Multidomain operations concept will become doctrine this summer

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FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kansas — The U.S. Army has spent roughly five years refining its multidomain operations warfighting concept and it will become doctrine in June, according to Richard Creed, director of the service’s Combined Arms Center doctrine division.

The doctrine will address great power competition and potential conflict with near-peer adversaries across air, land, sea, space and cyberspace.

The service has released several versions of its MDO concept, refining it through evaluation, exercise, wargaming and its first Multidomain Task Force. The task force was established to test the MDO concept, but will now be used as operational units around the globe. There will be five tailored to operate in specific theaters, from Indo-Pacific Command to European Command.

The second MDTF was established in Europe last fall. The first is based out of Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington State and is focused on INDOPACOM.

In the final doctrine set for release in a few months, the Army defines multidomain operations as “the combined arms employment of capabilities from all domains that create and exploit relative advantages to defeat enemy forces, achieve objectives and consolidate gains during competition, crisis, and armed conflict,” according to a document obtained by Defense News at Fort Leavenworth.

“The description of MDO is pretty simple,” Creed said in a March 21 briefing at the Combined Arms Center with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. “And that’s the point. We wanted it to be that simple, because a lot of this stuff we’ve been doing in fits and starts for a long period of time.”

Readying for multidomain operations

The doctrine acknowledges the operational environment includes not just air, land and sea but also space and cyberspace and that Army forces operate “through the physical dimension, influence through the information dimension and achieve victory (win) in the human dimension,” the document notes.

Army formations will be designed to exploit “relative advantage” in those three dimensions, it adds.

The doctrine concludes that winning against a peer threat like Russia or China requires Army forces to “fracture the coherence of threat operational approaches by breaking up their interdependent systems and formations and then rapidly exploiting opportunities to defeat enemy forces in detail,” according to the document.

Multidomain operations is conducted during three phases of operation: competition, crisis and armed conflict. It addresses the challenge of peer competitors using layered capabilities at stand-off range to deter, requiring the U.S. and its partners and allies to use redundant land-based capabilities to take out or degrade threat networked intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and long-range fires capabilities, the document details.

China and Russia are positioned to “win without fighting” when it can control the narrative and facts on the ground, so the Army must establish a truthful narrative to contest that approach during both competition and crisis phases of operation, the document says.

The doctrine will require the Army to understand how forces on land influence the other four domains and how capabilities used in other domains influence outcomes on the ground. The strategy also requires “a mission command approach” to command-and-control to reduce the risk from degraded networks and a heavily contested electromagnetic spectrum.

The final doctrine will include seven chapters. The first addresses foundations of operations including the vision of war, the operational environment and Army formations.

The second covers fundamentals of multidomain operations, including tenets, imperatives, operational framework and operational approach, while chapters three through five are on operations during competition, operations during crisis and operations during armed conflict and war, respectively.

Not present in previous versions of the concept and new to the doctrine is the sixth chapter, on Army operations in maritime-dominated environments.

“This represents a capstone doctoral shift to account for the Pacific pivot,” Creed said, although it will be applicable anywhere there is water. “There are some very different considerations in terms of planning, conduct and expectations for the operation,” he added.

The last chapter focuses on leadership during operations, emphasizing the mission command approach.

Looking to ‘playbooks’

The doctrine is general enough to apply to a variety of theaters and situations, but, according to Brig. Gen. Charles Lombardo, who commands the Army’s CAC-Training, the Army is working to develop “playbooks” for operations against near-peer adversaries like Russia and China that take a “pretty granular approach.”

These playbooks break down, at a systems level, the threat and what would be needed to operate against those threat capabilities, Lombardo said.

During operations in competition, the doctrine says the Army should preserve a desired security environment, develop and refine operational planning and improve itself and partners. The Army should also set conditions in the theater for future operations to include access, intelligence, plans, training and interoperability.

During a crisis, the Army should deny adversary goals, deter further adversary military action, alter the adversary’s risk calculus and provide flexible deterrent and response options. The service should deploy and tailor Army forces, demonstrate the capacity of multiple aerial ports of debarkation and seaports of debarkation and open up lines of communication.

Lastly, during a conflict or war, the Army needs to understand the enemy operational approach and goals, present multiple dilemmas and converge capability across the joint force and isolate and destroy enemy capabilities and maneuver to dislocate and disintegrate the enemy’s position and enable the entire joint force to operate in addition to land forces. This means accepting some risk, the document notes.

While the concept will be solidified in doctrine, it does not mean it will be set in stone, Creed noted. The doctrine will likely need updating, but is meant to help the service move into a force capable of overmatching its high-end, near-peer adversaries.

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 in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.



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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.