343. In It to Win It: Competition, Crisis, & Conflict

[Editor’s Note:  The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) facilitated a campaign of learning this year to consider the role of the U.S. Army in the decade ahead, in light of changes to the Operational Environment (OE) — in particular, the changing character of warfare and evolving threats. The campaign’s overarching objective was to explore how the Army can meet the challenges posed by adversaries who seek to neutralize our battlefield advantages or completely avoid these capabilities altogether in the pursuit of their national security objectives. Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to feature today’s post, exploring some of what we have learned from this campaign — Enjoy!]

The Operational Environment‘s trajectory is evolving and accelerating.  The U.S. Army must adapt and develop its capabilities accordingly.  As our national security apparatus collectively pivots to address the new realities of Great Power Competition, advanced autonomy, and contested information spaces, the Army must develop new strategies to effectively out compete our rivals while simultaneously deterring aggression, or failing that, decisively defeat all potential adversaries.  To ensure continued success, the Army should consider the following challenges:

      • The Joint Force as a whole, and the U.S. Army in particular, will likely face increased budgetary constraints in the future. These constraints could challenge continued large force structures, and the Army may be forced to confront trade-offs between personnel, materiel, and technological research and development.
      • The information space will become a prime target for U.S. adversaries, who will attempt to confuse, paralyze, and manipulate U.S. decision making processes by influencing the manner in which our forces gather, process, transmit, and act on information. Our economy is also likely to become a target for those seeking to weaken the United States. It is imperative that Army leaders think beyond the military element of DIME while operating in the competition and conflict spaces.
      • Both China and Russia are attempting to reclaim historic positions of global prominence, which may give them a sense of “overconfidence” in the international environment. In turn, this perception may lead to increased aggression by these competitors. It is possible that they may seek to “throw the first punch” should they not be successfully deterred.
      • Lancet-3 Russian Loitering Munition — anyone who can purchase top attack systems on the global market has the potential to achieve air supremacy / Source: TRADOC G-2’s OE Data Integration Network (ODIN) Worldwide Equipment Guide (WEG)

        Disruptive capabilities, once limited to our pacing threats’ arsenals, are spreading to other countries. This proliferation will create an increasingly contested environment for U.S. Army operations.

In order to succeed in this changing environment and address the aforementioned trends, the U.S. Army will need to inculcate resiliency, focusing on building its capacity to deter and withstand adversarial aggression. Specifically, we will need to be able “withstand the first punch,” absorbing the loss of some capacity, then quickly adapting and responding decisively to emerge victorious. Solutions proposed include the following:

      • Modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles, known as Mission Enabling Technologies – Demonstrators, and Robotic Combat Vehicles, are used at Fort Carson, CO, during training in summer 2020/ Source:  U.S. Army photo by Jerome Aliotta via The Army Times

        In order to maintain defensive capabilities despite increased budgetary constraints, the U.S. Army should continue to develop autonomous capabilities that can be managed by a smaller force. Autonomous, remotely operated technology with advanced swarming capabilities will be particularly useful when operating in large scale conflicts with a smaller-scale force.

      • The U.S. Army should better prepare to withstand significant disruptions in the information environment. An over reliance on information systems could be exploited in future conflict, making it essential to train and prepare for information and communication degraded environments. Wargaming will be a critical element to this preparation, as will building trust with mission command in uncertain communication environments.
      • To prepare for a data saturated and manipulated environment, the U.S. Army should also focus on building a force with coding, data science, and strategic thinking skills. These personnel strengths will enable the U.S. military to navigate information density and will help identify relevant information in a congested and rapidly changing intelligence arena.
      • As Russia and China attempt to regain global influence, the United States should take care to maintain its core principles and avoid conflicts that do not align with our vital national interests. Deterrence should be a key component to U.S. strategy. Studying historical examples of Great Power Conflict, particularly in World War One, will be beneficial for our Leaders preparing to operate in this environment.
      • Cooperation with allies will also be essential to maintaining a stable international environment. The United States should work on expanding its access to the Pacific, as well as improve interoperability with our European partners. Leveraging partners and training with allies more frequently will better prepare the United States to succeed in this complicated and rapidly changing environment.

Facing a more congested and competitive international sphere while simultaneously confronting increased budgetary constraints will challenge U.S. military superiority. However, a changing environment also creates new opportunities for U.S. leadership and excellence, as the power of creative thinkers will be amplified. By leveraging its people, strengthening its commitment and ability to operate will allies, and adapting to work in uncertain information and communication arenas, the U.S. Army can compete and win in this new environment.

If you enjoyed this post, check out the following related content:

The Future of War is Cyber! by CPT Casey Igo and CPT Christian Turley

The Erosion of National Will – Implications for the Future Strategist, by Dr. Nick Marsella

The U.S. Joint Force’s Defeat before Conflict, by proclaimed Mad Scientist CPT Anjanay Kumar

Competition and Conflict in the Next Decade, Young Minds on Competition and Conflict, and Character of Warfare 2035 

Sub-threshold Maneuver and the Flanking of U.S. National Security, by Dr. Russell Glenn

China: Our Emergent Pacing Threat and Disrupting the “Chinese Dream” – Eight Insights on how to win the Competition with China

Russia: Our Current Pacing Threat and The Bear is Still There: Four Insights on Competition with Russia

The Dawn of the Loitering Munitions Era, by proclaimed Mad Scientist MSG Daniel S. Nasereddine, Top Attack: Lessons Learned from the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, and the associated podcast with COL John Antal (USA-Ret.)

“No Option is Excluded” — Using Wargaming to Envision a Chinese Assault on Taiwan, Would You Like to Play a Game? Wargaming as a Learning Experience and Key Assumptions Check, and Making the Future More Personal: The Oft-Forgotten Human Driver in Future’s Analysis by Ian Sullivan

Insights from the Robotics and Autonomy Series of Virtual Events

>>>> REMINDER 1: TRADOC wants your input to problems large and small. We think people are working on these problems every day around the world. Crowdsourcing our Problems Worth Solving — or redefining them properly — is one way to get at the solutions some of you may already have. Let’s Connect! Help Team Army and TRADOC set a new course for the future — click here to join the discussion!

>>>> REMINDER 2: Army Mad Scientist is CALLING ALL CREATORS with our Multi-Media Contest for imaginative artists who would like to showcase their ideas about future possibilities in alternative ways. For more information, check out our announcement and flyer, then consult your inner muse, unleash your creative talent, get cracking developing your multi-media entry, and submit it to madscitradoc@gmail.com. There are only five days left… deadline for submission is this Friday, 6 August 2021!!!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Army Futures Command (AFC), or Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

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One Reply to “343. In It to Win It: Competition, Crisis, & Conflict”

  1. A couple of trends that I keep seeing and that keep being reinforced are 1) an almost exclusive focus on fighting the next conflict with China, with little to no attention focused on specific deterrence/competitive activities that will help to avoid fighting that next conflict; and 2) a focus on trying to predict the future, as opposed to a focus on how we can/should shape the future to our advantage so we can regain and then maintain the strategic initiative over our adversaries. While there is certainly value in both of these trends, and they are both are needed, we need to better balance the focus on fighting the next conflict with how we can prevent that conflict, and better balance predicting the future with how we want to shape the future to our advantage.

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