WASHINGTON — Coming up in 2023, the U.S. Army in the Pacific will ramp up efforts that examine how to conduct battlefield logistics in contested environments, Gen. Charles Flynn told Defense News in a recent interview.
“As we’re seeing with a protracted fight [between Russia and Ukraine] in Europe,” Flynn said, “we need to be prepared for a protracted fight here.”
Short, sharp, precise wars “are a fallacy,” he added. “It may be what we want, but it may not actually be what happens; and so we need to be prepared for protracted fights and logistics, and contested logistics is a really important element.”
One of the outcomes of the war game Unified Pacific, held in May this year, was the direct acknowledgement that the Army needs to conduct an event focused on joint contested logistics, Flynn said.
Unified Pacific was the first war game of its kind and centered on the role of land power during conflict in the Pacific theater, Brig. Gen. Jay Bartholomees, who is in charge of the U.S. Army Pacific’s planning and operations, explained to Defense News in an interview earlier this summer.
The Army is the “backbone of the joint force and the linchpin of the joint force, and one of those ribs in the backbone, so to speak, is logistics,” Flynn said.
While the war game showed the need to better hone contested logistics plans and strategy, it did not come as a surprise, Flynn said. “It just became even more stark.”
And overall, this realization has become stark enough that the subject of contested deployments is laid out in a nine-page annex in the Army’s new multidomain operations doctrine, making its debut at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference.
“It really talks to something that has been addressed in fiction — or in articles and blogs and so on — about how contested we will be from fort to port, and port to port — something that, again, hasn’t happened since the Second World War,” Richard Creed, director of the service’s Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate, told Defense News in a recent interview.
While the annex is short, “it’s designed to get people to think about all of the planning and preparation that has to go into dealing with this world of ubiquitous space and cyber capabilities that can interfere with what we want ... here in the continental United States,” he said.
The appendix lays out considerations for “conducting deployment operations contested by a peer threat.”
“Army forces cannot expect to deploy without being challenged by the threat,” the doctrine states. “For decades, U.S. military forces conducted uncontested and generally predictable deployments from home stations to operational theaters because threat actors lacked the capability to significantly affect deploying units at home station or while in transit to a theater of operations. This is no longer the case.”
Now peer threats can use a number of capabilities and strategies to see what American forces are doing, disrupt or delay them when deploying or projecting forces forward on the battlefield, and attack units at any point from fort to port, according to the doctrine.
“Commanders and staffs must therefore plan and execute deployments with the assumption that friendly forces are always under observation and in contact,” it reads.
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.