WASHINGTON — The Army is expected to release its new doctrine, one that describes how the service will operate in the future across air, land, sea, space and cyberspace, in summer 2022, Lt. Gen. D. Scott McKean, the director of the Army Futures and Concepts Center under Army Futures Command, told Defense News in a March 15 virtual event.
The doctrine cements the Army’s developing warfighting concept it has coined Multidomain Operations — or MDO — that addresses the Army’s role in potential conflict with near-peer adversaries in a time of great power competition — namely with China and Russia.
That means the field manual, which currently addresses unified land operations, will transform into a field manual addressing operations across all domains for the first time in the Army’s history.
The service has come out with versions of its MDO concept as it moves to craft its doctrine over the past several years. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told Defense News in an interview last fall that getting the concept into doctrine form would take several more years, but he stressed that the service was not waiting for the concept to become doctrine before moving out on transforming the force with MDO as the guiding light.
McKean stressed that even as doctrine, multidomain operations will evolve as needed.
When the document comes out “will everything in the concept be in there? No, not everything is ready yet,” McKean said. The Army will continue to wargame and conduct experiments even after the doctrine’s initial publication.
But, “what you will see in the immediate term is investment in force structure changes, whether we need to change an organization to be better able to employ the technologies that we are developing as we look at the doctrine and how we might fight differently,” McKean said. “We can look at the command-and-control aspects and echelons of command, you know, where things are led from. And so lots of work in this field, it’s constant but everything is feeding it and the relationships are allowing it to move out at a really good pace.”
McKean noted that the Combined Arms Center, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is now in direct support of Army Futures Command and that relationship has allowed him and the center’s commander to become directly involved in the process. Both the CAC’s commander and McKean sit in on each other’s meetings related to the effort.
And McKean is now based in Austin, Texas, where AFC is headquartered, with staff back at Fort Eustis, Virginia, that connects him to Futures Command while remaining in lock-step with Training and Doctrine Command.
The Army has also continued to use multidomain task force units to help feed lessons learned into the warfighting concept as it evolves into doctrine.
The service stood up its first such task force, based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state. That team has been prominent in exercises in the Pacific and will likely show up at the Army’s capstone event Project Convergence in fall 2021.
The Army is building a second task force unit in the Pacific region later this year but has yet to do so. Service officials said they plan to allocate another task force unit to Europe but the Army has been slow to set that up.
The units “represent one of the key tenets,” McKean said, of building out the MDO concept because they are helping to design formations capable of carrying out what the doctrine will set up.
The Pacific has been a priority theater, he said, but that doesn’t mean the Army isn’t looking hard at setting up other similar units elsewhere.
When the service sets something up in Europe, McKean said, it likely won’t look exactly like it does in the Pacific. “We are working different thoughts about how it would be employed in Europe as well as other places around the world,” he added.
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.