MARSOF and Force Design 2030

Force Design 2030 Marine Corps

On March 23, 2020 the United States Marine Corps published its Force Design 2030. The 15-page document provides a roadmap ahead for the Marine Corps with major changes to mission and organization. Naturally, a document of this importance will be of interest to those who follow the activities of Marine Forces Special Operations Command or MARSOC.

There are some sweeping changes to come for the Marine Corps. The Corps is tasked with the role of the nation’s naval expeditionary force-in-readiness while at the same time modernizing in accordance with the latest National Defense Strategy (NDS). This institutional change will be done with the fiscal resources provided – meaning some structure has to be sacrificed. The Design Force 2030 report explains the reasons for the change, the methodology used to determine the changes, and how the force will be reorganized.

The force will be redesigned for naval expeditionary warfare and to be a force that can focus on its role in the competition with Russia and China. Higher echelon units will be reorganized and get smaller. Some units and military occupational specialties will be eliminated. The force will decrease in size by about 12,000 personnel.

Force Structure Changes – Divestment

  • three infantry battalions
  • tanks (support to be provided by the U.S. Army)
  • three heavy helicopter squadrons
  • three medium-lift tiltrotor squadrons
  • two (?) light attack helicopter squadrons
  • two AA companies & AAV and ACV requirements
  • three law enforcement battalions
  • Marine Wing Support Groups
  • three bridging companies

Force Structure Changes – Investment

  • additional rocket artillery batteries
  • additional Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS)
  • expansion of training and education

There are other changes that might be made in the future. The USMC is looking at a redesign of the infantry battalion, emerging naval expeditionary force formations, littoral maneuver and sustainment, increase in light armored reconnaissance, MEU redesign, and the 18 VMFA squadrons.

MARSOC and Force Design 2030

“Force design places new demands on our FMF that require us to revisit our current manpower policies supporting MARSOC. We must develop assignment policies that continue to satisfy MARSOC personnel requirements while ensuring appropriate rotation of personnel in and out of MARSOC. Any change to the current policies should not limit MARSOC’s ability to recruit, assess and develop relationships and candidates, in coordination with FMF units and leaders. Recommended changes to policy should ensure Marines remain competitive for promotion and have broad opportunities for assignment within the Marine Corps and the joint force.”

Page 11, Force Design 2030, USMC, March 2020


The above paragraph in quotes is the only mention of MARSOC in the Force Design 2030 paper. However, there is a document published that may provide additional fidelity to how MARSOC will look like in the future. In March 2018 the Marines published a report entitled MARSOF 2030. The document provides a roadmap for MARSOC to be relevant in the current and future operating environment.

MARSOF 2030 identifies four interconnected and mutually supporting themes that will provide a strong conceptual basis for a future MARSOC.

  • MARSOF as a Connector
  • Combined Arms for the Connected Arena
  • The Cognitive Operator
  • Enterprise Level Agility

The MARSOF document provides a couple of pages to explain each of the above themes. It then provides two “operational vignettes” that help us imagine the four concepts listed above. One is a fictional account of a Marine SOF team deployed in West Africa in 2028 that is part of an effort to support a struggling host government. The second vignette depicts a Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) operations center in the Middle East in 2030. The document ends with implementation guidance.

The MARSOF 2030 paper was published before the current National Defense Strategy (NDS) was published that moved our focus from counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to competition with near peer adversaries (China, Russia, etc.). However, it is forward looking in its approach. It remains to be seen what type of changes MARSOC will make with the publishing of Force Design 2030.



Force Design 2030, United States Marine Corps, March 2020 (pdf, 15 pages)
Read or download the report here.

MARSOF 2030: A Strategic Vision for the Future, Special Operations Command – United States Marine Corps Forces, March 2018. (pdf, 23 pages)
Read or download the report here.

New U.S. Marine Corps Force Design Initiatives, Congressional Research Service (CRS), March 26, 2020, pdf, 4 pages.
Read or download the report here.

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