Written by Marc Pomerleau
The Marine Corps released its latest information-focused doctrinal release on Wednesday, putting it on par with other aspects of warfare.
Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication-8, Information, is intended to describe the purpose and mechanics of using information as a combat tool for the entire service.
“Information is essential to gaining an advantage in all areas, whether on the battlefield or in everyday life. @USMC competing ops,” Gen. David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, tweeted Tuesday before the publication of the document. “This is especially critical when our Marines need to sense and make sense of the operating environment.”
The document highlights the new strategic environment in which the Marines and the rest of the joint force find themselves.
“Competent competitors will strive to put the United States at an informational disadvantage. Marines should never assume they will gain an inherent information advantage without competing and fighting for it,” the document states. “That’s why we have to approach information with a spirit of maneuver warfare. This is also why the Marine Corps has embraced the information warfare function. Commanders and all Marines must know how to apply the combat function in operations to create and exploit information advantages.
The document is the product of the service’s force design efforts, Lt. Gen. Matthew Glavy, deputy commander for information, told reporters on Tuesday ahead of release.
Modernization and adjustments articulated in force design updates, initiated by the commander, are the Corps’ response to national defense strategy, Glavy said.
The Corps and the broader Department of Defense are concerned about efforts by adversaries to consistently challenge or undermine U.S. interests below the threshold of armed conflict – an area of competition often referred to as the gray area. The new doctrine formally recognizes that Marines will continually have to deal with the spectrum of conflict, acknowledging a continuum as opposed to the traditional binary approach to war and peace that the United States has historically taken.
Glavy said overall this is not a new approach for the Marine Corps, as it has sought to position itself as the “reserve force” of the U.S. military that constantly finds itself at inside what he calls the enemy arms engagement zone.
“I think it’s a natural occurrence for the Marine Corps and our forward deployed state to be on that continuum,” Glavy said. “I don’t think that has changed much as the Marine Corps, about 30,000 forward deployed Marines, [is] interacting through multiple fighter commands. Certainly the Indo-Pacific region has been a focal point for us. About 20,000 advanced Marines deploy there, interact… with our partners, our allies, the joint force, the intelligence community. It’s a natural byproduct as we perform daily to formalize what it means.
Glavy noted that doctrine is linked to a key pillar of national defense strategy: the campaign.
The new doctrine will help the Corps do “a better job of grading our work, leading to measurable results that we can feed off of for what should happen next,” he said. “This campaign idea is an integral part of the national defense strategy and what MCDP-8 will try to compile this kind of thinking about how we’re doing from a campaign perspective.”
The doctrine drew lessons from the war in Ukraine to provide useful vignettes on which Marines can draw.
“The commander specifically asked us to use current examples where possible, and then we can leverage the vignette as illustration for the Marines to help them interpret the environment and see how to practically apply the ideas that are communicated in the document,” Eric Schaner, senior information strategy and policy analyst in the office of the deputy commander for information and lead author of MCDP-8, told reporters.
The doctrine sought to address the “afterthought information problem,” where information is sprinkled onto battle plans at the end of planning rather than integrated from the start, he noted.
“By elevating information to a combat function, we are making it an important consideration for commanders in their planning process from the start, so we don’t have a situation where [we are] develop our plan and then engage our information professionals, such as our [information operations] folks, at the end to try to fix this,” Schaner said. “Elevate the idea of information in the minds of commanders presented through a combat function, so that we can consider all aspects of the battlespace and integrate it into our plan from the start.”
Glavy said doctrine should be adjusted over time given the dynamics of the information space.
“Maybe every two or three years we update this thing. Something is going to change, the technology is going to change, some aspects might change,” he said. “Our goal was to address the fundamental aspect of information to support change, but I think we’d be naive to think we’re going to nail it down” completely.