Professional Readings

Reading #154

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  • Sunday, October 1, 2017

Extending the Battlefield

"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."

Dr. Albert Palazzo & Lt. Col. David McClain - MDB: New Concept for Land Forces

"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."

Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff


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:

As you read the article, consider the impacts on the following Army Warfighting Challenges:
#1 Develop Situational Understanding:

How to develop and sustain a high degree of situational understanding while operating in complex environments against determined, adaptive enemy organizations.

#2/3 Shape the Security Environment:

How the Army influences the security environment and engages key actors and local/regional forces in order to consolidate gains and achieve sustainable security outcomes in support of Geographic Combatant Commands and Joint requirements.

#7 Conduct Space, Cyberspace, Electronic Warfare, and Communications Operations :

How to assure access to and integrity of critical data and information, across multiple domains, in an increasingly contested and congested operational environment, while simultaneously denying the same to the enemy.

#8 Enhance Realistic Training:

How to train Soldiers, leaders and units to ensure they are prepared to accomplish the mission across the range of military operations while operating in complex environments against determined, adaptive enemy organizations.

#10 Develop Agile and Adaptive Leaders:

How to develop agile, adaptive, and innovative leaders who thrive in conditions of uncertainty and chaos and are capable of visualizing, describing, directing, and leading and assessing operations in complex environments and against adaptive enemies.

#11 Conduct Air-Ground Reconnaissance and Security Operations:

How Army formations conduct continuous integrated reconnaissance and security operations across multiple domains (air/land/cyberspace/space/maritime) to rapidly develop the situation while in contact with the enemy and civilian populations.

#12 Conduct Joint Expeditionary Maneuver and Entry Operations:

The Army needs formations that can rapidly deploy into contested environments, quickly transition to operations, and be sustained to maintain high operational tempo with the overmatch necessary to destroy or defeat enemy forces.

#14 Ensure Interoperability and Operate in Joint, Inter-organizational, Multinational Environment:

How to integrate joint, inter-organizational, and multi-national partner capabilities and campaigns to ensure unity of effort and accomplish missions across the range of military operations.

#15 Conduct Cross-Domain Maneuver:

How Army forces, operating as part of a joint, interorganizational, and multinational force, train, organize, equip, and posture sufficiently to deter or defeat highly capable peer threats in the degraded, contested, lethal, and complex future operational environment.

#16 Set the Theater Sustain Operations and Maintain Freedom of Movement:

How to set the theater, provide strategic agility to the joint force, and maintain freedom of movement and action during sustained and high tempo operations at the end of extended lines of communication in austere environments.

#17/18 Employ Cross-Domain Fires:

How to employ cross-domain fires to defeat the enemy and preserve freedom of action across the range of military operations (ROMO).

#19 Exercise Mission Command:

How to understand, visualize, describe, and direct operations consistent with the philosophy of mission command to seize the initiative over the enemy and accomplish the mission across the range of military operations.

#20 Develop Capable Formations:

How to design Army formations capable of rapidly deploying and conducting operations for ample duration and in sufficient scale to accomplish the mission.

Continuous feedback, collaboration, and teamwork are keys to the success of the Campaign of Learning and driving innovation in the Army. Please use the Army Warfighting Challenges as the framework to contribute your ideas and recommendations with respect to this topic to improve our ability to innovate as we develop the current and future force.

The Army Warfighting Challenges (AWFC) framework may be accessed here:

For previous weekly readings go to: ARCIC Professional Readings

  1. Army Operating Concept, TRADOC Pam 525-3-1, 30 October 2014
  2. Multi-Domain Battle

All the best,