Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Modern Day Marine Military Exposition had a different look from years’ past.
Instead of large crowds gathered aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, the 2020 MDMME—held September 22-24—was a virtual affair with nearly 2,500 viewers. The event featured virtual exhibits of the latest Marine-relevant products pre-recorded presentations from Department of Defense strategic leaders covering a range of topics in the context of the 2020 expo theme: The Force America Needs.
“The beauty of [MDMME] going virtual is that we’re adapting and overcoming,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration. “We’re fighting through the pandemic because we don’t stop for anything. We don’t stop for bad weather, we don’t stop for pandemics and we certainly don’t stop in the face of hostile forces.”
Gen. David Berger, the 38th Commandant of the Marine Corps, talked about the importance of meeting Force Design 2030, a section of the Commandant’s Planning Guidance that outlines the Marine Corps’ need to conduct full-scale, empirically-based experimentations of the future force in realistic maritime and littoral terrain.
“The Marine Corps has to prepare for the operating environment a decade from now so that we can compete,” said Berger. “If deterrence doesn’t work, then we’re ready for crisis or conflict if that happens. And we will be ready.”
Meeting Force Design 2030:
MDMME included a panel discussion comprising senior leaders within the experimentation, requirements and acquisition sectors of the Marine Corps. Each spoke about their plans for achieving Force Design 2030.
Brig. Gen. Ben Watson is commanding general of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, the organization responsible for generating and examining capabilities and providing analytically-supported recommendations to inform subsequent force design and development activities. Watson spoke about MCWL’s efforts to meet Force Design 2030.
“What we’re trying to develop is the Marine Corps as a Naval Expeditionary Force in readiness that is capable of deterring maligned behavior and, when necessary, fighting inside the adversary weapons engagement zone,” said Watson.
He said MCWL intends to validate and refine Force Design 2030 through concept development, wargaming, live-force experimentation, and coordinating and collaborating with the Office of Naval Research, partnering on experiments and technology development.
“We’re focused on a service-level experimentation campaign plan to support the Commandant’s Planning Guidance,” said Watson. “We made a conscious decision to do a majority of our experimentation by working by, with and through our Fleet Marine Forces—primarily I, II and III Marine Expeditionary Forces.”
Brig. Gen. Eric Austin is the director of the Capabilities Development Directorate, in charge of validating, integrating, prioritizing and producing Marine Corps requirements. Austin talked about the importance of designing and developing a lightweight, maneuverable and sustainable force relevant in any competition or conflict on land or sea.
“We need to remain sustainable, affordable and leverage risk-worthy platforms, principally unmanned, and we need to be thoughtful and creative in our approaches,” said Austin. “This is an exciting time to be in the requirements business. This certainly isn’t the Marine Corps we grew up in, and that’s a good thing.”
Brig. Gen. A.J. Pasagian, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, outlined MCSC’s organizational structure as well as its Lines of Effort for future Force Development. These Lines of Effort highlight capability areas on which the command is focusing, including command and control in a degraded environment, air defense, precision fires and more.
“It is notable how the Marine Corps and Navy are changing together, moving past two services synchronizing operations to two services that are truly codependent…” James Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition
“These are very clear, healthy priorities provided to us from our commandant,” said Pasagian. “This is foundational guidance provided to Marine Corps Systems Command as we execute Force Development.”
John Garner, the Program Executive Officer Land Systems, spoke about the early fielding of the Amphibious Combat Vehicle, which will replace the Assault Amphibious Vehicle. He also spoke about the shifting of programs between PEO LS and MCSC to better align the organizations to support Force Design.
“All these programs over the next few years are tremendous opportunities for improvements and getting ahead of threats,” said Garner.
Better naval alignment is a major goal for the Marine Corps moving forward. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts, the event’s keynote speaker, talked about the importance of the Marine Corps and Navy working together to meet goals.
“It is notable how [the Marine Corps and Navy] are changing together, moving past two services synchronizing operations to two services that are truly codependent, each coming up with new ways to enable the other,” said Geurts. “This is truly a naval force, with everybody moving together toward this great power competition.”
MCSC had an opportunity to speak directly to industry representatives during the Advance Planning Brief to Industry on the final day of MDMME.
The APBI allowed MCSC portfolio managers to inform industry of the Marine Corps’ acquisition needs in the next several years and answer industry’s questions. Representatives of MCSC’s portfolios, Small Business Office and Contracts team, as well as PEO LS addressed some of their goals in the coming years and how industry can help.
Pasagian specifically mentioned several focus areas where industry could provide assistance, including close-combat lethality, information warfare systems and more. He encouraged industry representatives to ask questions and promoted continued dialogue moving forward.
“We want to maintain a close relationship with you and open up communication with our industry partners to let you all know what we need to get there,” said Pasagian. “Your responsiveness to the needs of our Marines makes our success possible. We could not do this without you.”
Berger believes industry can help the Marine Corps reach its long-term goals. The commandant explained that MDMME is not about the art of the possible today or what is currently modern. It is about what will be modern in the next decade—future technologies that will increase the future Marine’s readiness.
“[Industry] is helping catapult us forward, five, six, 10 years into the future to say, ‘this is what is possible,’” said Berger. “[MDMME] is about industry helping us prepare for where we’re going to be, which is really powerful.”