CAMP COURTNEY, OKINAWA, Japan -- III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Headquarters Group was re-designated in a ceremony Sept. 8, 2017 as III MEF Information Group (MIG), highlighting the beginning of a new era of modern Marine Corps information warfare.
“The re-designation of the MHG to the MIG represents a fundamental shift in the way that III MEF will conduct information warfare,” said Col. Brian M. Howlett, the commander of III MIG. “In the past, various elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) conducted information warfare [individually]. The mission of the MIG is to synchronize and coordinate efforts across the MAGTF’s information domain.”
The MIG’s primary mission is to defend important information technology capabilities from adversaries, which will allow the MAGTF to exploit technological warfare opportunities via a network force.
“The MIG will be an element no different than the air element, the ground combat element or the logistical element,” Howlett said. “Our focus will be information across unclassified networks and classified networks, everything ranging from strategic communications to information operations, as well as anything that deals with information with non-kinetic effects.”
The creation of the new MIG is part of the Marine Corps’ initiative to integrate modern information warfare tactics in response to constantly evolving technological adversaries.
“There are approximately 3.5 billion users on the internet and roughly more than a trillion registered devices with IP addresses, everything from smart phones to computers,” Howlett said. “Each and every one of those users is a potential adversary, so what the MIG will do is provide additional capabilities to defend our networks so we can better synchronize the information’s effects across the elements of the MAGTF.”
According to Howlett, III MIG will gain defensive and offensive cyber capabilities, in order to defend networks against potential adversaries and to shape tactical cyber-warfare procedures. III MIG will also gain intelligence enablers to conduct data analysis and target hostile entities. The MIG currently consists of 7th Communications Battalion, 3rd Intelligence Battalion, 3rd Radio Battalion, 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, and 5th Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. Howlett said a MEF Support Battalion will eventually be added to the MIG, which will handle logistical functions to support the entire MIG as the unit makes the transition.
“In order to satisfy the tasks that will be levied upon us, in the future there will be new military operational specialties created to meet these demands,” Howlett said.
In the past 20 years, technology and communications in the Marine Corps have evolved from dial-up modems and built-in car phones to high speed Wi-Fi, Bluetooth headphones and instantaneous public communication through hand-held devices. Evolving communication abilities open the door for foreign adversaries to target the Marine Corps’ information capabilities whether through direct attacks on high-value networked assets or targeting Marines private personal devices and social media accounts.
“When I came in to the Marine Corps, we had maybe a handful of computers and those were all at the battalion level,” Howlett said. “Now, every major capability we operate is networked, which gives us a significant advantage over our adversaries with the ability to share information and ultimately provide rapid decision making. The problem is those networks are all vulnerable. Our adversaries know this, so they are spending a significant amount of effort towards programs and tools that will disrupt the network because that where they will get a decisive advantage over our ability to conduct warfare.”
The transition to the fully capable MIG will occur over a period of time, which should ensure the training, administrative and logistical support provided to the MEF is not diminished, while the unit’s information capabilities are developed to reach the projected end state.
“Ultimately as the MEF Headquarters Group, we were responsible for supporting the MEF with capabilities across our battalions and also providing administrative and logistical support to the MEF staff,” Howlett said. “Now, in addition to those roles, the MIG will synchronize and coordinate efforts across the information domain, while retaining our law enforcement and supporting arms liaison capabilities.”