Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

QPME: Warfighting: History of the MCDP, Roots of Maneuver Warfare, and the Doctrine in Action

Warfighting: History of the MCDP, Roots of Maneuver Warfare, and the Doctrine in Action explores the development of the Marine Corps capstone publication MCDP 1 - Warfighting.

Warfighting Panel - Institutional Reform

Institutional Reform

Alfred M. Gray, Paul K. Van Riper, and John F. Schmitt discuss "institutional reform" in the Marine Corps.

Read transcript (see p. 22)

Watch full video



Institutional Reform


Highlights of Institutional Reform




LtCol Michael D. Wyly revamps tactics instruction at Amphibious Warfare School (AWS)


Gen Gray serves as Commanding General 2d Marine Division (2MARDIV) and G.I. Wilson & William Woods participate in 2MARDIV Maneuver Warfare Board


Goldwater-Nichols Act


Gen Gray becomes 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps and MCU ideated


LtGen Van Riper serves as Director, USMC Command and Staff College


LtGen Van Riper becomes the first President of Marine Corps University and Maneuver Warfare Mobile Training Teams take maneuver warfare concepts to Marine Corps operating forces




One way to look at the Marine Corps’ adoption of Maneuver Warfare is through the lens of institutional reform. Fideleon Damian names this intellectual transformation in The Road to FMFM 1: The United States Marine Corps and Maneuver Warfare Doctrine, 1979-1989:

“The intellectual transformation of the Marine Corps involved three main mechanisms. The first was a theoretical mechanism centered on public debate in the pages of Marine Corps Gazette to introduce and defend maneuver warfare to Marine audience. The second was a functional/practical mechanism that involved educational and training initiatives at the Amphibious Warfare School and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The third mechanism was the use of institutional authority made possible with the appointment of General Alfred M. Gray, a senior and vocal maneuver warfare champion, to the position Commandant of the Marine Corps.”

Several excerpts of the "debate” described by Damian are provided on the Debate page. In addition, we take an expanded view of Damian’s “functional/practical mechanism” to include additional elements, both internal and external, to the Marine Corps. 

Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986

The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 is one of those external elements that influenced the Marine Corps. 

From 1958-1983, “the military suffered several operational setbacks: the Vietnam War, the seizure of the USS Pueblo, the seizure of the Mayaguez, the failed Iranian rescue mission, the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, and the Grenada incursion. These failures had a number of common denominators—poor military advice to political leaders, lack of unity of command, and inability to operate jointly.”

The overarching objective of Goldwater-Nichols as it was ultimately formulated was to balance joint and service interests. It was not to thwart service prerogatives; the services were and would remain the most important elements of the Department of Defense. They were, and are, the foundations on which everything else had to be constructed. To strike that balance, the drafters of the Goldwater-Nichols Act adopted nine objectives:

  1. Strengthen civilian authority

  2. Improve military advice to the president (in his constitutionally specified capacity as commander in chief of the armed forces), secretary of defense, and National Security Council

  3. Place clear responsibilities on the unified commanders in chief for mission accomplishment

  4. Ensure that a unified commander’s authority is commensurate with his responsibilities

  5. Increase attention to strategy formulation and contingency planning

  6. Provide for the more efficient use of resources

  7. Improve joint officer management

  8. Enhance the effectiveness of military operations

  9. Improve Defense Department management and administration"

Locher, p. 105

Professionalization of the Marine Corps through Education

In addition to changes implemented by LtCol Wyly at AWS and the activities and momentum of Second Marine Division Maneuver Warfare Board under MGen Gray in the early 1980’s, there were significant moves to professionalize the Marine Corps through education in the late 1980’s. In 1987, Gen Gray became the Commandant of the Marine Corps and in 1988, Col P.K. Van Riper became the Director of Command and Staff College. Around this same time, Marine Corps University was ideated, and Mobile Training Teams were taking the maneuver warfare concepts to Marine Corps operating forces. 

“Dynamic refinement of the Corps’ professional military education system brought significant curriculum changes in the late 1980s. Maneuver warfare theory was introduced and a focus on Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) operations was implemented. In 1989, under the direction of then Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alfred M. Gray, five independent Marine Corps schools were organized into the Marine Corps University.”

(History of MCU)

  Research Tools Library Services General Information Quick Links  
  Databases Reference & Research Assistance Contact Us Gray Research Center  
  eJournal Portal Borrow/Renew/Return Directions/Hours/Location Marine Corps Archives  
  Library Catalog Copyright Assistance Info Island Marine Corps University  
  Marine Corps Reading List Interlibrary Loan Library News & Announcements National Museum of the Marine Corps  
  RefWorks Manage My Account Library Services & Policies Quantico Base Library  

This is an official U.S. Marine Corps website | Library of the Marine Corps | 2040 Broadway Street | Quantico, Virginia 22134 | 703.784.4409

Marine Corps Social Media / Privacy / Accessibility / FOIA / No Fear Act / / MCB Quantico /