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The US Army in 2017

Spotlight on the US Army 

Transitions are often turbulent. MT looks at the US Army, as it is transitioning from years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq and preparing for a new uncertain, security environment.

US Army Secretary Eric Fanning stated in October 2016 testimony in Washington DC, USA, that the army is not a broken or hollow force, but it is, “tired, because we’ve been running it hard for such a long time now, and there’s no end in sight to the high uptempo.”

Gen. Mark Milley, the US Army Chief of Staff since 2015, is well aware of the pressing challenges facing his army. “Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and radical violent extremist organisations that currently challenge the US will likely continue to do so for some time,” he wrote in the foreword of the US Army War College Key Strategic Issues List, in July 2016. “These security challenges exist within a wider global context of rapid technological change, significant demographic shifts, an uncertain economy, and geostrategic power dynamics of historic proportions. These conditions intensify the level of uncertainty and the pace of change, and raise the potential for significant interstate conflict to higher levels than at any time since the end of the Cold War.”



New Emerging Doctrine: MultiDomain Battle

The US Army uses doctrine to shape operations and acquire equipment. In the early 1980s, the army initiated the AirLand Battle Doctrine to face the challenges of a possible war with the Soviet Union in Europe. From this doctrine emerged not only the tactics and operational art to fight army formations, but also procurement of the equipment required to enable that doctrine. The proponent of that doctrine, Gen. Don Starry said: “Doctrine is the first and most important commandment. The secret to a good army is having a sound set of doctrine. Sound doctrine makes well-trained soldiers. Sound doctrine makes well-trained leaders. Sound doctrine makes well-trained units.”

While Starry was crafting a sound AirLand Battle doctrine, a set of equipment known as the “Big Five” was procured, including the ABRAMS tank, the Multiple-Launch Rocket System, the PATRIOT missile system, the APACHE helicopter, and the BRADLEY IFV. These are the weapons that the US Army used to win Operation “Desert Storm” in 1991 and to fight the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Upgraded and enhanced versions of the “Big Five” are still the mainstay of the US Army’s heavy forces and proof of the lasting impact of sound doctrine on an army.

The Army is developing the MultiDomain Battle concept in conjunction with the USMC and in cooperation with the US Navy and USAF. It is imperative the US joint forces develop ways to combine their powerful capabilities across all domains. As Adm. Harry Harris, Commander, US Pacific Command, explained: “I believe the future security environment will require the services to exert influence in non-traditional domains as these domains converge and become more complex, especially if our combatant commands are to achieve dominance across those domains… [that] means the army’s got to be able to sink ships, neutralise satellites, shoot down missiles and deny the enemy the ability to C2 its forces.”


The Army Business Strategy

The Army Business Strategy 2017-2021 was issued in June 2016 and supersedes the 2013 Army Business Management Strategy. According to an army spokesman, the intent of this business strategy is, “to improve our ability to generate readiness at best value, with refined business processes and innovative management practices that reduce costs while allowing us to meet or exceed the quality, quantity, and timeliness of global mission requirements now and in the future.”

It is also designed to provide guidance to develop leaders and managers and enable resource-informed decision-making and information technology portfolio management. This business strategy is classified, but the unclassified information on it from official army sources explains that it provides a strategic direction for the business operations of the army and a foundation upon which the army can apply enterprise approaches for the improvement of business operations to generate and sustain readiness.

The US Army is still in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, while turmoil is brewing in Europe, the Far East and the Middle East. In the coming months, the self proclaimed Islamic State (IS) must be defeated and destroyed. The geo-political situation in Europe and Asia will need to be addressed, and any solutions will require that the US operates from a position of strength and has an army that can meet the needs of the nation. As the US Army enters a new era, potential conflicts loom on the horizon and many of these conflicts could be against sophisticated hybrid threats or peer competitors. The most challenging combination of situation the Commission on the Future of the Army assessed included, “three significant near simultaneous events: a large-scale homeland defence response; a large-scale conventional force operation; and a limited-duration deterrence mission elsewhere.”

The US Army, worn out from years of battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, requires equipment recapitalisation, manpower increases and enhanced training.

In spite of these challenges, the US Army is still a very capable, lethal and strategically deployable force. The emerging new MultiDomain Battle Doctrine will be an important part of the intellectual argument that will mould the future of the US Army. The new Business Strategy will help guide and focus limited resources. New, invigorated, civilian leadership will have a chance to make a difference. President Trump promises to fix many of these problems by revamping the US military.

John Antal

This is an excerpt of John Antal’s article in MILITARY TECHNOLOGY #3/2017. The full version can be found in MILITARY TECHNOLOGY #3/2017, available at the 2017 AUSA ILW Global Force Symposium & Exposition.


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