"Rapid military modernization, the proliferation of advanced capabilities, including long-range precision missiles and advanced sensors, and their spreading into the hands of potential adversaries has resulted in a need for land forces to adapt to the diverse range of challenges we will face."
"Multi-domain battle is more than the ability to work in multiple domains. We already do this quite effectively in today's Air Operations Centers. It is also more than operations in one domain supporting or complementing operations in another domain. An advanced multi-domain operating concept (CONOPS) will exploit current and new capabilities as well as integrate joint and coalition capabilities across all military operations. It will allow us to both see more opportunities and generate more options for our nation's leaders."
U.S. military dominance is increasingly contested in the land, air, maritime, space and cyberspace domains. While the U.S. has been engaged in counter-insurgency operations for the last 15 years, potential adversaries have modernized and studied how we fight, and will seek to threaten our critical capabilities through multiple domains. Multi-Domain Battle is an emerging concept with our Joint partners to help maintain American military dominance in a battlefield that is extended into all five domains - land, air, maritime, space, and cyberspace, and across the electromagnetic spectrum.
In this week’s professional reading, “Extending the Battlefield,” General Donn A. Starry describes the extended battlefield concept he envisioned necessary to engage Soviet second echelon and follow-on forces. General Starry’s challenge was not unlike the challenge posed to the United States of a future battlefield expanded across multiple domains. Recognizing this threat, MG Bill Hix, Director of Strategy, Plans, and Policy for the Army G-3/5/7, recently emphasized (1) the Army must begin aggressively restructuring, reorganizing, and modernizing to meet the challenges posed by near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China. He further stated that counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations have shaped Army force structure, defined system development, and focused science and technology efforts “on near-term requirements” and that during the same time Russia and China have embarked on major military modernization efforts and have significantly closed the capabilities gap with the U.S. He concluded that those investments now pose a risk to the Army in “every domain of war” and that “a deliberate examination of how the Army should reorganize is long overdue. Hard thinking, aggressive study and concept development, coupled with science and technology programs to develop options” for the next two decades “will ensure the U.S. Army is favorably disposed to meet this future head-on.” Multi-Domain Battle is the emerging multi-service concept to meet these future challenges.
Although GEN Starry’s article has a primary focus on the integration off deep strike capabilities, Starry offers several ideas important to the development of the emerging Multi-Domain Battle (MDB) concept. First, MDB, building on the Army Operating Concept (AOC), must enable the military to win. He argues that once “political authorities commit military forces in pursuit of political aims, military forces must win or there is no basis from which political authorities can bargain to win politically.” He states that the purpose of military operations “cannot be to simply avert defeat, but, rather, it must be to win.”
Second, Starry describes a battlefield that is extended in both depth and forward in time. As such he describes the need to conduct operations across the breadth and depth of the battle field simultaneously to maximize the likelihood of winning the close-in battle over time. Applying Starry’s notion of extended depth and time to today’s changing operating environment, rapidly evolving technologies, and adversaries’ adaptations to them requires consideration of battlespace convergence and compression. Converged battlespace is a product of the adversary’s ability to integrate capabilities across many domains, environments, and functions in time to achieve effects at any geographic location. The ability of adversaries to both extend the battlespace and converge capabilities compresses the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war for Joint Force and allied commanders. Thus, strategic to tactical compression is a result of adversaries’ extended-range of conventional capabilities, information warfare, and unconventional capabilities that place friendly formations at risk from multiple systems, both lethal and nonlethal, operating in dispersed locations, often outside the range of the friendly formation’s systems and authority. Multi-domain battle must consider how to overcome this compression shortens friendly commanders’ decision cycles and severely inhibits the Joint Force’s ability to identify, maneuver on, and isolate adversary capabilities geographically, functionally, or by domain.
Third, Starry argues that the “capability to conduct extended attacks must be an integral part of every combat unit’s capability.” This is important because the goal of collapsing the enemy’s ability to fight requires a unified employment of a wide range of systems and organizations. To conduct Multi-Domain Battle, all domains and warfighting functions must be integrated to deliver a holistic solution to the problem. Because Multi-Domain Battle extends the battlespace to strategic areas for both friendly and enemy forces, it expands the targeting landscape based on the extended ranges and lethality delivered at range by integrated air defenses, cross-domain fire support, and cyber/electronic warfare systems.
Finally, Starry argues that the extended battlefield concept was necessary to serve as a “unifying idea which pulls all these emerging capabilities together so that, together, they can allow us to realize their full combined potential for winning.” He further argued that “the time for implementation is now.” In concert with MG Hix’s statement that we conduct “hard thinking, aggressive study and concept development, coupled with science and technology programs to develop options”, Starry emphasized that now was the time to field and learn to use the concept on the ground with real troops, real equipment, and the real world problems of field commanders.”
Today, current U.S. force posture, coupled with the demand for globally integrated operations, presents a myriad of challenges to regional Joint Force Commanders tasked to contest and defeat peer adversaries in support of U.S. national interests. To mitigate these challenges, the U.S. Joint Force must evolve its combined arms mindset to incorporate capabilities from all Services and functions, operating in all domains and environments to develop comprehensive and complementary combined arms solutions for periods of competition below armed conflict and during armed conflict. As a “unifying idea,” Multi-Domain Battle Concept is an important collaborative and innovative effort across our Services that we will ensure our forces are prepared to “win” short of armed conflict when possible, and to prevail against our adversaries when war is unavoidable.
During the AUSA National Symposium and Exposition, GEN Perkins will lead a group of esteemed panelists in a discussion on Multi-Domain Battle. The panel is titled "Converged and Integrated Solutions for the Future" and will be live-streamed for those unable to attend the event.
To learn more about Multi-Domain Battle and contribute to conversation, access the following link: http://www.tradoc.army.mil/MultiDomainBattle/index.asp