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Marine Corps officials begin doctrine overhaul

Oct. 1, 2013 - 09:09PM   |  
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Marines with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, conduct an Integrated Training Exercise in February as part of their pre-deployment workup. Marine doctrine, updated with lessens learned in real-world operations, dictates how Marines train and operate. (Cpl. Sarah Dietz / Marine Corps)
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Marine Corps officials are working to overhaul the service’s doctrine, which dictates how all Marines train and operate. They are updating publications and streamlining the slow, burdensome process by which they are revised.

With more than 300 documents considered official doctrine, there is simply too much to review in a timely manner, said Brig. Gen. William Mullen, director of the Capabilities Development Directorate at Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, Va.

“Right now, I think the way we do doctrine, it is constipated,” he said. “We are trying to do too much. I think there is a more effective way to review the doctrine that we have and keep it both relevant and current.”

One important reason to speed the review of doctrine, Mullen said, is to preserve lessons learned. Because updates are drafted and approved slowly, much of what has been learned in Iraq and Afghanistan has not been included in current doctrine, so some documents are no longer relevant.

Part of the solution, Mullen said, is to reduce the number of documents considered doctrine.

“Right now we have 318 publications that in some way, shape or form are classified as doctrine. I think a lot of those can be classified as tactics, techniques and procedures and be pushed down to lower levels.”

. By re-classifying some doctrine as TTPs, schools across the Marine Corps would take charge of the documents. Decentralizing the process would lessen bureaucracy, making it easier to keep the service’s shared knowledge fresh and relevant.

Another part of the problem is that there are so many parties working to revise doctrine.

“There are too many people involved — too many hands in the pot,” Mullen said.

Infantry Company Operations is one of the Marine Corps’ 10 foundational doctrine publications. It was published in 1978 and is now languishing in a review process that has lasted years.

“We’ve been working on it for the last three years, and it keeps going around and around with people throwing in their votes — this should be in there, this should not. That has delayed it,” Mullen said.

To determine what should and should not be doctrine, and how official doctrine should be reviewed, Mullen hopes to organize a working group. It will review publications in light of lessons learned over the past six to 12 years, he said. That includes looking ahead to the next challenges and threats the service could face after combat operations in Afghanistan end and the service re-emphasizes small-scale operations, particularly in the Asia Pacific region.

The working group will put together a proposal for the commandant. When the group will be formed is still uncertain, but it could convene in fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1.

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