Friday, October 27, 2017

The Battle for Multi-Domain Battle

My worry about the Army's emerging Multi-Domain Battle doctrine is that it will be hijacked by the Navy and Air Force--perhaps with the Army's cooperation--to turn the Army into additional anti-aircraft and anti-ship assets rather than using the Army's core competency--land warfare--to help the Air Force and Navy with their core competencies of air and sea control.

Is Multi-Domain Battle just old doctrine just dressed up for the modern age? Sort of.

The idea of meshing different forces together for their synergy for a single mission is old stuff.

Within the Army, combined arms doctrine holds that the tank, infantry, and artillery branches (and others, but those are the big three) work together rather than fighting their own battles on their own.

Air-Land Battle worked to increase jointness by getting the Army and Air Force to work together to defeat the common land enemy.

Heck, in World War I and in the Persian Gulf War, Marine and Army combat brigades operated under the divisional control of the other service. And in the Iraq War, Army support units bolstered the Marines in their march up the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers valley. (And *sigh*, this was the subject of an article that the US Naval Institute purchased from me about 20 years ago but never published.)

So the idea of jointness isn't new.

What is new is that rather than an intra-service or bi-service doctrine, Multi-Domain Battle seeks to mesh all the services together with uber-jointness to achieve a single campaign objective.

This is good. With long-range fire and sensors allowing more cross-over missions by each service to help the other, it would be nice if a pilot, grunt, or ship captain calling for fire could get the effect without worrying about which service fired the kinetic or cyber "round" at the enemy target.

But remember that combined arms doctrine didn't try to make infantry into artillery or tanks into infantry or artillery into tanks. Sure, each branch had some cross-over capability to provide the effect of being one of the other services. But each branch carried out its core mission in service of the overall mission on the battlefield.

And Air-Land Battle was intended to get the Air Force and Army to fully exploit their own core competencies and exploit the synergy of working together against the enemy air-ground foe. The Air Force did not become more of the Army and the Army didn't become more of the Air Force.

What I worry about when reading about all this planning--much that predates Multi-Domain Battle, of course--is that under pressure from China's rising aero-naval power that the Navy and Air Force just want to use the Army (and Marines) as additional anti-ship and anti-aircraft assets.

While some of that is reasonable--the Army (and Marines, for that matter) does have anti-aircraft weapons, aircraft, and artillery that can be used to help the Air Force and Navy--the new Army doctrine should be used to figure out how to use the Army's core competency--large-scale ground operations--to help the Air Force and Navy to achieve not just their objectives but the common theater objective that all the services should be aligned to achieve.

And I worry that the Army, seeing the rising threat of Chinese aero-naval power, sees getting into that battle is the key to retaining a role in planning and budgets; rather than arguing for the unique contributions that the Army can make in a truly joint campaign where each service brings its core competency that the other services can fully exploit for the synergy jointness provides.

That's my view, anyway.