Marine Corps activity receives service’s first S&T ‘reinvention laboratory’ designation

Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity just got a boost.
U.S. Marines with Amphibious Vehicle Test Branch, Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity, drive a new Amphibious Combat Vehicle along the beach during low-light surf transit testing at AVTB Beach on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Dec. 18, 2019. The test was designed to assess and verify how well Marines can interface with the vehicle and operate at night. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Andrew Cortez)

A Marine Corps activity that aids command-and-control modernization efforts has been designated a Department of Defense “science and technology reinvention laboratory” — making it the service’s first entity to receive the special authorities that come with the label.

Marine Corps Tactical Systems Support Activity (MCTSSA) — which is part of Marine Corps Systems Command and is based at Camp Pendleton, California — was tapped as an STRL, the service announced Monday.

The organization “provides 24/7 global technical support for command, control, computer, communications, cyber, and intelligence (C5I) systems; conducts engineering, testing and evaluation, and supports experimentation on C5I systems and amphibious platforms in order to inform acquisition decisions and make the Fleet Marine Force (FMF) more capable,” according to its website.

About 20 organizations across the Defense Department are considered an STRL, including such entities as the Air Force Research Lab, the Army’s Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center, and Naval Information Warfare Centers, among others.


“Once designated, the STRL can avail themselves of certain legislated authorities directed towards STRLs such as personnel flexibilities, minor military construction flexibilities, ability to adopt mechanisms that give the STRL Directors discretionary funding flexibility, etc.,” according to the Pentagon research and engineering directorate’s website.

The Marine Corps is pursuing new organizational structures and technologies under its Force Design effort. The service cheered the “reinvention laboratory” selection as a boon for modernization and talent management.

“MCTSSA’s acceptance to the Naval Research and Development Enterprise with STRL designation occurred at the perfect time given the USMC’s current Force Design efforts,” Col. Craig Clarkson, the activity’s commanding officer, said in a statement. “We are now optimally positioned to support Service Combined Joint All Domain Command & Control initiatives and the development of other future capabilities.”

Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control (CJADC2) is the Pentagon’s next-generation warfighting construct that calls for more effective and holistic networking of sensors, shooters and data streams across the entire battlespace from all the services and key foreign partners, to provide the right data to commanders for better decision-making.

Last year, the Corps also updated its talent management strategy, which has four major lines of effort: rebalancing recruitment and retention, optimizing the employment of talent, offering multiple pathways to career success and acquiring modern digital tools to support talent management.


“STRL designation enables MCTSSA to operate more like a Marine Corps Expeditionary Warfare Center, with the personnel and acquisition authorities to develop and scale a highly-skilled, technical workforce focused on delivering integrated Naval capabilities,” Timothy Gramp, the activity’s executive director, said in a statement.

Officials say the move will help the organization compete with industry for top talent.

Jon Harper

Written by Jon Harper

Jon Harper is Managing Editor of DefenseScoop, the Scoop News Group’s online publication focused on the Pentagon and its pursuit of new capabilities. He leads an award-winning team of journalists in providing breaking news and in-depth analysis on military technology and the ways in which it is shaping how the Defense Department operates and modernizes. You can also follow him on X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter) @Jon_Harper_

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