments in which conflict involves “states or nonstate actors [that] exploit all modes of war simultaneously by using advanced conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism, disruptive technologies and criminality to destabilize an existing order.”2 Uncertainty and rapidly changing conditions and missions typify these struggles. Although they are by no means unique to today’s operations, the pace of change and inability to assess and predict in a timely manner the situations that Marines will face have intensified. Moreover, facing an agile, adaptive enemy means that Marines themselves must continually observe, learn, and adapt if they are to succeed.

The Marine Corps has also been engaged in what are termed “distributed operations” for the past several decades. Distributed operations are practiced by general-purpose Marine Corps forces composed of small and “highly capable units spread across a large area of operations,” operating with deliberate dispersion while separated beyond the limits of mutual support.3 This type of operation

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1 U.S. Government Accountability Office. 2010. Hybrid Warfare, GAO-10-1036R, Washington, D.C., September 10

2 Robert Wilkie. 2009. “Hybrid Warfare: Something Old, Not Something New,” Air and Space Power Journal XXIII(4):14.

3 Gen Michael W. Hagee, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 2005. A Concept for Distributed Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., April 25.



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Summary For the past decade, the U.S. Marine Corps and its sister services have been engaged in what has been termed “hybrid warfare”—a blurring of distinct categories of warfare across the spectrum, from active combat to civilian sup - port.1 Military engagements in hybrid warfare occur in complex environments in which conflict involves “states or nonstate actors [that] exploit all modes of war simultaneously by using advanced conventional weapons, irregular tactics, ter- rorism, disruptive technologies and criminality to destabilize an existing order.” 2 Uncertainty and rapidly changing conditions and missions typify these struggles. Although they are by no means unique to today’s operations, the pace of change and inability to assess and predict in a timely manner the situations that Marines will face have intensified. Moreover, facing an agile, adaptive enemy means that Marines themselves must continually observe, learn, and adapt if they are to succeed. The Marine Corps has also been engaged in what are termed “distributed operations” for the past several decades. Distributed operations are practiced by general-purpose Marine Corps forces composed of small and “highly capable units spread across a large area of operations,” operating with deliberate disper- sion while separated beyond the limits of mutual support.3 This type of operation 1 U.S. Government Accountability Office. 2010. Hybrid Warfare, GAO-10-1036R, Washington, D.C., September 10. 2 Robert Wilkie. 2009. “Hybrid Warfare: Something Old, Not Something New,” Air and Space Power Journal XXIII(4):14. 3 Gen Michael W. Hagee, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 2005. A Concept for Distributed Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., April 25. 1

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2 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS requires decentralized yet coordinated decision making at the small unit level 4 to project a “wider, more diverse application of power and influence” 5 in order to create an advantage over an enemy. Distributed operations rely on the “ability and judgment of Marines at every level” and are made possible by the decision making abilities of small unit leaders.6 Enhanced company operations (ECO) build on distributed operations as an “operational art that maximizes the tactical flexibility offered by true decentralized mission accomplishment . . . and facilitated by improved command and control, intelligence, logistics, and fires capabilities.”7 As with distributed operations, decision making at the level of the small unit leader is a critical component of ECO within hybrid warfare. These evolving warfare concepts have dramatically changed the perfor- mance expectations of small unit leaders. Because of the considerable size of the areas of operations assigned to small units and the need to respond quickly to an agile and adaptive adversary, small unit leaders—company, platoon, and squad leaders—now frequently find themselves isolated in both space and time, with little ability to reach back to higher headquarters for timely guidance or expert assistance. Because of the need for small units to operate semiautonomously over long periods of time, their responsibilities typically go far beyond what has been traditionally expected of a small unit tightly integrated into a larger-sized organi - zation and may include the coordination of supporting arms, logistics planning, intelligence interpretation, and even civil affairs. The complex environments in which Marines have had to operate have also added the demand that small unit leaders possess skills heretofore not considered critical to the traditional expeditionary warfare mission of the Marine Corps. A significant component of today’s engagements is aimed at “winning the hearts and minds”8 of the local populace and thereby denying sanctuary for the adversary. This component calls on capabilities including the following: understanding and empathizing with different cultures, understanding the explicit and implicit politi- cal landscape and interests of different factions, negotiating with local leaders, and coordinating operations with other agencies, coalition forces, and nongov - 4 For the purposes of this report, the term “small units” refers to companies, platoons, and squads (which includes teams). See Appendix D for the typical size and organization of these small units. 5 Gen James T. Conway, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 2008. The Long War: Send in the Marines, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., January, p. 32. 6 Gen James T. Conway, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 2008. The Long War: Send in the Marines, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., January, p. 32. 7 Gen James T. Conway, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps. 2008. A Concept for Enhanced Company Operations, Headquarters Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., August 28, p. 2. 8 The committee is aware that the idea of operations to win the hearts and minds of indigenous populations is not a new concept. The phrase was first used by the British Army during the Malayan Emergency in 1948, but the concept has been with us since the time of Alexander. It is mentioned here not because it is new, but because it demands skills and sophistication on the part of the small unit leader not normally called for in combat operations.

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3 SUMMARY ernmental organizations.9 These capabilities are all outside the traditional scope of company, platoon, and squad leadership in the Marine Corps. Yet, these skills, and many others besides, are critical elements to success in today’s operational environment.10 Finally, at the outset of 2012, the Secretary of Defense provided strategic guidance for the Department of Defense (DOD)—reflecting the President’s strategic guidance to the DOD; noted among the primary missions of the U.S. armed forces is the ability to conduct stability and counterinsurgency operations. Specifically, “U.S. forces will retain and continue to refine the lessons learned, expertise, and specialized capabilities that have been developed over the past ten years of counterinsurgency and stability operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, U.S. forces will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations.”11 Moreover, the strategic guidance continues, counterinsur- gency remains important although its emphasis appears to be shifting; however, the complexity of environments in which Marines are likely to find themselves will remain, and improving the decision making abilities of small unit leaders is a long-term proposition regardless of the mission emphasis.12 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The number and type of decisions called for from a small unit leader in today’s operational environment vary from routine matters of logistics and administration to life-and-death decisions involving force protection, noncomba - tant status, and tactical movement. Moreover, these decisions are almost always constrained by rules of engagement, considerations of unit capability, location, and mission priority. They are frequently made under great stress and always with incomplete, confusing, or inaccurate information. Such decisions involve difficult trade-offs between outcome and effects. More casualties might be required for mission success. Additional resources might need to be expended to reduce casualties. Leaders might opt to extend patrols to avoid hostile areas, or their mission might demand that they expose themselves to 9 For one study relating nonviolent counterinsurgency efforts such as provision of services to successful outcomes, see Eli Berman, Jacob Shapiro, and Joseph Felter, 2011, “Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq,” Journal of Political Economy 119(4):766- 819; available at http://dss.ucsd.edu/~elib/ham.pdf. Accessed August 26, 2011. 10 For the purposes of this report, the committee chose to examine, in part, the operational environment for small unit leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan so as to understand better the scope of decisions required by these leaders vis-à-vis the term “ECO in hybrid engagement, complex environments,” used throughout the terms of reference (see the Preface). 11 U.S. Department of Defense. 2012. Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, Washington, D.C., January, p. 6. 12 U.S. Department of Defense. 2012. Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, Washington, D.C., January.

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4 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS casualties in order to penetrate hostile areas. The number of trade-offs is almost endless. Indeed, while the committee was able to examine in part the operational environment, existing abilities, and gaps for small unit leaders (as requested in the first bullet item of the terms of reference),13 these constantly shifting variables made it difficult for the committee to develop recommendations consisting of the operational and technical approaches for improving the decision making abili - ties of small unit leaders (as requested in the fourth bullet item of the terms of reference). Put another way: it would be difficult for the committee to describe a meaningful set of metrics that could be used to declare objectively that its recom - mendations, if accepted, would result in “better” decisions for small unit leaders. Furthermore, the Marine Corps has long recognized that the ability of lead- ers to make sound decisions is best measured by these leaders’ performance over time in changing circumstances. The Report of Fitness for officers and noncom - missioned officers (NCOs) requires the immediate supervisor of every Marine officer and NCO to rate that individual’s judgment, decision making ability, and initiative. Over time, these reports form an accurate picture of the decision mak - ing ability of a Marine leader. The committee could find no way to improve on this tried-and-true method. Accordingly, the committee’s findings and recommendations were made pragmatically: that is, the committee examined existing organizations, training, and operational realities and tried to find and recommend ways to ease the burden on small unit leaders and to better prepare the small unit leader for success. 14 In general, the committee is very impressed with the progress that the Marine Corps has made in preparing its small unit leaders for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, however, small unit leaders are still overcoming a set of insti - tutional hurdles with respect to their selection and training and the support that they receive, and their role in the operational environment is changing as well, given the evolving and complex nature of that environment. Here, the committee has endeavored to identity the major challenges facing small unit leaders and the Marine Corps, and trusts that its recommendations offer some useful solutions to addressing these challenges. The committee realizes that some of its findings and recommendations are beyond the purview of the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Devel - 13 This study’s terms of reference are provided in the Preface. 14 The findings and recommendations of the committee are also based on its members’ expertise and experience, along with its data-gathering efforts over the course of this study (see Appendix B for a summary of the committee’s meetings and site visits). Its data gathering included the limited interviews that a subgroup of the committee conducted with a number of Marine small unit leaders who had recently returned from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan (the interview protocol is presented in Appendix E).

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5 SUMMARY opment Command (CG, MCCDC).15 However, the committee anticipates that its findings and recommendations may be helpful to the CG, MCCDC, in terms of identifying, implementing, and/or advocating changes in four major areas: selec - tion, training, support, and sustainment. Finally, the committee understands the dynamic nature of conflict and the operational environment, and realizes that the Marine Corps may be in the process of implementing some of the committee’s recommendations even as this report is being published. Selection FINDING 1: The U.S. Marine Corps lacks up-to-date descriptions and require- ments that define the job responsibilities of small unit leaders (company com - manders, platoon leaders, and squad leaders), making it difficult to provide job- appropriate training and preparation for them. It is also difficult to assess the small unit leader’s effectiveness in the operational environment. Furthermore, despite the fact that small unit leaders are assuming significant responsibilities, the Marine Corps has not established an institutional selection process for the positions of company commander and squad leader.16 RECOMMENDATION 1: Assess the pros and cons of establishing a Corps- wide process for the selection of squad leaders and company commanders. Such a process does not need to be centralized, but any form of implementation should be undertaken consistently across the Marine Corps. Continue to monitor progress in the development and validation of psychometric and physiologically based indicators that may have mid- and long-term potential to enhance selection. Training FINDING 2: The Marine Corps has invested in a number of novel approaches to training and education, such as Mojave-Viper, Combat Hunter, the Future Immersive Training Environment (FITE) of the Infantry Immersion Trainer facil - ity, and the Center for Advanced Operational Culture and Learning. However, it is not clear whether novel training and educational opportunities are available to all small units and their leaders, nor has the Corps developed a formal training and development sequence which ensures that Marines are provided access to 15 The CG, MCCDC, is also the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration (DC, CD&I). 16 A Corps-wide selection process for platoon leaders already exists. All Marine officers attend the Basic School, a 6-month, officers’ school that equips them with the skills needed to serve as second lieutenants. After completing their training at the Basic School, infantry officers attend the Infantry Officers School, and other officers attend schools of varying length in their occupational specialties. Their standing in these schools serves as the criteria for their selection as platoon leaders, since they have no operational experience.

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6 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS new training and educational opportunities at appropriate points in their careers. In addition, at the time that the committee was conducting its review, the Corps had not identified a responsible organization to ensure that such training and education programs are properly developed, staffed, operated, and evaluated for their efficacy. RECOMMENDATION 2: Continue to develop and implement in-garrison and predeployment team training techniques and opportunities to increase the sensitiv- ity and timeliness of small unit training with respect to rapidly evolving hybrid warfare issues. Specifically: • Identify a responsible organization to ensure that training and education programs are properly developed, staffed, operated, and evaluated; • Continue to expand and develop training for squad leaders; • Support an increase in the availability and realism of individual and team immersive training, with learning objectives similar to programs such as Mojave- Viper and FITE; • Adopt proven team training techniques to foster unit cohesion and continu- ous improvement; • Develop training systems that respond to field experience in order to incorporate and convey lessons learned more quickly; and • Explore the use of social media to capture and share insights of small unit leaders as a next-generation lessons learned program. FINDING 3: Training must evolve in tandem with the rapidly changing combat environment. However, the Systems Approach to Training relies on a 2-year cycle for evaluating and restructuring formal training practices. Given the rapid evolu- tion of the combat environment, the penetration of knowledge from the battlefield into predeployment training is much too slow. In addition, the traditional mecha- nisms of the Marine Corps for capturing and transferring experiential knowledge, such as lessons learned, cannot keep pace with the evolution of operations. Ma- rine small units are addressing this problem in-theater by developing training sce- narios that exercise skills deemed necessary for the battlefield. RECOMMENDATION 3: Support small units with in-theater training by adapt- ing training and delivery methods and employing appropriate technologies: • Develop a rapid-response training capability that allows faster reaction to the evolution of enemy tactics and techniques. For example, computer-based scenarios might be developed, then modified by small unit leaders in reaction to changing missions and tactical circumstances. • Expand current efforts in cultural and language training to include computer-based courses and on-demand reachback for small unit leaders.

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7 SUMMARY Support FINDING 4: Marine companies and their constituent small units are assuming responsibilities analogous to those of a battalion but are not provided adequate personnel or material support for critical functions, including logistics, intelli - gence, communications, and information technology. RECOMMENDATION 4: Provide primary or collateral billets at the company level to perform the functions of logistics, civil affairs, and operations and com - munications. Develop and provide courses of instruction that are scaled to the company level and tailored to these staff functions. FINDING 5: Small unit leaders lack adequate information and analytic support for the cognitive work of sensemaking and situational assessment. In particular, problems with intelligence collection and dissemination, coupled with the paucity of working communications equipment, inadequate bandwidth, and delays in response times from higher levels of command, are detrimental to both decision making and morale at the small unit level. In addition, delays associated with the formal capture, recording, and transfer of theater-related experiential knowledge (such as through lessons learned) make it difficult for deployed units to benefit from the recent experiences of other Marines. RECOMMENDATION 5: Provide technical and engineering solutions to support the small unit leader through well-tailored human-centric products for supplementing limited manpower in order to improve connectivity, information integration, and aids to decision making. Specifically: • Provide increased communications bandwidth for voice, text, graphics, and data to small units, with priority to those in remote locations; • Develop tactical decision aids designed for small unit leaders in order to support cognitive work such as sensemaking, situational assessment, problem detection, planning, and coordination and collaboration; • Enable Marines to use electronic platforms that allow a free, supervised (but not moderated) exchange of current experiences in-theater; and • Provide small unit leaders with reachback capability to obtain online expertise, data, and software to support their diverse roles. Sustainment FINDING 6: Marine small units and their leaders have spent the past decade conducting distributed operations in hybrid environments, facing a determined and observant insurgency while conducting a range of humanitarian, stabilization, and reconstruction activities. Not only have these units and their leaders become

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8 IMPROVING THE DECISION MAKING ABILITIES OF SMALL UNIT LEADERS extremely adept at making do with limited resources, but they have also devel - oped unique skills, understanding, and insights related to the conduct of hybrid operations in counterinsurgency warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. As they return to garrison, small units and their leaders bring with them a wealth of knowledge about these environments, as well as key insights into what tools, technolo- gies, training, and other support elements are most important for the successful conduct of operations. Without mechanisms to capture and build on the unique experiential knowledge of small unit leaders, the Marine Corps could easily lose this tremendous resource. RECOMMENDATION 6: Consider ways to engage experienced junior enlisted leaders so that they can continue in a leadership role and the Marine Corps can benefit from their leadership expertise. For example, include junior enlisted lead - ers with hybrid ECO deployed experience to support the following: • “Schoolhouse” programs in the Marine Corps dealing with hybrid warfare, ECO, and leadership; • The design and development of future technologies and systems (e.g., social media) to enhance the small unit’s ability to successfully engage in distrib - uted operations; and • The design and development of immersive training and educational pro- grams to prepare Marines for future hybrid engagements. FINDING 7: Established and emerging research in human cognition and deci- sion making is highly relevant to developing approaches and systems that sup - port small unit decision making. Cognitive psychology can provide significant guidance in developing technologies that support the decision maker, including approaches to information integration, tactical decision aids, and physiological monitoring and augmented cognition. However, technologies that do not incor- porate human-centered design methods—such as those of cognitive systems engineering—may not generate useful and usable in-theater decision aids for the small unit leader. Lastly, the emerging field of cognitive neuroscience may have significant potential for developing the understanding of the fundamental neuro - physiological mechanisms underlying human decision making. Although research in this area is very new, over the next few decades it may generate a fundamental paradigm change in scientific approaches to understanding human perception, sensemaking, and decision making. RECOMMENDATION 7: Continue to invest in and leverage promising areas of science and technology research in the near term, midterm, and far term to enhance the decision making performance of small unit leaders.

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9 SUMMARY • In the near term: —Invest in means to capture and disseminate or share knowledge across the Marine Corps, accompanied by good but easy-to-manage measures for track - ing the effect of the capture of new knowledge and of training initiatives; —Incorporate human systems integration into the Navy/Marine Corps acquisition process in order to ensure that decision-support systems such as com - munications technologies, information integration systems, tactical decision aids (TDAs), and physiological monitoring systems are based on Marine missions and operator needs; and —Develop single-purpose applications (“apps”) for smartphones and tablets to support sensor collection management, sensor signal processing, situ - ational assessment and forecasting, and TDAs in planning and course-of-action evaluation. • In the midterm, develop and implement the following: —Team training and leadership training, applying the principles of resil- ience engineering as described in Chapter 3 of this report, in order to build small units and small unit leaders that are more resilient; —Deployable training simulators that can be used in-theater and that can be modified by Marines, not programmers, to adapt to their current situation; and —Training and mission-rehearsal systems, visualization aids, and TDAs for nonkinetic operations that build on current applied research in the DOD’s program in Human Social Cultural Behavior. • In the far term, explore the future potential for the following: —Physiological identification of stress and fatigue levels, the use of biomarkers, and real-time physiological monitoring for “state” assessment to determine the possible effect of factors that might contribute to poor judgment; —Research on state assessment and trait identification to explore the potential to identify and select good candidates for the small unit leader in hybrid warfare situations; and —Innovative training techniques such as intelligent tutoring and adaptive learning.