Concepts & Programs HomeConceptsCapstone Operating Concept



As the capstone operating concept, the Marine Corps Operating Concept (MOC): How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century describes, in broad terms, how Marine Corps forces will conduct the range of military operations in accordance with its Title 10 responsibilities and how it will operate and fight in 2025 and beyond. Published in September 2016, the MOC embraces the Marine Corps’ naval character, expeditionary mindset, and professional approach to constantly improve and build on its foundations of maneuver warfare and as a combined arms fighting force. The challenges of the future will impact the Marine Corps’ organization and fight the Nation’s future battles. The MOC describes the steps the Marine Corps will take to design, develop, and field the future Marine Corps force for the 21st century. 

The Marine Corps’ preparation for the inevitable conflicts of the future begins with this operating concept. It charts how the Marine Corps will transform to deter and defeat the threats of tomorrow. Yet the MOC also acknowledges the timeless, violent nature of war and reaffirms the Marine Corps’ primary purpose. The Marine Corps exists to defeat our Nation’s enemies. Even in a world of ever-increasing technology, the Marine Corps must continue to provide combat formations capable of closing with and destroying the enemy. This imperative drives the Marine Corps to demand physical toughness and resilience in its Marines and Sailors, and expects brilliance in the fundamentals of warfighting. While the means and methods the Marine Corps uses to wage war will evolve, the Marine Corps must always be prepared for the violence of combat. 


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The purpose of the MOC is twofold:

  • First, it describes in broad terms how the Marine Corps will operate, fight, and win in 2025 and beyond.
  • Second, it will shape the Marine Corps’ actions as it designs and develop the capabilities and capacity of its future force. 

The MOC builds on proven concepts and practices such as Operational Maneuver from the Sea, Ship-to- Objective Maneuver, Seabasing, and Expeditionary Force 21 (EF 21). It reflects the Commandant’s guidance to leverage the full capabilities of the Marine expeditionary force (MEF) to support naval maneuver and combined/joint operations, reinvigorate the Marine Corps’ emphasis on maneuver warfare, and integrate information warfare into its combined arms approach.

The MOC addresses how the Marine Corps shapes its forces to organize, train, and equip to meet the demands of a future operating environment characterized by complex terrain, technology proliferation, information warfare, signatures vulnerabilities and opportunities, and an increasingly non-permissive maritime domain through a dimensional expansion of maneuver warfare together with a multi-domain combat arms approach. 

The central idea being that the 21st century Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) conducts maneuver warfare in the physical and cognitive dimensions of conflict to generate and exploit psychological, technological, temporal, and spatial advantages over the adversary and executes maneuver warfare through a combined arms approach that embraces information warfare as indispensable for achieving complementary effects across five domains – air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace. The 21st century MAGTF will avoid linear, sequential, and phased approaches to operations and blend maneuver warfare and combined arms to generate the combat power needed for simultaneity of action in its full range of missions as well as operate and fight at sea, from the sea, and ashore as an integrated part of the naval force and the larger Combined / Joint Force.  

The MOC identifies five critical tasks and associated issue areas to enable the necessary Marine Corps institutional cross cutting changes and future sustainment the Marine Corps’ will require to operate, fight, and win in the 21st century. The tasks associated with these changes requires the Marine Corps to come to terms with its future missions, to acquire and master new capabilities, and to evolve or create new organizations. 

As described in A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, naval forces perform five essential functions: all-domain access, deterrence, sea control, power projection, and maritime security. The Marine Corps, as an expeditionary force in readiness, provides the naval team both unique and complementary capabilities to perform those functions. Working in concert with our Navy partners, we will refine how we perform those functions via two subordinate operating concepts, Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment and Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations. 

The 21st century MAGTF must remain capable of MEF-level operations to exploit success in amphibious landings, turn an adversary’s flank, or create opportunities for future Joint Force actions. This means integrating command, control and informational tools across the force, maintaining the MAGTF’s ability to conduct unified action in joint and combined operations, integrating MAGTFSpecial Operations Forces (SOF) capabilities, overcoming the challenges of compositing forces, and maintaining the ability to provide distributable forces. The 21st century MAGTF will continue to exploit automation, especially manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T). Finally, the 21stt century MAGTF will continue seek a total force approach to readiness in order exploit the unique capabilities of both reserve and active forces.

The 21st century MAGTF must be able to prioritize the sharing of information between the various command echelons while being prepared to operate with imperfect information. The Marine Corps must take into account the role of signature in offense and defense to mitigate the enemy’s targeting of our network and to exploit enemy command and control (C2) vulnerabilities. The 21st century MAGTF must shorten the kill chain by networking for rapid/precise fires and pushing processing power to the tactical edge. Lastly, 21st century MAGTF must utilize an enhanced concept of intelligence to rapidly sense, make sense of, and act upon information.

The 21st century MAGTF must be able to maneuver equally well in both physical and cognitive dimensions to achieve psychological, technological, temporal, and spatial advantages. Maneuver warfare applies to both naval and littoral maneuver and requires a broader concept of combined arms/information warfare that includes military information support operations (MISO), military deception (MILDEC), operations security (OPSEC), electronic warfare (EW), physical attack, special technical operations (STO), information assurance (IA), computer network operations (CNO), public affairs (PA), and civil-military operations (CMO). The 21st century MAGTF must also be prepared to conduct urban operations in complex terrain. This requires maintaining infantry mobility and utilizing both light and heavy forces, as well as improving expeditionary logistics and operational energy.

The Marine Corps musts ensure its ability to exploit its asymmetric advantage: the U.S. Marine. It must continue to emphasize quality in leadership positions at every echelon. It must modernize its personnel policies to improve its access and retainment of high-quality human capital. It must improve training and educating Marines for the integrated naval force and focus on cultural learning and preparation for the harsh and increasing complex battlefield. This puts a premium on attracting and recruiting individuals with high levels of intelligence and aptitude and cultivating their skills and knowledge through specific training, dedicated professional military education and a command culture that expects creativity and rewards initiative.  

The MOC bounds the central problem facing the Marine Corps as we prepare for a challenging future operating environment. It defines our concept for how to fight and win in that environment, reaffirming the primacy of maneuver warfare and recognizing the potential of an expanded approach to combined arms. It identifies the critical tasks that we must undertake if we are to develop the Marine Corps that can execute the concept.


U.S. Marine Corps Concepts & Programs