A Concept for Stand-in Forces

1 Dec 2021 | General David H. Berger Commandant of the Marine Corps



We have been here before. Over the course of our history, Marines have often been on the leading edge of our Nation’s forward deployed forces, sensing the environment and reassuring our allies and partners. Marines have also embraced truly difficult operational problems and come up with solutions no one thought possible. And Marines have gone into contested areas that others feared to enter and returned victorious. A Concept for Stand-in Forces represents another step on this historical path.

The security environment is ever changing. Today it is characterized by the proliferation of sophisticated sensors and precision weapons coupled with growing strategic competition. Adversaries employ systems and tactics to hold the fleet and larger joint force at arm’s length. This allows these adversaries to employ a strategy that uses contested areas as a shield, under which they can then apply a range of coercive measures short of war against our allies and partners.

Enter the Marines. As part of Force Design 2030 and intentionally aligned with the Joint Warfighting Concept, A Concept for Stand-in Forces is intended to provide options in support of integrated deterrence. Marines acting as stand-in forces will be positioned forward, shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies and partners, leveraging all-domain tools as the eyes and ears of the fleet and joint force.

This concept will be performed within the context of a naval campaign that ultimately meets the requirements of a joint force commander. Marines performing these operations have the enduring tasks of conducting reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance for this naval campaign at every point on the competition continuum. If necessary, these forces will conduct sea denial in designated areas in support of the naval campaign. We must be prepared to do this with our available organic means, but equally as important we need to complete naval and joint kill webs, helping to bring all-domain effects to bear when needed. In doing so, Marines will extend the reach of the fleet and joint force from inside contested areas.

To reinvigorate our role as America’s forward sentinels, we need to reimagine our approach, and use the results as a guide for developing our people and their supporting processes and systems. A Concept for Stand-in Forces animates this guide by explaining how Marines can operate effectively with allies and partners from within a contested area.

Stand-in forces disrupt an adversary’s plans at every point on the competition continuum. This is an important statement, because it describes what we can provide the Nation in strategic competition below the threshold of violence. It is audacious, which makes it ideal for Marines.

It will also be difficult. Knowing it will be challenging to bring A Concept for Stand-in Forces from idea to reality should inspire us to wargame, experiment, and exercise with it so that we get it right. This is how we can unleash the ingenuity of the individual Marine and outpace our adversary, as we retain our role as the Nation’s force-in-readiness. 

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