But modernizing the Army will take decades and tough decisions about everything from online propaganda to the National Guard.
The Army’s experimental Multi-Domain Task Force is a “game changer” that’s turned the tide in “at least 10 wargames,” the commander of US Army Pacific says. “Plans are already changing at the combatant command level because of this.”
The key: the unit cracked the Anti-Access, Area Denial (A2/AD) conundrum, Russia and China’s dense layered defenses of long-range missiles, sensors, and networks to coordinate them. “Before, we couldn’t penetrate A2/AD. With it, we could,” Gen. Robert Brown said of the task force’s performance in “at least 10 exercises and wargames.”
“With the Multi-Domain Task Force,” he told me after his remarks to the AUSA Global conference here, “we could impact their long-range systems and have a much greater success against an adversary. If I go into any more, it’d be classified.”
In the future, Brown said here last week, “all formations will have to become multi-domain or they’ll be irrelevant, [but] it’s going to be years before it can happen.” The Army’s goal is modernize enough forces to wage multi-domain warfare against either China or Russia — but not both at once — by 2028. To get there, Brown and other officers said at the conference, the Army and the nation must make some tough decisions. Some particularly knotty examples:
- What units should move from the National Guard and Army Reserve to the regular-active-duty Army — always a politically touchy question — to make them quicker to respond to, or, better yet, prevent a crisis? What regular units can move into the Guard and Reserves?
- What new organizations, from field army headquarters to scout aircraft squadrons to cyber/intelligence battalions, does the Army need to create for conflict on a much larger scale than the brigade-based operations of Afghanistan and Iraq? What part of the Army should modernize first?
- Who can push all four services — especially a reluctant Navy — to adopt Multi-Domain Operations as their joint approach to warfare? (To be fair, many in the Navy reply that they’re already doing MDO.) Who can bring in the State Department, civilian agencies, and foreign allies, all of which struggle to keep up with the US military?
- What role should the military play in the gray zone between peace and war, the “competition” phase where adversaries use proxies, covert operations, hacking, and disinformation to achieve their goals without provoking US forces into opening fire?
The Army is just beginning to wrestle with these questions. We’ll be taking them on this week because those early attempts at answers are intriguing, starting with the Multi-Domain Task Force itself.