WASHINGTON — Defending the Pacific region requires seamless integration between the U.S. military services, but that requires a joint force concept aimed at deterring near-peer competitors across all domains, according to military leaders in charge of strategy and concept development, who spoke Sept. 4 at the Defense News Conference.
But creating a joint concept isn’t easy.
The services currently have their own war-fighting concepts. The Army, for instance, developed the Multi-Domain Operations concept set to become doctrine. The next step is to evolve MDO into a joint concept.
“We have effectively, over the past years, been able to federate various services’ concepts to achieve an outcome,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, the deputy commanding general of the Army’s Futures and Concepts Center. “But in this environment of multidomain operations, where you have to be able to rapidly integrate all domains in order to achieve overmatch, we think we need a solid description of how the joint force sees that [fight] going, and I think that is the next significant effort the services should get after.”
It’s essential the services focus on building the joint force, said Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, the head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
“Everything we do is predicated on the fact that we are part of the joint force. Nobody is doing this alone against a comprehensive adversary,” Smith explained.
According to the Army’s MDO concept, the service must be ready to fight across all domains — air, land, sea, space and cyber — which makes it imperative for the concept to become joint, Army leadership argues.
Part of the concept calls for calibrated force posture, “being there is value all in itself,” Wesley said.
Additionally, near-peer competitors — particularly Russia and China — “are willing to compete left of conflict, and they are achieving their goals left of conflict,” he said. “So the degree to which we find ourselves forward postured will measure the degree to which we can effectively counter the competition for both China and Russia.”
In addition to needing each service to be forwardly postured, the services must to integrate, Department of Defense leaders have said.
“This idea of convergence will be critical, and that is the joint force’s ability to converge capabilities,” Wesley said, such as the ability to use any sensor or any through any command-and-control node across any of the services.
While integration of the services already exists on some level, noted Vice Adm. Stuart Munsch, deputy chief of naval operations for operations, plans and strategy, the military will reach “a degree of integration you have never imagined before” to include space and cyber domains “that we traditionally don’t think about that need to be brought in.”
That integration means developing standards and interfaces, but “we have to make sure we bake this in at the very beginning,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Fantini, the director of Air Force war-fighting integration capability.
“We are committed to do this. Our services have begun to stand up organizations to better integrate that activity sooner and more smartly,” and the services are putting both people and money behind those efforts, he added.
Another promising signal is the “degree of strategic alignment in the DoD that hasn’t been there in a while,” Munsch said, and the services are also making organizational changes.
For example, he said, in October the Navy will assign its training and readiness branch with the responsibility for war-fighting development, which will be the point of entry for classified discussions about future capabilities on a joint level.
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.