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Army sets sights on multi-domain operations

October 4, 2016 (Photo Credit: cybrain/Getty Images via iStockphoto)
With the advent of new technologies that have enabled new domains of warfare, the military and Army is exploring how to exploit multi-domain operations as opposed to just maneuvering across the land, and later, the air domain.

Addressing an audience at the annual Association of the United States Army conference, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work expressed that the character of war is changing. This exemplifies the advancements made by near-peer competitors in the electromagnetic spectrum, cyber and air domains, among others, relative to the U.S., as many military officials have conceded that these higher-end capabilities have atrophied over 15 years of counterinsurgency and counterterror operations against technologically inferior adversaries.

For full AUSA 2016 coverage: www.c4isrnet.com/ausa2016  

This new paradigm has confused the top conceptual thinkers such as Work, who as recently as last year told the Army to think about developing an Air-Land Battle 2.0 construct. Thankfully, he said, the Army did not listen and instead approached the issues to look at multi-domain battle with cross-domain fires.

The Army must think of multi-domain battles as well as those domains that didn’t exist during previous conflicts, such as cyber, space and the electromagnetic spectrum, said Gen. David Perkins, commanding general at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.

If the Army can bring them together and maneuver — which he said is the Army’s strength — through all the domains and integrate them at the time and point of choosing, this can open windows of domain superiority to get after anti-access/area denial constructs.

This means an opening created by cyberspace, such as taking anti-aircraft weapon batteries offline, can enable an opening in the air domain, which will then create openings for land and maritime. If the Army and the military writ large can achieve this, it will create “a whole other level of complication for the enemy,” Perkins said.

Perkins conceded that the Army is not currently organized or trained in this manner, creating an importance for concepts and doctrine to integrate these capabilities.

With talks of stringing together a multi-domain, the military is just bringing online an entirely new cyber force as part of Cyber Command’s cyber mission force —  99 percent of which reached initial operating capability Monday. However, Perkins and his fellow panelists were scant on details regarding how the cyber mission force, which includes service cyber components that focus specifically on the organic domains and missions of each service branch, will contribute in the multi-domain construct.

Given that cyber is ubiquitous across the battlefield and warfare, Perkins said this lends cyber to more of a joint construct. Part of this is also due to the fact that the Army has not yet filled its cyber force structure, he said, noting that from the beginning, the Army — as well as all the other services — have trained their cyber forces to joint standards. There are not preset methods of dealing with cyber, Perkins said, comparing the way the force might adopt previous domain strategies into a new multi-domain construct.

From a friendly, disruptive standpoint, cyber can interrupt logistics if systems are not defended properly, Janine Davidson, under secretary of the Navy, said at AUSA.

To this point, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller said the No. 1 task of cyber forces is to defend networks given all tasks and operations depend on the network. In cyber, we’re already in combat on a day-to-day basis, he said.
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