The Army remains ready to deter adversaries and, when called upon, fight and win the nation’s wars as part of the joint force. China and Russia are pursuing an expansionist strategy through economic and military means. These activities are aimed at increasing their influence through coercion and challenging U.S. partners and allies.
Looking forward, China is our pacing threat while Russia will remain a destabilizing influence. As China and Russia continue to modernize their militaries, our ability to deter their illicit and aggressive actions will only become more difficult. New technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomy and robotics will also continue to change the character of warfare, resulting in a battlefield that is faster, more lethal and more distributed.
Transforming the Force
To meet emerging challenges, the Army is transforming to provide the joint force with the necessary speed, range and convergence of cutting-edge technologies to provide future decision dominance and overmatch for great-power competition. This transformation spans how we fight, how we organize, what we fight with, who we are and how we do business. In December 2018, the Army published the concept of Multi-Domain Operations; this concept describes how to transform the Army to ensure near-peer competitors are not able to gain a military advantage over the United States.
Based on the concept, the Army published a modernization strategy in 2019 that identified priorities to focus transformation across our people, operations, capabilities, and as a foundation for informed investment. Recognizing and learning from previous challenges and leveraging new congressional authorities, the Army streamlined its requirements and acquisition bureaucracy by forming cross-functional teams, closely partnered with program executive officers and program managers. The Army has already reprioritized over $32 billion to invest in the most critical capabilities.
No effort in the Army is more important than our people, and they are the No. 1 priority. We are implementing new ways to educate, train and better leverage talent across the Total Army. New selection assessments for key leadership positions have been instituted to address shortfalls and trust within units. Initial entry training reinforces a culture of trust, dignity and respect, and our professional military education system takes advantage of advanced teaching and training approaches. These changes are needed to build cohesive teams that are highly trained, disciplined and fit, who are ready to fight and win.
A Global Effort
The Army will continue to be needed in the Pacific, Europe, the Arctic and the Middle East, and to defend the homeland from threats ranging from a pandemic to malign cyber actors. The challenges are only increasing in complexity, and our soldiers must be trained and equipped to continue these global responsibilities.
The Multi-Domain Operations concept is driving concept-based capability development through experimentation. Joint intelligence estimates stipulate that near-peer competitors are developing, and will employ, capabilities designed to prevent U.S. forces from operating jointly across the five domains of land, air, sea, space and cyber. The most immediate example of concept-based capability development is Project Convergence, an experimentation program that teams scientists with soldiers in the field.
Technologies that link joint sensors to joint shooters, through the right command-and-control node, have made substantial progress in a short period. What took tens of minutes to accomplish is being done in tens of seconds. Most significant is that Project Convergence involves all services and in upcoming years will include partners and allies. The Army’s strategy will reduce unnecessary redundancies and ensure interoperability.
Building formations capable of operating at needed speed, ranges, and in multiple domains (land, air, sea, space and cyber)—across the spectrum of conflict—are critical aspects of transforming the Army. The Army established a Multi-Domain Task Force consisting of capabilities combatant commanders need to compete effectively and, if necessary, penetrate adversary air defense systems to enable freedom of maneuver for land, air and maritime forces. The task force is experimenting in the Pacific theater today, filling a capability gap in high demand by commanders, and it will be the centerpiece for Project Convergence 2021. The Army also created and is employing security force assistance brigades to build partner nation capacity and strengthen relationships with partners and allies.
The Army’s modernization strategy, enabled by cross-functional teams, is producing advanced capabilities. We are on trajectory to replace legacy systems first fielded in the 1970s and 1980s, benefiting from close collaboration with and sizable investments by our industry partners. Acquisition programs that took up to 14 years in the past are taking less than four years, and soldiers are at the center of the design and requirements process. The first hypersonic battery will be fielded in 2023—demonstrating requirement-to-reality unlike previous efforts such as the Future Combat Systems program—and establishing a credible deterrent capability that assists in competition and lessens the chance of conflict.
The development of our soldiers’ and leaders’ technology skills to operate in this more complex environment is at the forefront of the Army’s strategy. Investments such as the Army’s data scientist and data technician programs at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and our Software Factory in Austin, Texas, will bring the necessary digital expertise to soldiers, allowing commanders to rapidly adapt to challenges faced on a fluid battlefield.
No Stone Unturned
The Army’s transformation allows for persistent modernization, a consistent investment strategy and predictability for the defense industry. Yet, the Army cannot afford to be complacent with its ongoing efforts. The Army is pursuing how technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomous systems and robotics, quantum computing and synthetic biology will change how we fight, providing the unique combination of speed, range and convergence to provide decision dominance and overmatch in great-power competition.
Increasingly, electric vehicles and other resource reduction initiatives are a critical component of research and development to ensure the Army can provide logistics in a contested environment and at reduced cost. Partnered with the joint services, academia and industry, the Army will lead transformation and ensure the U.S. maintains the capability to deter near-peer competitors and defeat them if necessary.
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John Whitley is the acting secretary of the Army. He was sworn in Sept. 26, 2018, as the assistant secretary of the Army (Financial Management and Comptroller). A former senior fellow at the Institute for Defense Analyses, he holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago. He also served in the Army in the 2nd Ranger Battalion.
Gen. James McConville is the 40th chief of staff of the Army. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, he previously served as the 36th vice chief of staff of the Army. He is a senior Army aviator who also has commanded the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and was the Army deputy chief of staff for personnel.