The United States has always employed novel operational concepts to overcome what appear to be insurmountable military problems.
To counter overwhelming Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces in the 1980s, the Army and Air Force, despite their differences, cooperated under the Air-Land Battle concept to maximize their combined power.
Similarly, Air-Sea Battle three decades later brought together the Air Force and Navy, services with a sometimes contentious relationship, to increase cooperation to more effectively project US power despite Chinese and Iranian investment in systems designed to keep American forces far from their shores. The Army and Marines Corps were part of the classified effort to develop new approaches, technologies and systems, but both disdained it, fearing budgetary consequences of being sidelined.
Earlier this year, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey — never a fan of Air-Sea Battle — subsumed the concept into a new Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC).
There is a need for joint concepts so US forces can operate together against potential foes with anti-access and area denial (A2AD) systems. An amphibious and agile Marine Corps and an Army with robust ground, missile defense, special operations and logistical capabilities are vital. But A2AD is primarily a problem for the nation's two power-projection forces, making closer Air Force-Navy cooperation a prerequisite. Sadly, too many disconnects remain in their thinking, planning and investment. Effective jointness is about cooperation to maximize the delivery of military effects. It is not about equality, and no one service should automatically lead.
New and existing concepts as well as current and future weapons must be objectively wargamed to determine their efficacy. Done correctly, the art and science of wargaming can reveal opportunities to be exploited and flaws to be remedied.
Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work is rightly spearheading a wargaming renaissance to test ideas, weapons and concepts against real-world scenarios. Yet even the combatant commands that develop the nation's war plans are left to assess their own plans largely immune from DoD oversight.
Within the JAM-GC, the Air Force and the Navy must continue to deepen cooperation as all the services together develop innovative concepts. And Pentagon leaders like Work must ensure these new ideas make sense before committing resources to them.