WASHINGTON — The Pentagon's five-year-old Air-Sea Battle concept is undergoing a major rethink as it opens its focus to incorporate input from the land services and combatant commanders, senior Joint Staff and Navy planners told Defense News on Jan. 22.
The effort to expand the predominantly predominately Navyal and Air Force-heavy concept kicked off last fall when the Joint Chiefs made a recommendation to Chairman Chief of Staff. Gen. Martin Dempsey to more fully open it wider to the other up to all of the services.
Dubbed the Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC), the emerging plan "is not trying to replace Air-Sea Battle with Joint Access and Maneuver, and it's not 'throw the Air-Sea Battle concept out and start all over again,' " said Navy Capt. Terry Morris, deputy director for Air-Sea Battle in the Pentagon. "It is an understanding of the environment, and the advances we have made since 2009 when we first started with this."
As part of the change, JAM-GC will be supported by the Joint Staff's Joint Force Development Office, or J7 office, and is expected to produce a concept paper by this fall.
The original concept for Air-Sea Battle "was focused on a smaller set of the operational access problem" than previous concept and strategic documents had, concerned themselves with said Ric Schulz, division chief of joint concept development at the J7 office.
But the move "has opened it up and made it a little easier to create some of the change that the service chiefs" were asking for.
As part of the new program, Cpt. Morris' staff will begin talking through specific regional threats and issues with the combatant commanders from around the globe, and incorporate their recommendations into the final product, which will be written with input from all four services.
And as this work goes on, the Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) are kicking off work on a parallel plan dubbed the Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning, which will also working its way through the system on its way to the Joint Staff.
Both concepts are intended to eventually enable and inform the chairman's Capstone Concept for Joint Operations.
The lack of a mission for the Army in the original Air-Sea Battle has long been a point of contention for the land service, leading it to form its own Strategic Landpower Task Force in 2013 with the Marines and SOCOM.
But the Joint Staff's Ric Schulz insisted that "there is a role for land forces in overcoming anti-access challenges, and that's one of the reasons they wanted to open the aperture on this. The Army in their war games have focused on the area-denial piece of the problem, while this concept has focused on the anti-access piece."
The Army's annual Unified Quest war game has for the past several years focused heavily on trying to forcibly enter contested space, and has worked on concepts like airdropping Stryker brigades behind enemy lines in order to move quickly on their flanks, and coming ashore under the threat of long- and short-range missile fire.
During a Jan. 22 speech in Washington, DC, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno confirmed that the Army is already training for joint-entry operations.
"In the first week of August, out at the National Training Center [Fort Irwin, California], we are going to do a 'joint early entry operation,' which includes special operations forces, [land] forces, air forces, naval forces, in order to develop the concept that is necessary to ensure we can get our ground forces on the ground anywhere in the world."
Lt. Gen. Stephen Lanza, commander of the Army's I Corps — which is regionally aligned with the Asia-Pacific region and the Pacific Command — reflected this new way of thinking, telling reporters on Jan. 23 that "we're not going to fight as a single service any more." Aand as budgets stay flat and end-strength decreases, "this imperative to fight in a joint manner will be even more important."
While the Army has ruffled some feathers in the Marine Corps by pushing its helicopter pilots to learn how to land on the decks of naval vessels and through its Pacific Pathways program, which mobilizes Army brigades to conduct kinds of partnership activities throughout the region that the Corps has long made it's bread and butter, "the Army is not trying to become the Marine Corps," Lanza insisted.
These partnership and training activities will also help inform and strengthen the JAM-GC concept, he said, as "building relationships with allies brings access in the future" in the form of joint basing agreements and personal relationships between commanders.
"Part of our engagement strategy [in the Pacific] is to provide stability and security, that also helps access because of the relationship that we build and the work we're doing with other nations."
His I Corps also has lots of multifunctional capabilities such as like fires brigades, aviation brigades, engineer brigades, civil affairs and military police brigades that help strengthen the US posture in the region, allowing it to respond quickly to a variety of situations.