The Maneuver Center of Excellence held the Maneuver Warfighter Conference at Fort Benning, Georgia, Jan. 8 through 11. The multi-day event included briefs by three four-star generals, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, a futurist, and many others, who focused on cross-domain maneuver and preparing for the future, according to an Army release.
The theme of the conference was "cross-domain maneuver": the cohesive employment of Army capabilities in land, maritime, air, space and cyberspace to achieve overmatch in the battlefield. Maj. Gen. Eric J. Wesley, the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commander, on the first full day of the conference gave an overview of both the conference and of cross-domain maneuver as part of the Functional Concept for Movement and Maneuver 2020-2040.
"The role of the tactical commanders is going to be to optimize all domains to his benefit such that the sum of those capabilities is bigger than the individual parts," Wesley said. "That is what gives you overmatch."
Guests included Secretary of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, U.S. Army Forces Commander Gen. Robert B. Abrams, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Commander Gen. David G. Perkins, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and futurist P.W. Singer.
The first day of morning sessions began with an overview of the large concepts: future operational environment, current operations, and cross-domain maneuver. The next day included sessions on the future of technology, mission command, training and leader development, and cyberspace / electromagnetic spectrum capabilities at the brigade combat team level. The third day included a session on the battlefield framework of the future and a panel on cross-functional teams.
"The question is not whether you have prepared, and the question is not whether you are willing," Wesley said. "The question is whether our Army is prepared and ready for large-scale, ground combat against a peer threat."
Peer adversaries are currently investing in standoff capabilities. The U.S. Army concept of cross-domain maneuver is part of a strategy to break through that standoff.
"Our adversaries — our peers — have studied the United States Army, and they've watched us in our dominance over the last 25 years or so," said Wesley. "They've concluded that they want no part of close combat with the United States Army. And everything they're doing right now is to avoid that."
Abrams, as the commander of FORSCOM, elaborated on mission command. He emphasized to succeed in the future battlefield, leaders must empower subordinates and junior officers to carry out mission command.
"The future battlefield that we are talking about is nothing like what we have experienced for the last 15, 16, 17 years," said Abrams. "This is a much different battlefield than we are talking about, and it will put a premium on mission command."
During a training and leadership panel, Col. Anthony G. Judge, commander of the 199th Infantry Brigade said, "The end state, the goal, is to train cross-domain maneuver leaders who can lead, win and survive on the multi-domain battlefield.”
Another panelist, Col. Douglas G. Vincent, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, insisted that even though the battlefield was changing, the fundamentals would not.
"The one thing that's remained the same is the need for confident leaders of character," Vincent said.
Another topic area was the changing technological landscape the Army finds itself in.
P.W. Singer, a contributing editor for Popular Science, outlined current technologies that may significantly shape the decades to come. He outlined the technology that directly interfaces with the human body and brain, 3D printing, and the proliferation of drones and sensors. These technologies, Singer told the audience, made cybersecurity that much more valuable.
"All these areas are exciting, but they also open up new vulnerabilities that we have to think about," he said. "We've already seen the hacking of cars, the hacking of human bodies, the hacking of drones."
Deputy Commanding General (Operations) of the U.S. Army Cyber Command Brig. Gen. J.P. McGee emphasized the continuing and further importance of cyberspace in operations.
"Cyberspace and electromagnetic activities, those are the commander's business," said McGee. "And just like any other domain, we need to learn how to use it effectively."
Perkins talked about future doctrinal and training changes due to the addition of domains to the Army's battlefield. Perkins said multi-domain thinking must happen early.
"From the very beginning, every problem is inherently multi-domain," he said. "We want to have a converged — an integrated — solution from the beginning, versus a synchronized solution of federated answers later on."