HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper said the service of 2028 will be ready to fight any war, in his first major speech in the position, which laid out his vision for the future of the service.
“The Army of 2028 will be ready to deploy, fight and win decisively against any adversary, anytime and anywhere, in a joint, multidomain, high-intensity conflict, while simultaneously deterring others and maintaining its ability to conduct irregular warfare,” he said during his March 26 speech at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium.
“The Army will do this through the employment of modern manned and unmanned ground combat vehicles, aircraft, sustainment systems and weapons, coupled with robust combined arms formations and tactics based on a modern war-fighting doctrine and centered on exceptional leaders and soldiers of unmatched lethality,” he added.
The Army is making some major changes in doctrine, organization, manning and training to achieve such a vision, according to Esper.
The secretary said that a decade from now, the concept of Multi-Domain Battle will “become a fully developed doctrine embedded at every echelon and propagated throughout all of our schools and professional development courses.”
The Army plans to take lessons learned from a multidomain task force that will be prototyped next year and will help inform how the service organizes, trains and employs its formations, Esper said.
The secretary added it’s going to be necessary to change its force structure to “ensure our tactical formations have sufficient capability and capacity in movement and maneuver, fires, protection, sustainment and intelligence.”
“A decade from now, our formations must be more robust, agile and lethal,” he said. “A decade from now, they must have overmatch in all battlefield operating systems.”
Already some changes to formations are noticeable, Esper said, such as the return of Short Range Air Defense and Multiple Launch Rocket System battalions to the service’s divisions.
Esper said he envisions the Army needing an active component of 500,000 soldiers a decade from now with “associated growth” in the Army National Guard and Reserve.
Training must be “tough, realistic and dynamic,” Esper said, “and it must be frequent, with sufficient repetition to ensure the Army of 2028 will be ready for the battlefield of the future.”
Training should focus on high-intensity conflict and urban operations in electronically austere environments where communications and data transmission is limited and formations are “under constant surveillance,” Esper said.
Getting after that kind of training will require “rapid expansion” of the service’s Synthetic Training Environment “and deeper distribution of simulations capabilities down to battalion and companies to significantly enhance soldier and team lethality,” Esper noted.
The secretary added that getting to the Army of 2028 as envisioned “demands that we stop doing things at home station ― much of this nonstatutory, mandatory training directed from above that inhibits our readiness and lethality.”
Esper sees formations having a wide variety of manned and unmanned combat vehicles, aircraft, sustainment systems, and weapons.
“Greater use of autonomous systems, robotics and AI promises to make our units more lethal, our soldiers less vulnerable and the Army far, far more effective,” he said.
Modernization is a huge component to properly equipping the force, so Esper said the service is focused on reforming acquisition. That includes standing up Futures Command, which is meant to address the service’s top six priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next-Generation Combat Vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, the network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality.
Reforms to acquisition include prototyping to learn and refine; demonstrations to prove capabilities; failing early and cheaply; buying and adapting; preserving competition to drive innovation; incremental development; and moving faster, according to Esper.
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.