Marine Corps Pushing for More Technology Experimentation

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

Photo: Marines

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Increased experimentation will be key to future success as the military faces great power competition, the new commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command said Oct. 16.

“Experimentation is back in vogue,” said Lt. Gen David Berger, who also serves as deputy commandant of Marine Corps’ Combat Development and Integration. “The Marine Corps is really rapidly trying to learn faster, get stuff out to the field faster in … a 70 percent prototype sort of mode.”

Berger — who replaced Lt. Gen. Robert S. Walsh as head of the command six weeks ago — said he wants to see the service’s experimentation events rapidly increase, noting that even boosting them to three times the number they currently are may not be enough.

The service is currently revitalizing its Sea Dragon experiments that first debuted in the 1990s, he noted during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

“It's a different way of experimentation than the original Sea Dragon,” he said. The original included one Marine Corps unit conducting experiments for one year. Now the entire service is doing a series of experiments all feeding back to headquarters.

Instead of just relying on the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to facilitate experiments, Marine Expeditionary Force commanders are taking it upon themselves to integrate experimentation into their units, Berger said.

“If you're a MEF commander in Camp Pendleton or in Okinawa, you have exercises that you need to do to generate your readiness to make sure that you can fight … [with the] force you have this afternoon,” he said. But now “I'm going to do those seven things that I know I need to do to make sure I have the combat readiness right now and I'm also going to do four other things that are experimental.”

This is a new way of thinking because previously every minute of every exercise was dedicated to training for the current fight, he said.

Commanders have started “to realize we have got to pay the price for the force we're going to need in the future, so I'm going to carve out some amount of experimentation in my regular exercise to learn for the future,” he said.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is also investing in large-scale experiments such as the advanced naval technology exercise, or ANTX, said Brig. Gen. Christian Wortman, commanding general of the lab.

During the last iteration of the event, the lab focused on urban warfare, he said. The next will concentrate on operating in contested environments, which is becoming increasingly worrisome as adversaries invest in anti-access/area denial technologies.

“We’re really focused on fighting the Navy-Marine Corps team in really highly contested environments,” Wortman told National Defense Oct. 17. “We’re setting up a lot concept development work, applying new technology to the challenges of the operating environment, reconsidering and reconceptualizing how we’re going to apply our capabilities as a team and we’re taking that to the operating forces and giving them an opportunity to test in their most demanding environments.”

Rather than just including one event at one time and location, the next ANTX will continue for a year, he said. Additionally, it will be executed across the country. April or May 2019 will be the first time sailors and Marines will be in the field in support of the next ANTX, Wortman said.

Topics: Marine Corps News, Navy News