The future is now, and the U.S. Army must move quickly or risk falling behind rapidly modernizing adversaries. The Army finds itself facing unprecedented global challenges. The world continues to become more competitive as near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China seek to challenge U.S. dominance throughout the world.
Concurrently, the Army must stand ready to respond to natural disasters at home and abroad, as well as provide humanitarian relief for future pandemics and other unforeseen events outside the scope of war. The Army must transform quickly into a force capable of rapidly gaining and maintaining information advantage over adversaries to achieve decision dominance at speed and scale like never before.
Historically, warfighting, in its most basic form, was defined by a maneuver force closing on an opposing force with direct fire, supported by coordinated and integrated indirect fires to both shape the battlefield and fix and/or finish enemy forces. This was informed by a robust, detailed and time-consuming intelligence preparation of the battlefield and a Military Decision Making Process supported by an integrated network of medical and logistical needs and requirements to sustain the force as it maneuvered across the battlefield.
While the Army will always be required at some point to engage in this form of combat, it must begin to revisit what it defines as being in contact with an opposing force. Commanders must examine their battlespace at echelon across all domains and know and understand what adversaries are doing in these competing domains.
The need for leaders at echelon to be able to receive and process information to make effective and timely decisions across the breadth of the battlefield also continues to evolve. This is why Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth stated in her February message to the force that the Army must become a more datacentric Army capable of rapidly processing information to achieve decision dominance over an adversary. The Army must do this at echelon, which leads to a fundamental transformation in warfighting.
Current and future wars will be driven by decision dominance, and commanders will have to gain an information advantage over the adversary in order to fight and win. This information will come from all domains on the battlefield, starting in space, and reach down to the squad level. It will be derived from the electromagnetic spectrum, cyber and publicly available information. This will be a change that soldiers, leaders and commanders at all levels will have to acknowledge and understand. To do this, the Army must look at warfighting from “space to squad.”
This type of transformation is new. Rather than modernizing tanks and artillery, the Army is modernizing the weapon system known as information. To integrate and drive this unprecedented transformation, the Army in February 2020 created the Department of the Army Management Office-Strategic Operations (DAMO-SO). This office serves as the lead integrator for warfighting transformation and information advantage across all domains, focusing on four cross-cutting areas: a centered focus on the theater; empowerment to the warfighter; transformation of how the Army fights; and transformation of how the Army works. These focus areas center on the warfighter and represent the operationalization of information advantage across the joint staff and Army headquarters staff.
As part of the joint force, the Army will fight in domains not traditionally associated with land combat. These domains will include cyber, the electromagnetic spectrum and space. These nontraditional domains require a fundamental shift in Army doctrine and will require leaders and soldiers at all echelons to examine how information is received, processed and disseminated and by the fastest means possible in order to win. Warfighting from space to squad transforms how leaders receive and process information, which will enable formations to achieve decision dominance across all fronts and allow the Army to fight and win decisively.
Many scholars say operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991 comprised the first “space war,” marking the first time that space, the electromagnetic spectrum and cyber warfare were actively employed. The U.S. military used satellite systems for navigation and communication at scale.
However, these areas now are contested environments, and the Army must view them as an integrated part of any battlefield it finds itself on. The Army’s ability to rapidly integrate, protect, defend and use capabilities that gain and maintain the operational advantage within these domains will be key to success both now and in the future.
To do this, the Army must link enterprise-based systems with operational capabilities that drive integrated solutions the Army will face on the modern and future battlefields. Linking space to squad both drives and redefines the concept of “sensor to shooter.” It creates a common data fabric that delivers the right data, information, tools and capabilities at the appropriate echelon at the right time. It will create and drive the integrated requirements the Army will require to fight and win, now and in the future.
Linking all assets from space to squad in an integrated data fabric will enable true sensor to shooter capability, linking the appropriate capability to the appropriate target. It also would create a common data fabric, enable predictive logistics to commanders and allow decision-makers to integrate and implement Joint All-Domain Command and Control. This all comes with a renewed definition of who the warfighter is.
Soldiers as Sensors
A warfighter-centered approach will transform how the Army fights. The Army’s multidomain transformation will set conditions for the joint force to fight and win integrated campaigns over longer periods of time. It will enable faster and more accurate decision-making in all phases of competition, conflict and crisis through interoperability of all-domain capabilities. Additionally, it will enable the warfighter to make quality and comprehensive decisions rapidly by factoring in the physical, human and informational aspects of both the modern and future environments.
Every soldier across the battlefield is a sensor. All soldiers collect data, and they do it through various means. Most, if not all, soldiers are active on multiple social media and digital platforms. These platforms deliver real-time information to soldiers through first-person accounts, news media and the open exchange of information. These platforms will continue to play a role in how warfighting develops and will transform how the warfighter processes information.
The Army must train and empower the warfighter to make decisions rapidly and at scale by providing operations and intelligence fusion more quickly. This will be a core component of providing the right information at the right moment to ensure that the warfighter is armed with the information needed to fight and win. It will provide greater agility and speed within hours and days, as opposed to weeks and months.
Finally, focus on the warfighter will provide access to information and the ability to operate effectively in a disconnected and distributed environment through resilient and integrated Mission Command, including accessing specific authorities and command relationships. It will allow leaders, through the exercise of disciplined initiative, to measure and take prudent risk as appropriate. It will plug the right sensor into the right shooter at the right time and move rapidly toward a multidomain-capable formation equipped with the right people, talent, equipment and capabilities.
The director of DAMO-SO, Maj. Gen. Dustin Shultz, often says the office is the “cartilage in the knee” that makes all other mission areas synch. Comprising eight divisions—space, cyber, information, readiness, enterprise, network, strategic support and Mission Command—DAMO-SO integrates and synchronizes Army initiatives within the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Training, G-3/5/7, and across the Army Staff, which leads efforts with all-domain transformation.
The directorate strives to maintain strong relationships with the U.S. Army Futures Command and works to assess and integrate the future operational environment, emerging threats and technologies to provide warfighters with concepts and future force designs needed to win.
The total force will transform into Army 2030, meeting its enduring responsibility as part of the joint force and retaining its position as the globally dominant land power. As it takes the lead on this integration, DAMO-SO plays a leading role in the integration and synchronization of Army transformation by doing several tasks:
- Continually assessing and driving the delivery of a unified network.
- Developing and integrating the Global Force Information Management Objective Environment that redesigns and modernizes the multidomain-capable force and aligns it with the Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model.
- Conducting analysis and making decisions about investments for efforts that don’t meet Army 2030 objectives.
- Continuing to drive a campaign of learning that provides the framework to align formal training, experimentation and exercises.
All this requires a fundamental shift in culture and processes in order to enable critical capabilities.
DAMO-SO finds itself on the cusp of Army transformation and, by working by, with and through other members of the Army Staff, develops operational enablers to drive this shift. These enablers include innovation governance, capability and mission management, change management, monitoring of transformation progress and striving for a culture of change.
In short, DAMO-SO serves as the Army Staff lead for warfighting transformation by integrating, prioritizing and synchronizing multidomain and data-enabled systems across the electromagnetic spectrum and the space and cyber domains. This transformation supports Army modernization, information advantage and decision dominance.
As the Army transforms into Army 2030, leaders must rapidly embrace change. Future battlefields will consist of domains that will be unseen, creating a new form of rapid, violent and decisive engagements occurring over prolonged periods of time. As Wormuth stated in October 2021, “The stakes are high.” The Army must transform into a datacentric, capable force rapidly and at echelon because data will play a key role in future fights.
Furthermore, all soldiers must understand their role, and the Army must embrace new ways of viewing warfighters. Troops must enter the battlefield equipped to rapidly receive and process information and achieve decision dominance to maintain a tactical advantage over an enemy. Transformation must occur quickly. The Army’s future adversaries recognize the need for change as well. DAMO-SO will be at the forefront of Army modernization as soldiers chart the way to Army 2030 and beyond.
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Sgt. Maj. Russell Blackwell assumed duties as the senior enlisted leader of Headquarters, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Training, G-3/5/7, Strategic Operations Directorate, U.S. Army, the Pentagon, in November 2021. Previously, he was the garrison command sergeant major, Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He has deployed twice during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has a master’s degree in international affairs from the University of North Georgia.