The US Army is transitioning from a force which has over the past decade been engaged primarily in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to one which will be tasked with a wider, and less predictable set of missions, service leaders have said.
Of the 11 primary missions set forth in the most recent Defense Strategic Guidance document produced by the Department of Defense, the Army will have a role in ten, said Lieutenant General John F. Campbell, the Army's deputy chief of staff G-3/5/7. Those missions include homeland defense, cybersecurity, countering terrorism and deterring and defeating aggression – only the nuclear deterrence mission lacks an Army component, Campbell said.
“The Army has to perform a unique, broad set of roles and missions over this whole range of potential likely events,” he said, speaking October 22 at an Institute for Land Warfare panel, “A Versatile Force for the Nation,” at the 2012 AUSA Annual Meeting.
“Arguably, over the last decade, it's really been kind of simple,” added Lieutenant General Keith C. Walker, Deputy Commanding General, Futures and Director, Army Capabilities Integration Center, at US Army Training and Doctrine Command. If you were a soldier, you and your brigade were going to go to one of the combat training centers because you were going to Iraq or you were going to Afghanistan.”
Now, he said, “we have ten broad things that the Army needs to do, and that's a little bit harder.”
At the same time, the Army is shrinking from a force of about 570,000 soldiers now, to 490,000 by 2017. That will require “trying to stretch a shrinking force across at least as much mission as we've had to date,” said Todd Harvey, the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Principal Director of Force Development.
The broad mission set is one of the drivers of how the Army is managing that transition from 570,000 soldiers to 490,000, Walker said. In addition, the Army will be considering the increasingly complex operational environment (“Complexity may be an understatement – it could be chaos”) and lessons learned over the past decade of war.
Among the key lessons learned over the past decade, Walker said, are the importance of soldier education, integrating special operations and conventional forces, and the challenges of operating in anti-access and area denial environments.
Walker highlighted the need for investment in education and training of junior officers in this unpredictable environment. “We want an army that can adapt to the unknown, because we're absolutely not going to get it right. And we need to put our number one investment in our young leaders, so they can deal with uncertainty and adapt.”
The service's updated Army Capstone Concept will be released soon, and Walker previewed some of its contents. “The fundamental characteristic of the Army is that we provide decisive land power; the fundamental characteristic is operational adaptability. And operational adaptability requires flexible organizations and flexible institutions,” he said. “The key attribute of the force is versatility.”
An example of that versatility would be taking an armored combat brigade team and dismounting the soldiers. “That is a tremendous amount of versatility.” He also noted mobile protected firepower: “That enables versatility, and we have that in our armored Stryker and to a lesser extent in our infantry brigade combat teams.”
“The Army has unique capabilities that we can provide joint force commanders right now,” he said. “When they call, our answer is yes.”