Rainey: Army Must ‘Adapt Faster’ for Future Fight

Rainey: Army Must ‘Adapt Faster’ for Future Fight

GEN James E. Rainey, Commanding General, Army Futures Command, gives a special keynote presentation discussing the ‘Army of 2040’ to an eager crowd at AUSA Global Force Symposium & Exposition 2023
Photo by: US Army/Patrick Hunter

With the future of conflict uncertain and technology evolving at a rapid pace, the Army must make adaptability a top priority, said Gen. James Rainey, commander of Army Futures Command.

“In the event that we find ourselves in another conflict, I would put adaptability at the near top of the characteristics that we’re going to need, because nobody’s going to get the future totally right,” Rainey said June 3 as part of the Strategic Landpower Dialogue series co-hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army and the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“It’s about not getting it really wrong, seeing what you missed and being able to adapt faster, which is a skill that we need to get better at as a military,” Rainey said. “We should get better at it now before we have to do it in combat.”

He described the current threat environment as “the most disruptive point in terms of technology” since before World War II, when people were “inventing things like airplanes, radios, combustible engines.”

“As disruptive as those were, the pace of disruption … is what is alarming,” he said. “Anything you think you know now is going to be different, certainly in a year, maybe 90 days.”

In a discussion about how the disruptiveness of technology is changing combat, Rainey pointed to the enduring aspects of war, things that will never change.

Rainey shared his view that “war remains a human endeavor, it’s a contest of will between people.” One has only to look to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine as an example of how the human element is present in decision making, in withstanding the horror, in why and for whom people fight, he said.

“We’re not going to fight anywhere where there’s not going to be serious civilian implications of that fight,” Rainey said. “People are still the thing.”

Because land “remains decisive” in warfare, people will always be affected, he said.

Another aspect of war that will not change for the “values-based” U.S. military is an adherence to the ethics of combat. The joint force, he said, is “special” because it abides by the law of armed conflict and will continue to do so.

Using the conflict in Ukraine as an example, Rainey said that commanders have to understand “the tremendous moral responsibility to ethically manage violence.”

“Our systems can’t just be a little bit faster than our enemy. We have to be so much better when it comes to decision making, because I believe we are going to continue to practice ethical decision making, even in the most horrific combat,” Rainey said.