After nearly a decade, the Army is rolling out a new field manual – its cornerstone document for soldier operations.
The reason for the update is simple. Future wars are projected to be vastly different from what troops experienced in OIF and OEF.
“Today’s operational environment presents threats to the Army and joint force that are significantly more dangerous in terms of capability and magnitude than those we faced in Iraq and Afghanistan,” writes Lt. Gen. Michael Lundy, the Army’s Combined Arms Center commander, in a forward to the new Field Manual 3-0 Operations.
The manual, essentially an Army commander’s bible, is making its debut at the AUSA convention.
“Major regional powers like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are actively seeking to gain strategic positional advantage,” Lundy writes. “These nations, and other adversaries, are fielding capabilities to deny long-held U.S. freedom of action in the air, land, maritime, space and cyberspace domains and reduce U.S. influence in critical areas of the world.”
And, Lundy notes, some adversaries “already have overmatch or parity, a challenge the joint force has not faced in twenty-five years.”
A new way to fight
The new field manual acknowledges through doctrine that the Army needs to divert some of its attention away from small scale contingencies it’s been engaged in over the past 17 years and focus on how it might have to go up against peer-level threats — essentially through large-scale combat operations, Lundy told Defense News in an interview shortly before AUSA.
The field manual also aligns with the Army’s shift to a new battle concept — Multi-Domain Battle — which requires commanders to fight in multiple spheres, some of which didn’t exist on the battlefield until recently.
Gen. David Perkins, the commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, who has been one of the most public and vocal proponents for Multi-Domain Battle driving the force of the future, told Army Times in an interview that the field manual is the Army’s “first run at a battlefield framework,” which will evolve over time.
The manual is one of many steps in overhauling warfighting, it is a doctrine, which guides how the Army organizes itself, he said.
And that doctrine will far exceed current capabilities as the Army transforms.
“There are gaps, clearly, as we go through this doctrine. It might be in capacity. We may not have enough of something or a certain capability. It might be in the range of the system so you get, say, greater risk if you maneuver that system closer to the line,” Lundy said. “What we have in this manual is very doable. But it also highlights that we can do it much better with the new capability coming in as we modernize, so we will continue to evolve the doctrine.”
Perkins gave a personal example, recalling how when he was a young officer in the early 1980s, new terminology from the Army’s then-new concept of Air Land Battle cropped up.
This was before major equipment and technology changes such as the M1 Abrams tank, were even a reality.
“When I came into the Army back in the dark ages, Air Land Battle ‘close, deep and rear’ were new terms,” Perkins said.
Guiding doctrine outlined in the manual will influence planning, training, operations and Army structure as the capabilities, such as cyber, vehicle systems and missiles evolve and are implemented.
“I didn’t get an M1 tank until I was a major,” Perkins said. “Generally, we would train Air Land Battle with M60 (tanks).”
But the concepts were there, Perkins said.
Similarly, cyber capabilities are not yet ingrained at every level of a Brigade Combat Team nor at the battalion level, but the new manual lays out the use of cyber in some aspects of the battle.
“Fires combining both lethal and nonlethal effects in the cyberspace, EMS (Electro Magnetic Spectrum) and information environment are the primary tools of division deep operations,” the manual states.
But the manual goes far beyond tossing in a few novel words and gives a nod to lessons of past battles such as the deep strike strategies of Union Army generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman in their combined East and West campaigns to tie down and divide the Confederate Forces in the Civil War.
Authors draw lessons from the multi-domain throttling of the British by the Japanese during the invasion of Malaya and Singapore.
Though offensive and defensive operations and maneuvers on the battlefield take up multiple chapters in the manual, a large portion is dedicated to preventing actual steel-on-steel combat.
And the manual’s architects have considered steps short of combat but still involving military measures such as preventative operations.
For instance, the Army would work alongside diplomatic, economic and informational powers of both the United States and allies, seeking to stop fighting before it starts. Or at least to gain an advantage for when fighting erupts, according to the manual.
“These actions alone may disrupt an adversary’s assumptions, plans, or timelines,” the manual said. “Operations to prevent create the conditions required to quickly transition, if necessary, into large-scale ground combat.”
When the battle begins
The authors do not take recent decades of military dominance for granted, referring to “forcible entry” requirements in an age of anti-access/area denial capabilities of adversaries.
They note Army forces must be able to deploy and fight to gain access to areas, as compared to large-scale operations in the Persian Gulf War and Iraq, where major forces massed in friendly countries for weeks or months before combat began.
“Swift and decisive victory in these cases requires forcible entry and the ability to surge follow-on forces,” authors wrote.
They do not shirk the challenges of urban operations, either.
“Due to the complexity of an urban environment, commanders must carefully arrange their forces and operations according to purpose, time, and space to accomplish the mission,” the manual states. “Most urban operations, the terrain, the dense population, military forces, and unified action partners will further complicate this arrangement.”
The authors make clear that there will be times in future near-peer conflicts when Army units are outnumbered. But, they counsel, “a numerically inferior force capable of bold and aggressive action can create opportunities to seize and exploit the initiative.”
But after the fighting has ended, the mission is not yet complete.
Authors advocate for “consolidation of gains” at every opportunity.
They caution that the term is not a “synonym for stability, counter-insurgency or nation-building.”
“It describes activities designed to make the achievement of the military objective enduring. As such, it encompasses a broad array of tasks combined in variable ways over time in a specific operational context,” they wrote.
Taking lessons learned from the Iraq invasion, they note that the consolidation includes seizing areas with weapons, fuel, server farms and other key assets; controlling enemy security services, rapid physical control of population centers and “rapid and comprehensive use of information operations to shape public opinion, discredit enemy narratives and promote friendly narratives.”
The manual also places a new emphasis on operating with multinational and joint forces because “all warfare is going to be multi-domain warfare or a multi-domain battle. That’s real today,” Lundy said.
Exercises like the U.S. Army-led Saber Guardian, which took place in Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary over the summer, showed the Army and its allies can conduct multi-domain battle operations now.
Bringing FM 3-0 into the fold
FM3-0 sets up a framework that will cascade down into other manuals within the Army, Lundy said. “This year we’re updating all of what we call the capstone field manuals, which are really about tactics,” whether it be special operations, sustainment or maneuver support, he added.
The manual is also driving other doctrine such as how the Army sets up and operates its headquarters.
For instance, Lundy said, “We’ve been focused largely on limited contingency operations so our command post has kind of been geared towards that, so we’re rewriting the command post manuals on how we go to multiple smaller command posts that are able to move very rapidly.”
The process of implementing the field manual from higher echelons to the individual soldier will not “happen overnight,” Lundy said. Yet, the Army has already made some “pretty significant changes” over the past several years in combat training programs that align with the manual.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.