WASHINGTON — Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley is the new Army Capabilities Integration Center director and the first director to guide the center’s efforts under the purview of the brand-new Army Futures Command, as opposed to Training and Doctrine Command, where the center lived since its inception.
ARCIC will be responsible for the development of future operational and war-fighting concepts that align and inform the service’s major modernization priorities that Futures Command is tasked to develop in a new and rapid way. In an unprecedented method, concept and capability development will be formed in parallel.
In a wide-ranging interview with Defense News, Wesley discussed how the Army is evolving its major operational concept — Multidomain Operations 1.5 — and how ARCIC will continue to align modernization strategy with the concept as the Army heads toward a fully modernized force by 2028 — one that can provide overmatch against peer adversaries.
When are you coming out with the new version of the Army’s Multidomain Operations concept (MDO 1.5)? Will it be at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference?
We’re teasing it out. What we’re going to do is deliver all of the principles and tenets of this new concept, and then you’ll see the signed version within 30 days of that.
Why is getting the MDO concept right so critical?
I’ll say upfront this is the most fundamental rewrite of an operational concept since AirLand Battle that was published in 1982.
Concepts are critical, particularly at a point in time when you see the world’s dynamics fundamentally shift in a way that you’ve got to, in many ways, reconfigure or redesign and modernize your army.
What has changed in the world that requires multidomain operations?
I’d say there are a number of things. But if there’s a word that you want to remember in terms of identifying the challenges we face within the pacing threats, it is the word “standoff.”
And what [our adversaries] have invested in are things that mitigate against the United States and our partners and allies’ strengths. We’re very good at close combat, and they’ve watched us over the last 30 years or so. And when you give the United States and our coalition partners and allies time to build up against it, usually the outcome is preordained based on ability to get into position and conduct operations the way we like to conduct them. So recognizing that, they’ve invested in what we oftentimes refer to as anti-access, area denial capabilities, which serendipitously came parallel with our withdrawal from the continent of Europe and the Korean Peninsula over the last 30 years.
So what we find ourselves in is the position where we are vulnerable to the investments of standoff making our ability to conduct expeditionary deployment very difficult. The layers of standoff actually go beyond just physical. It starts with their investment into everything from cyber to their influence in social media. And broadly, even now, we find ourselves consumed with the question on the degree to which the U.S. elections were meddled with in 2016.
Well, that’s an effective first round in the standoff engagement. So then we talk about this in two periods. The competition period and the conflict period, and what we find is our peers are fully engaged in the first layer of standoff by investing in efforts of democratic elections. Not only U.S. elections but Brexit, Catalonia and others, and that becomes the first layer of standoff.
That poses another dilemma in the competition space and sometimes in the conflict space. Where it’s difficult to be able to identify whether you have a true conflict or not. Then, finally, you really get into the conflict space if you add their A2AD capability, their long-range precision fires, and their Integrated Air Defense Systems. What it does is it fractures what we’ve become used to in the integration of the joint force.
How have you changed and refined the principles and tenets within the concept of Multidomain Operations over the past year? Can we expect a new level of clarity in certain parts of the concept?
Number one is we’ve added extensive clarity, so you’ll find much more detail in what we describe in terms of how we would conduct multidomain operations. So first is the clarity. The second one is analytical rigor. We’ve added significant analytical rigor. You could argue that multidomain battle was a hypothesis and now it has truly evolved into a legitimate concept with reams of data and experimentation and analytics behind it.
I think that a third element is that we put a lot more energy into the role of multidomain or how multidomain operation is executed across echelons. Very specific requirements in order to be effective at carrying out MDO.
Then the final one is this idea of convergence. And the beauty of convergence is the fact that we have — the services are coming into a common view of what convergence is. But what we talk about is one of the things you probably picked up on in multidomain battle, that we emphasized a lot, is that we have to fight across all domains and that’s the means by which we achieve the penetration. If we are balanced in all domains, if all domains are going to be contested, that therefore means that by definition, we don’t necessarily as we’ve been used to over the last 30 years dominate in all domains all the time. So if that’s true, then you have to determine a way to get an advantage, and the way we seek to get an advantage is to optimize all domains at a decisive space in order to affect the penetration.
We have the multidomain task force out there helping to refine the concept, and it has probably contributed a great deal to how the concept has changed over the last year. But what else have you been doing to collect data and analyze to get to the point of more clarity?
The first, as you mentioned, the work with the multidomain task force. The second one I would mention is Joint Modernization Command conducts Joint Warfighting Assessments. Multidomain Operations 1.5 is in many ways a product of what we learned from JWA .
How are you aligning concept work with modernization priorities since the first modernization strategy was released as well as the guiding MDO concept? Are you developing concept and capability more in parallel?
The development of the modernization priorities have been conducted in parallel with the learning that has been going on over the last two years. It’s no surprise that one of our modernization priorities is long-range precision fires when I tell you that standoffs are the challenge that we’re trying to reconcile.
So all of the modernization priorities are aligned to the requirements germane to MDO 1.5. So with that, we just did an experiment this past summer where we integrated what we predict are the outputs of the modernization priorities in terms of programs of record in how you fight MDO, and then we fought in that environment.
Now we’ll continue to refine that in parallel with each other. But the two go hand in hand.
What might happen to some concepts and strategies that came out shortly before MDO and/or before the National Defense Strategy such as the Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy? Are they enduring or do they require change?
One of the things you find with an enterprise as big and modernizing as the United States Army is not everything is sequential. Some of it is jerky. You’re always updating. You can find yourself in a position where you’ve got a document that was published before you developed your capstone or operating process, and each of those will have to be refined and updated. But the other thing I will tell you is these things aren’t built in a vacuum.
So that vehicle modernization strategy largely recognizes this standoff problem. The reason we’ve been pursuing, for example, the [Ground Mobility Vehicle, Light Reconnaissance Vehicle and Mobile Protected Firepower] is to create mobility for an infantry brigade that is largely static without those resources.
I did state that this is the most fundamental rewrite of the process since AirLand Battle. What will follow from that is the Army Modernization Strategy 1.5 aligned with MDO 1.5. And this is something that ARCIC will publish in the coming year aligned to MDO 1.5, and what makes it different from our last modernization strategy is it will be a [doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities] DOTMLPF-wide modernization strategy.
Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science degree in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kenyon College.