ARLINGTON, Va. ― The challenges of the future operating environment are happening now for the intelligence community, the Marine Corps’ top general for information says. And diversity in thinking and in the ranks is essential to meeting the challenge.

Lt. Gen. Lori Reynolds, deputy commandant of information, shared that observation and other insights to more than 300 intelligence Marines at the 9th Annual Marine Corps Association and Foundation Intelligence Awards Dinner Thursday.

“I believe that diversity of thought will matter in the future fight,” Reynolds said.

Diverse force, especially in intelligence, she said, is not about quotas but about, “how we think about the tools we put in a toolbox or use keys on a keyboard.”

“And I believe a dramatic mix of talent, of all races, religions, backgrounds and genders will be the difference in the future,” she said.

The three-star noted how a variety of perspectives, languages and cultures all feed the intelligence understanding of adversaries and of the information environment, an aspect that near-peer competitors such as China and Russia do not hold.

“We must talk about diversity as a warfighting necessity and tonight I’m declaring it essential to the information environment,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds’ post, deputy commandant of information, was created just two years ago by former Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller, who established information as a warfighting function and first appointed Lt. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue.

The position “develops and supervises plans, policies, and strategy for operating in the Information Environment and identifies requirements in doctrine, manpower, training, education, and equipment in order to support Marine Air Ground Task Force operations in the Information Environment," according to the Marine Corps’ website.

The deputy commandant also serves as the principal adviser to the commandant, “on all Information Environment matters and serves as the principal spokesperson on Marine Corps Information Environment programs, requirements, and strategy throughout the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense.”

A 2017 Pentagon study of the population representation in the military services showed that the percentage of female servicemembers in the total enlisted active force hit a historic high of 16 percent in fiscal year 2017.

The Marine Corps hit a historic high of 8.5 percent female enlisted Marines, though nearly half of the total of all services.

The Air Force and Army had the highest, at nearly 20 percent female enlisted each. The Army showed an estimated 14 percent enlisted female population.

The report also noted that racial minorities make up 23.7 percent of the civilian benchmark population but one third of all defense department enlisted forces.

The Marine Corps had the lowest percentage of black enlisted troops when compared both to other services and to the civilian benchmark.

The Army had the highest with nearly 25 percent, the Air Force followed with nearly 20 percent then the Navy with an estimated 17 percent, just above the civilian benchmark of 15 percent.

The Marine Corps showed less than 10 percent black enlisted members.

The comments came near the end of a near half-hour speech that also laid out how the changing security environment and competition with rising powers called for new ways of thinking about planning and executing operations.

“Importantly, we have to recognize that this fight is a now fight, it’s today’s fight,” Reynolds said.

Brig. Gen. Melvin Carter, Marine Corps director of intelligence, introduced Reynolds, emphasizing the information and intelligence aspects that will need to work better and in new ways to meet the measures set by Commandant Gen. David Berger’s planning guidance.

As leaders build the force of the future, Reynolds said, people are doing much on that path that will influence outcomes.

"We are setting conditions, we are deterring, we are exposing bad behavior, we are contesting, we are aggressively building and maintaining partnerships and we’re challenging every assumption we grew up with,” she said.

On the technology front, Reynolds noted the need for building a global warfighting network, having the intelligence community and its data in the cloud and building and maintaining the naval tactical grid, a series of sensors and shooters.

“The tactical grid is all about the data and the ability to share it quickly in a contested environment,” Reynolds said.

And the challenges also fall outside of traditional military concerns.

For example, she posed questions to the audience on how a Chinese industry developed 5G technology for Internet access would change how intelligence professionals think and plan spectrum use, deal with force protection, provide intelligence support and what it ultimately means for the warfighter.

The information environment demands we change how we think and plan operations, she said.

That’s, in part, because there are no physical boundaries in space and cyberspace domains. Meaning the deeper effects of cyber or space-based warfare can have second or third order and beyond consequences.

Which means revisiting age-old practices such as battle damage assessments.

“We have to challenge every assumption we have made about space and our ability to see, sense and act,” she said.

She dovetailed with renewed emphasis by both the past and new commandant on reintegrating with the Navy to build capabilities for the maritime environment.

The following Marines and units received honors from MCA&F at the dinner:

Outstanding Marine Corps Intelligence Enlisted Marine

Lance Cpl. Jason N. Hanna, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment

Outstanding Marine Corps Intelligence Noncommissioned Officer

Sgt. Felicity J. Dornellas, Marine Forces Cyber 700 Combat Mission Team

Outstanding Marine Corps Intelligence Staff Noncommissioned Officer

Master Sgt. Steven A. Zales II

Outstanding Marine Corps Intelligence Officer

Capt. Thomas R. Ekstrom

Outstanding Marine Corps Intelligence Unit

700 Combat Mission Team, MARFORCYBER

The team was established in 2016 to support highly sensitive operations against numerous national and strategic objectives. Throughout 2018, the unit contributed to more than 1,500 serialized signals intelligence products, answering more than 3,800 high priority national intelligence needs.

Director of Intelligence Innovation Award

S-2 Section, 4th Marine Regiment

The 4th Marines S-2 section has spearheaded the development of new tactics, techniques and procedures in intelligence support of spectrum warfare. The unit has driven change in how electronic warfare, signature management and tactical deception can be employed to achieve electromagnetic spectrum dominance.

Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.

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