To get through a war with a near-peer competitor like China or Russia, Marines will need to master basics in communication and navigation, said the Marine Corps commandant.

Rival competitor nation states are challenging U.S. dominance across the globe, Gen. Robert Neller said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion in Washington Thursday.

The past seventeen years, America has been relatively unchallenged heading into the fight. Iraq and Afghanistan have afforded permissible environments for Marine aircraft and shore landings.

Service members in those conflicts heavily relied on satellite communications from everything to airstrikes, medical evacuations, to communication back home in the states. There was never a real threat to the network, and “people get used to that certainty,” Neller said.

But, headed into the future, “that’s not the way it’s going to be.”

Countries like China and Russia have been investing a lot of money into space development. Protection of space and America’s communications is a priority, but Marines will also need to learn how to adapt and operate without some of those tools.

It’s one of the reasons the commandant has included the novel “Ghost Fleet” on his reading list. The book details a plunge into a not-too-implausible third world war with the futuristic battlefield in space and cyber.

The Corps is looking at and experimenting with other communication waveforms in case America’s satellite and GPS networks are destroyed or jammed in an attack. But it’s not enough, Neller said.

Marines will need to get really good at baseline communications with high frequency, or HF radios, capable of over-the-horizon communication.

Map and compass skills will also need to be strengthened across the Corps in the event GPS systems go down.

Munitions will also need to be multifunctioning, meaning a shell or missile can’t just be GPS guided, it needs to have other precision capabilities like lasers.

Marines also will need to start conducting training with the internet off, Neller said.

Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.

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