The United States Marine Corps is assigned by the National Command Authority to be primarily the Department of Defense's expeditionary force-in-readiness, and the Department of the Navy's contingent landing force—amphibious by nature. Before 2006 (i.e., the formation of the Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC)), the Marine Corps was the only branch of the Armed Forces that did not have any of its special warfare elements participating in the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), due to confining its special operations capabilities only for the purpose to the Fleet Marine Force.
President Ronald Reagan approved the establishment of USSOCOM in April 1987; a month later the other military branches reassigned their own respective special operations forces (SOF) units to the USSOCOM Headquarters in Tampa Bay, Florida at MacDill Air Force Base. However, as the Marine Corps was reluctant to make the subtle change, its specialized assets assigned to the FMF's Marine Air-Ground Task Forces are not recognized by the charter signed in 1987.
Commandant of the Marine Corps General Alfred M. Gray announced on 5 February 1988, that in response to the current and projected realities of the world, they were changing the designations of the Marine Air-Ground Task Forces that constitute its fighting formations. The word "amphibious" was replaced by "expeditionary". The new term signified that the Marine Corps would not be limited to amphibious operations but rather would be capable of a wide spectrum of operations in littoral areas around the world, in conventional and unconventional warfare.
Because of its status in expeditionary warfare, the Marine Corps fundamentally bases its combative strategy on its ground combat element—all air/ground elements are primarily organic support to the Marine infantry—arguing that strategic bombing does not win battles. Its assigned expeditionary roles assigned by the Unified Combatant Command requires it to be fully trained and functional either as a quick reaction or show of force to any place and environment around the globe within 24 hours. To become adaptive to the Fleet Marine Force protocol, it established its own specialized assets to support the Navy/Marine force commanders to suit its maritime (amphibious) light-infantry capabilities.
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