WASHINGTON, Oct. 4, 2016 — Fighting and winning on a multidomain battlefield must be the focus for the U.S. military moving forward, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting here today.
Since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. military has enjoyed unparalleled conventional force dominance, Work said. This was demonstrated by operations in Desert Storm, as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“During this period, we had generally unimpeded freedom of action and access on land, in the air and on the sea,” he said.
But that era is ending, the deputy secretary told the audience. Near-peer competitors such as Russia and China, and smaller foes such as Iran and North Korea, are modernizing their forces. They are developing the precision-guided strike power needed to fight a major conventional war, he said, and they are developing capabilities that could erode the U.S.’s military superiority.
“Addressing the challenge is, in my view, one of the most — if not the most — important challenges facing the Department of Defense,” Work said, noting DoD must remain in the forefront of operational and tactical excellence. This means, he said, that the U.S. military must change the way it plans, innovates, invests and fights.
Technology plays a part, Work said, “but wars are fought by humans, and not technologies.” This means that while new technology is necessary, how it is used tactically and operationally is far more important than the mere possession of it, he explained.
Work said the U.S. military is now facing an inflection point. Today, most U.S. combat power is located in the United States, he said, noting that potential adversaries are establishing rough parity in terms of precision-strike and command-and-control systems. Also, today’s U.S. military is facing constrained resources, Work said. Added to this are potential enemy advances in the electromagnetic world and in cyberspace, he said.
Character of War Changes
“The character of war is changing once again,” Work said. “This is a big strategic issue, because it threatens our ability to project power across the oceans, which is the very foundation of our conventional deterrent.”
Work said he does not foresee a war with Russia. “But they are a pacing competitor that tells us where we need to go to make sure that we have operational and tactical superiority,” the deputy secretary said.
Russia has demonstrated its multidomain tactics, he said, demonstrating its ability to command and control attacks from land, sea and air. The Russians, he added, have developed networks capable of integrating surveillance intelligence.
Also, he said, the Russians are using sophisticated countermeasures to jam communications, radars and GPS frequencies.
“The old adage was, ‘If you can be seen, you can be hit, and if you can be hit, you can be killed,’” Work said. “The new adage is, ‘If you emit, you die.’”
To survive and maintain superiority, the U.S. military must examine all domains and find ways to fight across all of them using facilities and capabilities to tie them all together, Work said.
“We are going to have to maneuver across all operational domains,” he said. This, he added, will allow the joint force the freedom of maneuver needed to achieve effects on the battlefield.
“Multidomain battle envisions a future where you synchronize cross-domain fires and maneuver in all domains to achieve physical, temporal and positional advantages,” Work said. Potential adversaries think they can keep the United States out, he added. “I am here to tell you they are absolutely wrong,” he said.
“We will mass effects from the air, from the sea, from the ground [and] from under the sea,” Work told the conference audience, “and we will, quite frankly, pound the snot out of them from great range and in the close fight.”
Special Report: Force of the Future