UNITED STATES --
Force Design has re-envisioned the role of the installation from a Force Generation location, meaning a location that Marines train and deploy from, to a Power Projection Warfighting platform, which will simultaneously deploy forces forward but will also command and control those forces. In 2030, it is predicted the Marine Corps will be the most distributed force ever, operating in highly contested environments, while facing near-peer competitors with substantial counter command, control, communications, computers, cyber, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting capabilities presenting the biggest threat to communication networks. In a geographic area like the Pacific, where Marine Corps forces will operate in a widely distributed or disaggregated manner, the Corps requires a highly capable network to coordinate the efforts of such a force.
Commandant’s Planning Guidance
In 2019, the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David H. Berger, published the Commandant’s Planning Guidance, which serves as a road map for the Marine Corps, describing where the service is going and why. This document aligns with recently released guidance conveyed in the 2022 National Defense Strategy and mirrors the Secretary of Defense’s Defense Planning Guidance.
One of the five focus areas of the CPG is warfighting, which will empower the Corps to evolve from the current capability-based force development. As a naval service, the Marine Corps has been and remains the Nation’s premier naval expeditionary force-in-readiness, ensuring the prevention of major conflict and deterring escalation of conflict. Going forward, the Corps will adjust its current warfighting structure to adapt to the shifting warfare paradigm established by our most challenging adversaries who leverage advanced technology, long-range weapons and information-related capabilities. Thus, future conflicts can and will be fought from home, which for many Marines is aboard Marine Corps installations.
Another key focus area of the CPG is Force Design, which depends on a unified, global and service-based network that can transition between competition, crisis and conflict. To optimize the service to compete, deter and win against its competitors, the Deputy Commandant for Information directed the development of a Network Modernization Plan to create a framework to align modernization plans and resources and synchronize all efforts on the Marine Corps Enterprise Network.
“Network modernization, is focused on transforming Marine Corps command and control networks as the Corps’ largest integrated weapons system beginning at bases and stations around the Corps, transporting data to and from Marines at the tactical edge,” stated Brig. Gen. Joseph Matos, Director, Information, Command, Control, Communications and Computers. “Focused on outcomes, we have improved our ability to connect, implementing local infrastructure upgrades and enabling more secure networks to transport the data Marines will use as the Stand-in Force.”
MCICOM Support and Implementation
Under Force Design installations are rapidly becoming more operational, increasing the scale and scope of the warfighting platform that the service operates from. At Marine Corps Installations Command, the Information and Technology Directorate is working to provide several upgrades aboard the installations to support both the NETMOD Plan and the MCEN.
“The [G-6] is directly supporting the NETMOD Plan with respect to installation telecommunications modernization, which includes increased reliability, availability and bandwidth of fixed ground fiber cables around the base,” said Maj. Meloven Brown, cyber operations officer, MCICOM. “The bases are transitioning from the old copper infrastructure that we have at our installations to fiber infrastructure, which is a critical and core component of how we’re supporting network modernization. What we’re trying to do is converge data and voice and video calls on a network through a fiber backbone, providing the tenants on the installation the ability to use converged, fiber infrastructure and giving them increased reliability and availability.”
The MCICOM G-6 is working with several partners across the enterprise to support the implementation of the NETMOD Plan, which include the Defense Intelligence Systems Agency, Marine Forces Cyber, the Fleet Marine Forces, intelligence communities and the Fourth Estate Mission partner, which includes Defense Health Agency, Defense Logistics Agency and Department of Defense Education Activity schools.
The upgrades to Marine Corps installations enable the bases and stations to provide more advanced training and experimentation that will directly support the warfighter as it prepares for the future fight.
“MCICOM is also supporting the deployment of wireless and 5G capabilities,” said Maj. Brown.
“That's increasing the capacity at the installations to support data and voice and video calls for all tenants, and it will provide 5G coverage to residents.” Maj. Meloven Brown, cyber operations officer, MCICOM
Dr. Daniel Corbin, technical director, working in DC I under the IC4 division, recently spoke alongside industry representatives at the Sea Air Space expo on April 5, 2022, on a panel titled “5G: Accelerated Data Speeds Mean Accelerated Battlefield Operations.” During the panel, he spoke about 5G experimentation underway at Marine Corps at bases and stations at home and abroad.
“The Marine Corps’ 5G use cases, from readiness of the force to Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, supports Force Design,” stated Dr. Corbin. “One of the use cases we put together [asked the question]: how do we improve the readiness of a warehouse? All of these activities are [forcing us to consider] how you design it, what technology is put in place and what security aspects need to be considered.
Looking Forward: Moving to the Cloud
Another key component of the NETMOD Plan MCICOM is supporting is the optimization of component enterprise data centers, which host the MCEN and support the movement of data on an installation. The Marine Corps is working to reduce the current amount of CEDCs as it transitions the MCEN to the cloud, which supports emerging concepts and capabilities, such as the Deployed Marine Corps Enterprise Network concept. The purpose of the DMCEN is to enable Marines to seamlessly transition from installations to tactical environments on the same network structure, bringing the deployed force into the MCEN and enabling a more cohesive security environment. As part of the movement to the cloud, the Marine Corps has offloaded large volumes of data to the cloud, resulting in a 75% reduction in local data center requirements for compute, processing and storage capacity, enabling Marines’ data to follow them through their service in the Marine Corps.
Lt. Col. Donald Barnes, service and strategy branch chief, IC4, and one of the authors of the NETMOD Plan, recently published an article in the April edition of the Marine Corps Gazette addressing modernization efforts.
“The Marine Corps has continued to optimize its data transport capability by providing multi-path transport links into and out of our bases, posts and stations,” stated Lt. Col. Barnes. “We have migrated 90% of the entire network behind the Joint Regional Security Stacks, providing a singular security environment for the service and enhancing our defensive capabilities. We have achieved a tenfold increase in the bandwidth at our bases, posts and stations, laying the foundation for our use of cloud computing capabilities.”
The NETMOD Plan also sets conditions to enable competitive advantages from a business and warfighting perspective.
“I think getting to the cloud is a positive step,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Patrick, data systems engineering officer, MCICOM. “If you can download from the cloud before you deploy or pull from the data center, then you’ll have the services that you need from on-premise [software] that you normally couldn’t have because of being at risk for losing connectivity. It’ll be great.”
Network modernization is a continual effort, and the plan will be updated every year. The NETMOD Plan is currently in its third iteration and is due to be released in June 2022 to inform the next Force Development Cycle.