Cover: Allocating Marine Expeditionary Unit Equipment to Minimize Shortfalls

Allocating Marine Expeditionary Unit Equipment to Minimize Shortfalls

Third Edition

Published May 21, 2015

by Walter L. Perry, Anthony Atler, Roald Euller, Angel R. Martinez, Todd Nichols, Jonathan Welch


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Research Questions

  1. What is the typical Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) mission set, and what are the component tasks and subtasks of each of these missions?
  2. What equipment is available to the MEU to accomplish mission tasks and subtasks?
  3. What measures and metrics should be used to assess the capability of selected equipment?
  4. What tasks cannot be accomplished immediately because of a lack of equipment?

To successfully accomplish their missions, Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) must have both the right personnel and the right equipment, as well as access to the personnel and equipment. However, in many cases, the available space on an MEU's ships falls far short of what is needed to transport the full set of required equipment. Thus, the MEU commander and mission planners must determine which equipment to take and which to leave behind. What is the impact of this shortfall on the MEU's ability to complete the tasks associated with its mission? One way to identify the equipment and number of units needed for a given MEU mission is to deconstruct that mission into its component tasks and subtasks and then determine the equipment needed to complete each task. The process also involves prioritizing equipment based on its capabilities, as well as identifying the sequencing of equipment use and overlaps between tasks that require the same equipment.

To assist commanders in making these difficult decisions in the context of limited equipment inventories, a RAND team developed a software tool, the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Equipment Structural Assessment (MESA) application. The tool guides users through the decisionmaking process by comparing mission task needs to available equipment and allowing full customization of the mission timeline, component tasks and subtasks, sequencing, available equipment, and equipment and activity prioritization preferences. The application, still in development, currently features full functionality for six MEU mission types: humanitarian assistance, noncombatant evacuation operations, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, airfield and port seizure operations, amphibious raid, and stability operations. Future versions will include a set of 15 missions. This report includes a user's guide for the MESA application with step-by-step instructions for populating and modifying the tool to support mission needs.

Key Findings

Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs) Must Be Able to Identify the Equipment Needed to Complete Mission Tasks

  • The first step in determining equipment (and personnel) needs is to deconstruct the mission into its component tasks and subtasks.
  • The second step in the process is to determine equipment availability by assessing which equipment is available to the MEU, as well as which tasks are common to multiple missions in the MEU's mission set.

After Determining Mission Needs, the MEU Must Match Those Needs to Available Equipment

  • Linking equipment to tasks and subtasks indicates which pieces of equipment can complete a given task, but it says nothing about which pieces of equipment will be best at accomplishing the task.
  • A prioritized list ranks equipment based on how effectively it can complete a given task and identifies potential second- and third-tier substitutions between pieces of equipment, as required by availability.
  • Similarly, MEUs must also prioritize tasks and determine the order in which they must be accomplished. These decisions must be coordinated with the inventory of available equipment.

The RAND-Developed MESA Application Can Assist in MEU Decisionmaking

  • The Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Equipment Structural Assessment (MESA) application, a software tool that allocates equipment from a predetermined and potentially limited inventory to a set of missions and tasks selected by the user, offers a useful solution for MEU mission planning.
  • The MESA application can be modified by the user to reflect the unique needs and missions of MEUs, as well as to reflect equipment availability and specific substitution preferences.
  • Although the application is fully functional for humanitarian assistance, noncombatant evacuation operations, tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, airfield and port seizure missions, amphibious raid, and stability operations only, future versions will provide MEUs with similar guidance in planning other types of missions.

This research was sponsored by the Marine Corps Combat Development Command and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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