Concepts & Programs HomeConceptsIntroduction to Concepts

The Navy and Marine Corps define a concept as “an expression of how something might be done; a visualization of future operations that describes how warfighters, using military art and science, might employ capabilities to meet future challenges and exploit future opportunities.” Concepts link strategic guidance to the development and employment of future force capabilities and serve as an engine for transformation that may ultimately lead to changes in doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities and policy (DOTMLPF-P). Marine Corps concepts identify a problem to be solved or an opportunity to be exploited, followed by a central idea, supporting ideas, and associated capabilities. It is important to note that the central idea is expressed as a hypothesis to be tested through varying levels of experimentation, analysis, and assessment. The Marine Corps concept hierarchy includes a capstone operating concept, subordinate operating concepts, and functional concepts as depicted in figure 1. Additionally, the Marine Corps has participated in developing a number of naval and joint operating concepts that inform our capability development activities.


The capstone operating concept provides the primary description of how the Marine Corps intends to operate. It articulates, in broad terms, the basic ideas to be applied across the widest range of military contexts. The capstone operating concept provides the framework for subordinate operating concepts and functional concepts.


Subordinate operating concepts provide more detailed descriptions of how Marine Corps forces will accomplish a given mission or range of missions within a particular situation or set of situations. At a minimum, the family of subordinate operating concepts covers the Marine Corps’ Title 10 responsibilities. Most prominent among those responsibilities is “service with the fleet in the seizure or defense of advanced naval bases and for the conduct of such land operations as may be essential to the prosecution of a naval campaign.” While that law (Title 10) also tasks us to “perform such other duties as the President may direct,” which often results in our employment alongside the Army for sustained operations ashore, the law qualifies that “these additional duties may not detract from or interfere with the operations for which the Marine Corps is primarily organized.”


Functional concepts provide detailed descriptions of how certain activities will be performed in order to drive capabilities based assessments and, ultimately, detailed DOTMLPF-P solutions. At a minimum, the family of functional concepts addresses the Marine Corps warfighting functions (command and control, maneuver, fires, intelligence, information, logistics, and force protection) plus any other topics of critical importance to warfighting effectiveness (such as information warfare, information management, civil affairs, etc.) Due to space limitations, this publication does not provide a synopsis of functional concepts.




U.S. Marine Corps Concepts & Programs